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Omaha Magazine

Italian Harvest in West Omaha

Oct 26, 2017 06:15PM ● By Michele Fan
Dante Ristorante Pizzeria may be known best for its wood-fired Italian pizza, but when chef Nick Strawhecker teams up with sommelier Adam Weber on a harvest tasting menu, foodies in town should take note.

On October 21, Omaha Magazine joined a small group of food journalists and bloggers to taste the seasonal selections at this West Omaha eatery. Surprise, surprise. Pizza wasn’t even on the tasting menu.

Strawhecker’s autumn offerings featured fresh ingredients—vegetables from local farms—inspired by his culinary training in Italy.

The six-course meal began with an antipasto that strikes a strong first impression. Strawhecker cured the meat for several months (from a wild boar that he shot in California). The result was a salumi with a spicy kick. A mild but juicy buffalo mozzarella complemented the meat morsel, with slightly bitter arugula and fried green tomatoes adding just the right amount of acidity, making the appetizer an interesting palate opener.

The ocean whitefish with tomatoes, garlic, and fish broth was my personal favorite. Poached in olive oil and fennel pollen, the fish was plump and moist. The tomatoes brought out the sweetness in the fish, adding another layer of flavor. Another unexpected touch was the pairing with a red wine—2013 Cascina Adelaide Barbera d'Alba Vigna Preda. The spice flavors in the wine added playfulness to the subtle fish dish.

The next course flew off of plates into mouths: duck and alpine cheddar polenta cakes with quick-pickled peppers. I liked how the polenta cake was charred and thus not soggy from the meat juice. The peppers balanced the rich flavors of the tender duck breasts.

Other dishes in the tasting menu included potato tortelli with mushroom and foie gras sauce, along with a lumache all’Amatriciana. The tasting came to an end with a delightful strawberry and buttermilk gelato.

Each dish came with a fine wine with a unique backstory, too. For example, the lumache came alongside a glass of Raineri Cornole, Dolcetto di Dogliani (which the sommelier said came from a vineyard so steep in Italy’s Piedmont region that everything has to be organic because machines can’t cope with the terrain).

Strawhecker revealed that his “fast-fine, counter-service” Dante Pizzeria Napoletana will open in the hip Blackstone district in December 2017. Located on 38th and Farnam streets, the new restaurant will have wines on tap. “It is pizza-focused, fast with a moderate price point. To give you an idea, a liter of wine on tap is about $32,” Strawhecker said, adding that no bottle of wine would be priced over $40.

The new Dante location will add pressure to the Blackstone pizza scene, with Noli’s not far away. But the chef insists that the two pizzerias really offer different products. Strawhecker emphasizes Italian-style whole pies, while Noli’s offers New York-style with pizza by the slice.

“I’m really excited to be going into this neighborhood, going from the richest zip code in the state to the most densely populated,” he said.

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