Foodists who know and love Gio Osso -- the edgy executive chef at Estate House before it closed in 2010 -- have been saying for years now: "Gio really ought to have his own place, something small and intimate, where he can do his own thing." And sometimes, dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.
Gio Osso is back in the saddle, and he plans a soft opening for his small and intimate new restaurant -- Virtù Honest Craft -- located in the Bespoke Inn (3701 N. Marshall Way, Scottsdale, 480-946-3477) on Friday, June 7 as well as a grand opening the following Thursday, June 13. Here's what else you need to know.
When it comes to describing the food he'll be crafting at Virtù, Osso rejects the notion of labels, which create boundaries. Although his menu will hover around the cuisines and dishes of the Mediterranean -- including France, Spain, Italy, Greece and Morocco -- Osso wants the freedom to add an Asian ingredient, sauce or preparation if the mood strikes him. So it's probably safest to say Virtù will be a Mediterranean-inflected New American restaurant or as Osso himself describes it -- "Van Halen meets Mozart: a loud symphony with attitude on a plate."
Osso will offer two or three hand-made pastas each day, as well as house-made sausages, crudo and house-made naan with some sort of "spread, dip or chunky thing" to go with it. He promises the menu will be fluid, getting tweaked at whim to keep things fresh for the customers and fun for himself and his crew.
We can expect dishes such as spaghettini with lamb ragu, English peas and Pecorino; braised oxtails with buttered morels, peppered parsnip puree, English peas and gremolata; rustic bone marrow with parsley salad and toast; and Spanish mackerel with Iberico Jamon, harissa chickpeas and tomato bread. Prices stay affordable, ranging between $11 and $18.
Meanwhile, Osso has hired mixologist Clint Spotleson to run the bar. Spotleson -- whose resume includes Jade Bar and Mabel's on Main -- says he did lots of classic cocktails at Mabel's but views his new gig as a chance to branch out and play with flavors.
Virtù will also offer a global wine list featuring 30 bottles and 12 to 15 wines by the glass as well as a short but interesting selection of bottled craft beers.
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A wide copper-topped bar will seat 8 to 10 people, while the cozy restaurant (it floor-to-ceiling windows draped in burlap) will seat another 16 or so. By fall, the patio (which promises to be completely charming), will be able to hold another 25.
Osso, who is probably most famous for his two and a half year tenure at Estate House, has also worked at Luc's, Spiga and Sugo -- all defunct now -- but his most recent gig was another two and a half year run as executive chef for HMS Host, where he helped local restaurants implement their programs at Terminal 4 of Sky Harbor. Host's loss is Old Town's gain.
This summer, hours will be 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Come fall, the restaurant will be open on Monday, and we can also look forward to weekend brunch and lunch Monday through Friday.