When a new spot opens in town, we're eager to check it out, let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead, a peek inside restaurants that have just opened — an occasion to sample a few items and satisfy curiosities (both yours and ours).
Virtù Honest Craft in Scottsdale. His less formal spin-off just up the street, Pizzeria Virtù, has been a hit as well, serving wood-fired pizza, pasta, and arguably the Valley’s best burrata dish.
Now, he’s hit a hat trick with his latest concept, Piccolo Virtù, which opened in December 2022.
This latest restaurant is meant to be a kind of middle sister to the first two. While Virtù Honest Craft offers a three-course prix fixe menu with optional supplements and the pizzeria has a more casual and approachable air, Piccolo Virtù beckons to people who’d like to share a few à la carte plates but still be wowed.
That said, the dishes range from dainty crudo appetizers to an entire suckling pig. An order can be configured as a light meal for two or a feast for a group, but no matter what comes out, the ingredients, flavors, and presentations are sublime. The menu changes frequently to keep things interesting for repeat customers as well as staff.
This is literally food for thought — the dishes make diners ponder what they’re eating and truly appreciate the care that goes into them, from sourcing to execution.
On a recent visit, dinner included a salad, appetizers, and a couple of pasta dishes. The 55-ounce Bistecca Fiorentina ($295), the whole Branzino ($135), or Costoletta (veal chop, $62) were a little beyond our budget, but for anyone planning a splurge meal, this would be the place to go, based on these first tastes.
Also presented with the Branzino was the Vitello ($25), paper-thin slices of veal carpaccio with caper berries and tonnato — a popular Italian-style mayonnaise made with tuna. While the veal could’ve been a tad more rare, this was an admirable example of this traditional dish due to the marriage of silky meat bathed in creamy tonnato with a subtle kiss of fish. The sourness of the capers added a welcome dimension without being overpowering.
Both pastas were luscious, but the better of the two we tried was Carbonara '22, Osso’s take on spaghetti carbonara ($34). The square chitarra noodles are made with grano arso, or burnt wheat flour, which creates a visually exciting black color. The dish is further jazzed up with candied pancetta, garlic mudicca, and a dollop of uni, or the edible portion of spiky sea urchin.
A study in balance, this pasta emerged as the favorite dish of the night, thanks to its blend of textures and complementary flavors. The noodles offered nearly imperceptible smoky, nutty notes, ideally matched by sweet yet smoky pops of diced pancetta. The uni literally melts on the tongue, bringing a whiff of ocean brine and a buttery element.
Despite details this new restaurant will no doubt work through, this was a magical meal that showcased imagination, quality, and craft. The drinks list was typically thoughtful, like Osso’s other locations, and heavy on Italian wines and spirits. The servers were knowledgeable, patient, and seamless; it’s obvious the chef knows how to attract the best of the best, from the front of the house to the back.
7240 East Main Street, Scottsdale