Why aren’t you eating at Osteria Papavero?

Well? Why?

Osteria Papavero is a relatively new downtown Italian. Small friendly room, small reliable menu. A ladder with some vines slung over it gives the place a rustic feel, and at the moment there’s an agreeably modest Christmas tree in the corner. The other night, Mrs. Q and I started with ribolitta (not on the menu, but the place is quite accommodating to vegetarians who want more choices than the menu offers) and a plate of Italian cheeses, highlighted by Ubriaco — a spicy tongue-warming tannic kind of cheese, new to me, that spends most of its life drenched in wine, and tastes like it. Mrs. Q ordered tagliatini in black truffle sauce and I had a kind of elongated orrechiette whose name I forget, in a sausage and mushroom ragout. Both completely conventional and no less satisfying for that. You need places like this in town, places that do everything within tradition and with no mistakes. Ideally in a small friendly room. The French version of this is Sardine (except Sardine is in a big friendly room.) Oh, and Papavero isn’t very expensive; $60 for the two of us with coffee and dessert but no wine.

But I’m pretty sure you’re not eating there! Because it’s been mostly empty whenever we’ve gone.

Other remarks:

  • A kind of trademark is fried bread in the breadbasket; salty and oily, it’s both delicious and the kind of thing you wouldn’t be shocked to be served at the state fair, which makes it a funny thing to be eating at a restaurant like this.
  • The dessert was maybe the only challenging thing we ate: a very good chocolate tart which was interesting by virtue of not being very sweet.
  • Our neighbor, a postdoc visiting from Italy, says Papavero is the only Italian restaurant in town that’s Italian.
  • We brought a friend with celiac here once, and the chef was a perfect angel about preparing food that wouldn’t sicken her.
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5 thoughts on “Why aren’t you eating at Osteria Papavero?

  1. JmSR says:

    I think I may try it this summer.

  2. Em says:

    I’d love to eat there — maybe if I visit someday we can go!

  3. Siouxsie says:

    I try to eat there at least once a month. Having spent time in Tuscany, I can say it IS the only Italian restaurant in Madison. And the desserts are FAB! The Budino (pudding) is the best thing this side of the Atlantic.

  4. Madison Guy says:

    Can’t agree more — and nice to find out about the vegetarian accommodations. Next time my wife will ask. Thanks.

  5. [...] hours & details via Isthmus; reviews at Madison Foodie, 77 Square, Sneaky Sunday, Quomodocumque, Food Racket, ; official web [...]

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