Osteria Sfizio, at the Oakway Center, the second largest Awesome Attractor (bookstore + ice cream + Trader Joe’s) in Eugene, is a new expensive-looking Italian restaurant. The garage makes it look a bit less fancy, and it looks kinda tiny from the outside, but when you get in…well, it’s posher on the inside. The bar (that is not a bar) employs a brilliant idea and lets you watch the chefs cook, as both incentive for the chefs to do a better job and for entertainment. When we got in, we were originally planning on just coming for small plates, but after having to wait an hour we decided to have dinner. We sat at the bar (that is not a bar) and were offered sparkling or still water. After choosing sparkling, the bar (that is not a bar) tender gave us an iced pitcher, a hallmark of fancy italian restaurants just like the lukewarm, pour-your-own water of hipster/cheap/bad restaurants. (The difference? This water is colder. Also, you have to walk over to the hipster water.) After ordering the chef’s choice antipasti, the matsutake mushroom pasta, the steak, chickpeas and carrots, we, er, waited. And waited. Thor was annoying. And waited. The chefs were interesting. And waited. Dad and I had a discussion about how the bar can be not a bar. And…okay, the antipasto was here.
It had super-fresh tomatoes, mozzarella and basil, amazing roasted peppers, almost caramelized but not burnt, some good but basic calamari, and simply okay melon and prosciutto bits. It was delicious but $8 per person — why? Even I, The Great Price-Glancer, the Honorable Bill-Averter, balked a little at that.
Then we waited and Thor wanted to play outside, so he did. We waited, things happened, waitresses apologized. Then there was pasta. The mushrooms were good, but it was a bit peppery (maybe due to the black pepper pasta, silly girl?). Still, yummy.
Then we waited and Thor wanted to play outside again. So he did. When the meat got there, the waitress copiously apologized. The meat was what I would call “a manly meal”, heavy and savory and delicious, the meatiest meat. Unfortunately, Thor got too annoying, and we had to leave early. The waitress was very nice and apologized again, gave us some donuts to bribe us. It worked well.
So I went back, this time with no Thor. We were seated in a regular table, just before the reserved room. The only other special thing about this area was the…giant moose head hanging on the wall right above us. It was quite a standout in this modern, fancy, glossy place.
And not a good standout either. We ordered the watermelon and tomato salad, the olive platter, the mussels, the breadcrumb-sausage pasta. Aaaand then we waited. Not as long of a time this time, though. Soon enough, the watermelon-tomato salad and the olive platter arrived.
The watermelon and tomato salad really…wasn’t very good. The tomatoes and the watermelon were good quality, I usually love this mix of flavors, but…something just wasn’t quite right. I don’t know if it was the shallots or the vinaigrette, but it just was not good. The olives were yummy, all of them, but there were too many.
Then we waited some more. The mussels arrived. Oh, they were fantastic. Flavorful and juicy with a great sauce to dip bread in. Quite possibly the best mussels I have ever had.
The pasta was good, but not outstanding. It had no sauce, which was a bit strange, but let the pasta shine. The sausage was quite good, the breadcrumbs were odd, but added some texture. The tomatoes were just meh in the whole mix. Still, I liked it.
Overall, the second visit was both good and bad in bits. It doesn’t change my rating, though. I’ll just remember not to order that watermelon-tomato salad.