Sostanza | Restaurant Reviews | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly
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Eat & Drink » Restaurant Reviews


Tasting Tooele: The search for sustenance west of Salt Lake City leads to Sostanza.


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I’ve gotta be honest: I don’t really spend a great deal of time scoping out fine dining in Tooele. I suspect I’m not alone. However, my passion for speed often takes me to Tooele’s outskirts—to the Miller Motorsports Park, just five minutes from Tooele’s Main Street and a mere 25 minutes or so from downtown Salt Lake City. But, although I love the food and the views from the Motorsports Park Clubhouse, you can’t typically eat dinner there. So, with the exception of a handful of worthy dining establishments in Tooele—such as Tracks, Hunan Village, La Frontera, Thai House, Dimitri’s and Sun Lok Yuen—dinner options are scarce, and finding a decent bottle of wine to sip with dinner is even more of a challenge.

Enter Sostanza. Miller Motorsports Park spokesman John Gardner mentioned Sostanza to me when I came out to the track to enjoy NASCAR racing last month. I hadn’t heard of the restaurant, but Google led me to an in-depth blog review by “Mormon Foodie.” The notion of “American Fusion food” piqued my interest. What precisely does “fusion” mean in Tooele? Time to find out.

The dinner reservation I made, amended and then changed again was handled with a refreshing dose of friendly professionalism. I’d heard that reservations were required on weekends; they’re not, although it doesn’t hurt to make one to be courteous. Walk-ins, however, are more than welcome.

By the way, don’t let the unappealing Main Street storefront throw you. The Sostanza entrance is actually around the back, as is free off-street parking. And entering Sostanza definitely feels like leaving Tooele. It’s a different world in there, where soft music plays, classy art lines the walls, soothing colors and lighting prevail, tables are adorned with top-notch dinnerware and cutlery and, well, the entire scene just reeks of “fine dining.” Nonetheless, on my visits, at least three-quarters of the customers wore shorts and tennis shoes or flip-flops, most had infants or toddlers in tow, and my party was the only one that had bothered to dress up at all. What that boils down to is: Although the decor and the menu at Sostanza say “fine dining,” the restaurant is, in fact, quite casual. So, don’t be intimidated.

Dark wood chairs and tables are complemented by big, overstuffed pillow-strewn chairs that, I’m pretty sure, came from the now-defunct Baxter’s at the Gateway. Those same comfy chairs can be found in the very appealing bar/lounge at Sostanza, which is a great place to, well, lounge over a glass of wine and a snack or full meal.

As I understand it, “sostanza” is an Italian word meaning sustenance, substance or nourishment, depending on the context in which it’s used. And the Sostanza menu teases the Italian palate with items such as fettuccini Alfredo ($8), three-cheese ravioli ($14), linguine with baby clams ($17), fritto misto ($8) and bruschetta ($7). But really, the menu is as eclectic as any I’ve seen lately. Fusion? Maybe. Call it what you like. It runs the gamut from the aforementioned Italian-influenced dishes to seafood tempura ($12), white bean and applewood bacon soup ($6), grilled lamb chops ($18), an Angus cowboy rib-eye ($31), Dover sole filets with a Maryland-style crab cake and basmati rice, and even fish tacos, along with turkey and veggie burgers and a popular French dip sandwich au jus. I’d probably call that “hedging your bet,” rather than “fusion.”

During a lunch visit, I overheard a table of customers discussing what the penne with Bolognese sauce ($9) might be. Before consulting their server, it was decided that it was “meat sauce with strips of bologna.” Not quite. In fact, the penne Bolognese is a zippy, meaty, rich red sauce brimming with ground, hot, Italian sausage—not for the faint of heart, but a very tasty dish, indeed. And the turkey burger ($9)—at least a one-third pound of ground turkey, grilled and topped with white Cheddar cheese and served on a large, soft bun—was far more flavorful and interesting than I’d expected.

Chicken Sostanza ($15) is grilled, brined chicken breast with sage butter, braised vegetable ratatouille and couscous. It’s hearty and plentiful, if not particularly awe-inspiring. But, it’s a much better choice than the “broasted” halibut ($22), especially if chef Steve Berzanski has run out of halibut, as was the case during a recent dinner visit. Instead, either grouper or tilapia was substituted; I can’t quite remember which, but it didn’t matter anyway, since the fish was cooked to the consistency of eraser rubber. When you need a steak knife to cut into your fish filet, it’s probably more accurate to call it jerky rather than broasted.

I don’t want to leave the wrong impression though. Most of the dishes I sampled at Sostanza were very satisfying, reasonably priced, and would pass muster at a typical Salt Lake City restaurant. Service, though, can be lacking. On one visit, the young lady bussing our table knew more about the menu and had a more appealing tableside manner than our actual server, who had to fetch the bartender from the lounge to open our bottle of wine. The good news is that Sostanza serves wine, along with beer and cocktails, including an appealing concoction called the Pin-Up Girl.

So, if you happen to find yourself in or around Tooele—perhaps following the Grand-Am races next weekend at the Motorsports Park—I would absolutely look for sostanza—that is, sustenance—at Sostanza.

29 N. Main, Tooele