Just one word sums it up — wow! For nearly two years now I’ve driven past Nuch’s Pizzeria & Restaurant on my way to work. Sort of hidden, at the top of 2300 East in Millcreek, Nuch’s exterior belies what’s going on inside. One thing I noticed right away was the sumptuous aroma the minute I stepped out of my car. It reminded me of Little Italy in San Diego, and when I walked into the simple but elegant dining room it was like a bell ringing. This is a special place!
Heath Koltenuk is the owner/chef and was very busy in the open kitchen. You can really see all the cooking that’s going on in a very small space, but the miracles that happen there are anything but small. Chef Heath has his mis-en-placet perfectly organized to create beautiful pizzas in brick ovens, as well as an exquisite array of Italian fare.
The small dining area in the front of the restaurant probably has about two dozen seats; high back, brown leather chairs and European-style banquettes around the sides. Warm, cozy colors, stained concrete floor and rustic, hanging lanterns give the place a welcoming glow, and white linens on the tables let you know right away you’re in a nice place and not just another pizza joint. There is also patio dining in the back. It’s a nice area surrounded by wildflowers.
I was met by a charming and well-mannered young server who introduced me to Shelly, my waitress, who was a mature woman and made the whole experience lovely. She knew exactly how dishes were prepared and knew all the ingredients and easily pointed out things she suspected I would like; she just knew!
I was handed a menu and told about several specials. There was one soup, one salad, two pastas and a New York steak. I went for the chilled melon soup. I make one myself out of honeydew so I was glad to hear about another one. Chef Heath told me it was about equal parts watermelon, honeydew and cantaloupe, blended up with a wand blender. Then he piped Greek yogurt flavored with fresh mint into a spiral inside the soup—delicious, refreshing and gorgeous!
Next, I tried one of the pasta specials. This was one of the chef’s most interesting inventions: butternut squash raviolis served in a sage-infused beurre noisette or brown/butter sauce. The plate was nicely put together with grilled yellow zucchini, asparagus spears and two very tasty chunks of grill fennel. (At first I thought the fennel was artichoke because of the color but was pleasantly surprised by the tangy, licorice notes in the fennel. Thank god they brought bread so I could sop up the browned butter—I ate every bite.
Next, even though I was getting quite full, I tried a menu item called Dave’s Calzone. If you don’t already know, a calzone is a wrapped up pizza with the crust forming a sort of purse around the toppings. I chose Dave’s Calzone because it had my favorite pizza toppings in it; sausage, bell peppers, onions and mushrooms. The crust was thin and crunchy and almost pastry-like and when you cut into it. The purse became a jewel box bursting with goodies.
I only ate half of the calzone; it was a meal in itself. I can’t tell you how luscious and juicy the filling was—like hand-picked, perfectly cooked veggies in an elegantly fresh tomato sauce. I had the other half the next day for lunch.
Shelly insisted I try dessert although my protruding tummy protested. She brought me a small, sampler plate of lightly sweetened mascarpone cheese topped with fresh berries. There was also a very soft and lightly frosted cookie made of house ricotta and a small panna cotta topped with a square of bacon. A simple and elegant end to what may be the best meal I’ve had in ages.
Chef Heath is from Brooklyn, N.Y. and came to Utah to ski 30 years ago. He has owned and sold several pizza parlors but this time, he says, with a grin, “I wanted to do more—really step up the culinary part of owning a restaurant.”
And, believe me he has. I chastised Heath for a very small and rudimentary wine list but he promised he was working on a better wine selection. His food truly deserves an offering of the best wines Utah can offer.
Nuch’s, pronounced Nooche’s, is open for lunch and dinner and is open late Thursday through Saturday—open Sunday for dinner only. Entrees are from $10-$15 which is probably not enough for how good they are. I rate Nuch’s a well-deserved 96 points.