Italian – winter comfort food
When you want something totally different in Taos
By Tamra Testerman
The Italian phrase “comfort invernale” means winter comfort, something skiers, snowboarders and hikers crave at the end of an invigorating day on the slopes or snowshoeing on a snowy high desert winter trail. Between the elevation and the beauty of Northern New Mexico, you can work up an appetite where only Italian food will do.
Stella’s Italian Restaurant, at 112 Camino de la Placita, serves up a robust menu of serious Italian cuisine. Stella means “star” in Italian, and the restaurant features a star-quality menu of traditional Italian cuisine, all served on red-checkered tablecloths with candles on the table. The atmosphere is Italian cozy.
Owner Marco Barbitta said people are coming out of the COVID-19 doldrums to dine on fettuccine carbonara and coconut prawns and they are “happy, grateful and polite. They understand we need to follow protocol and disinfect everything. The most important thing is to ‘sii positivo’ – stay positive.”
Stella’s offers gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian options for their pasta and pizza dishes. Highlights include a spicy Cajun pasta dish served with chicken, shrimp, sausage and fettuccine, with a chardonnay cream sauce, and an Italian-spice crusted tilapia, over angel hair pasta with a lemon chardonnay cream sauce.
There is also an interesting list of wine, domestic and imported beer and other beverages available that pair well with the menu. Follow that with a slice of lime mousse cheesecake and an espresso or cappuccino for a truly memorable evening. For more information go to Stella’s Facebook page.
Big, robust and thriving
Mondo Italiano, at 832 Paseo del Pueblo Sur, is a casual, family-friendly dining experience. Mondo co-owner Jennifer DeBow said, “We check a lot of boxes for folks who want to go out for a good meal. Construction workers come in after a hard day on the job, families celebrate anniversaries, birthdays and other special occasions with us and we have candlelight at night which creates a romantic mood for those who are on a date. The atmosphere at Mondo Italiano appeals to everyone. The menu is classic Italian American meets East Coast and, of course, Taos.” DeBow is from New York City. “There is a slightly different profile to their sauces,” she said, “like big, robust, in-your-face flavors – there is nothing mild about our food.”
DeBow said Mondo Italiano was already a takeout destination, so there was no transition to that business model during the pandemic. In fact, after shutting down the dining room for one month and now open on a limited schedule, coupled with a thriving takeout and delivery option, the restaurant is doing very well. She added it also helped that pizza (which they serve from a wood-burning oven) is the number one food across the board in the United States, as well as very popular at Mondo.
DeBow said the restaurant sells a lot of Alfredo dishes. “We say this house – Mondo Italiano – is one that Alfredo built because our fettuccine Alfredo is our bestselling dish by a landslide. Next is fettuccine carbonara – wide flat pasta, sautéed onions, garden peas, pancetta, egg yolks and a touch of cream. For the traditionalists there is spaghetti with sausage. Traditional, classic and simple.
The wine and beer list is thoughtfully curated, including a collection of local, Italian, Californian and Mexican beers. There’s even a pilsner from Czech Republic (Pilsner Urquell) in the offerings. There is also a nice draft beer selection, which includes a Peroni lager.
The wines are equally diverse with a nice balance of sparkling, red, white and rosé. The sparkling offerings feature a refreshing Ruffino Moscato d’Asti from Piedmonte, and Lunetta Prosecco from Trentino-Alto Adige. The Italian selection showcases wines from Sardinia, Umbria and Puglia and other regions of the country, all curated to pair well with the menu.
DeBow said they want people to feel comfortable dining at Mondo. “The safety of our community and staff is very important. We continue to enjoy strong support from the community and our many customers. We know this is because of the community we serve and the dedication of the staff here at Mondo Italiano.”
For more information visit Mondo Italiano’s website at mondoitalianotaos.com. To order takeout or delivery, call (575) 758-1329.