Via Downer: Light Meals in an Attractive Setting
Appetizers, pastas and pizzas worth a visit
Via Downer is a new
venture by the owners of Transfer Pizzeria, a very popular Walker’s Point spot. Transfer is noted for
the great pizza crusts of chef Vasyl Lemberskyy. While pizza is prominent on
Via Downer’s menu, diners will also find appetizers, sandwiches and pastas. The
prices are just a tad higher than at Transfer.
interior includes wooden tables in addition to a very sleek bar with a lower
section that serves as a lunch counter and a taller one for imbibers. The front
face is made of strips of wood that match the color scheme of the tables. The
interior has never looked this good before.
There are 16
appetizers on the menu, as well as a soup. The soup is gazpacho ($5), the
chilled tomato soup of Spanish Andalusia. The primary ingredients are puréed,
but the center is topped with minced bell pepper and onion. This is a refreshing
soup for summertime.
When it comes to
appetizers, bruschetta and crostini have their own section. The toppings tend
to be Mediterranean—cheese, olives, roasted
vegetables, etc. Crostini with mango and Gorgonzola ($8) consists of lightly
toasted bread slices topped by a thin spread of Gorgonzola cream and minced
ripe mango with a bit of basil. The Gorgonzola’s flavor is just a whisper and
the mango is so sweet that it feels like it should be served for brunch. The
crostini with roasted vegetables and feta seems like a better choice. Arancini
Menominee ($5), a play on the rice ball appetizers of Sicily, is made with short-grained Italian
rice and a touch of wild rice. Usually arancini comes in a small serving, but
this plate offers nine! The light texture makes them extra-good when dipped in
a bit of marinara sauce.
As you’d expect from
the owners of Transfer, the pizzas at Via Downer are of top-notch quality. The
thin crusts are a bit puffy, not especially crisp. The selection is small, but
there is plenty to like. There are garlic sauce white pizzas like La Bella
($12), which is topped with mozzarella and artichoke hearts. A fine traditional
pizza is the pepperoni ($11), featuring zesty tomato sauce, oregano and
mozzarella. The pepperoni and the sauce seem made for each other.
A good option for
two diners is to split a pizza with an appetizer or a salad. The bazilio ($9)
is a salad of chopped romaine, leaf lettuce, cucumber, bell pepper, pieces of
curried chicken breast, grated mozzarella and a dressing with plenty of garlic.
The gentle curry allows the garlic to take over. The lettuce comes in proper
The three entrees
and seven pastas are strictly a la carte. A welcome choice is pork brajola
($16), a roulade of pork with a filling of spinach and provolone with hints of
anise. The pork, coated with seasoned bread crumbs and served over marinara
sauce, is served with addictive roasted red potatoes and less-compelling
broccoli. Even better is the scallops and linguini ($16), which has caramelized
jumbo sea scallops and thin slices of mushroom in a white wine cream sauce.
Everything hits the mark. The linguini is a perfect “al dente” and the scallops
brim with maritime flavor. Let’s hope Via Downer continues to expand its
selection of entrees and pastas.
The focus is clearly
on food rather than beverages. With two-dozen options to choose from, the beer
list is good enough. But the wine list seems a little limited. There are about
30 vintages, with some sold by the glass ($6-$8) and all by the bottle
Will Via Downer be a
success? Its concept seems to be directly in the middle of Pizzeria Piccola and
Ristorante Bartolotta. The setting is attractive, the thoughtful menu is aimed
at lighter meals, and the prices are very fair. Perhaps this is the place Downer Avenue has
been waiting to see.
2625 N. Downer Ave.
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