Cannella’s in Salt Lake City

There are nights when I want going out to dinner to be an event with a dress code, a busy see-and-be-seen crowd and a cuisine that offers a little challenge.  And there are nights when I want to go to dinner simply to be pampered in a place that feels comfortable and enjoy food that’s familiar.  Cannella’s is a perfect answer on those nights, tucked away in the corner of downtown Salt Lake City.

The bar at Cannella's in Salt Lake City.

The bar at Cannella’s.

Cannella’s has been serving Italian food to Salt Lake City since 1978.  A true “ma and pa” establishment, the family-owned restaurant is known for being friends with its customers and serving them like they would family.  My parents have been going to Cannella’s for decades and last weekend when they returned from Hawaii, we went straight to there for dinner.

The caprese appetizer at Cannella's in Salt Lake City.

I loved that the Caprese had a dollop of pesto.

Canella’s recently updated their menu, giving it a fun grid-like look with food-centric quotes like “There is no love sincerer than the love of food” (George Bernard Shaw).  They added classic cocktails (like Pimm’s Cup, Moscow Mules, Manhattans, etc., all $8) and appetizers, like mushroom risotto cakes ($9), mussels and clams ($12) and Caprese ($11).

Alberto's meat lasagne at Cannella's in Salt Lake City.

The meat-packed lasagne is intense, but delicious.

Their famous classics, like Alberto’s Meat Lasagne ($17), are still on the menu.  Packed with Colosimo’s sausage, meatballs, pepperoni, mozzarella, asagio, and topped with red and yellow pepper sauce, it’s a bold take on the classic layered pasta.  (There’s a less-meaty version for $15, too.)

The Pomodoro pasta at Cannella's in Salt Lake City.

The Pomodoro lacked meat but not flavor.

Much of the menu focuses on pasta (it is an Italian restaurant, after all), but with variation.  There is a good variety of seafood-based ones (seafood marinara, $19; house made gnocchi with shrimp, $18), chicken-based one (tortellini with chicken, $16), and meatless ones (Pomodoro, $13).  The wheat-based spaghetti Pomodoro was full of marinated tomatoes, garlic and olive oil, a spicy, yet light pasta dish.

The Pappardelle Bolognese pasta at Cannella's in Salt Lake City.

The gorgonzola added an awesome element to the Pappardelle Bolognese.

I found some middle ground with the Pappardelle Bolognese ($19), a light pasta with ground veal, pork and pancetta mixed throughout, topped with roasted red peppers and gorgonzola to give it a good, rich kick.  It was really enjoyable, with bursts of different flavors in every bite.  All entrees are served with soup or salad.  The salad of the day was a roasted red pepper tomato bisque, a spicier version of the comforting tomato classic.

The roasted red pepper tomato bisque at Cannella's in Salt Lake City.

Spicy, creamy, peppery/tomato goodness.

The best addition to Cannella’s menu is the gelato martinis.  They have solved the problem when you can’t decide between a cocktail and dessert, with combinations like the Sophia Loren (lemon biscotti gelato in Limoncello and La Marca Prosecco) and the Boardwalk Empire (Nutella gelato in Kahlua, Bailey’s Irish Cream and cherry liquor).  I picked the Whiskey Bravo, vanilla bean gelato doused in High West American Prairie Bourbon and a dash of chocolate.  It was phenomenal and something I will be re-creating at home from now on!  All are $8/each.

The Whiskey Bravo with gelato and High West American Prairie Bourbon at Cannella's in Salt Lake City.

Whiskey + gelato = heaven.

If you prefer to eat your dessert instead of drink it, they also serve Cannolis, Tiramisu, chocolate beet cake (I’ve gotta try that next time!) and gelato sans-cocktail (all $6/each).  Cannella’s has a great, affordable wine list with bottles starting at $30 and wines available by the glass, and plenty of beers if you want that route.  (My dad loves that they have PBR on tap.)

There’s a reason Cannella’s has happily been serving Salt Lake City since 1978 and people keep coming back.  If you don’t know why, it’s worth visiting to find out!

Go to Cannella’s for :: a casual, comfortable dinner or laid-back lunch.  Notes :: Open Monday 11 am-9 pm, Tuesday-Thursday 11 am-10 pm, Friday-Saturday 11 am-11 pm and Sundays 4 pm-9 pm.  Reservations are available online here or by calling 801-355-8518.  They also are available to host private parties and events for up to 20 people.

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