Tucked away in a narrow alley off of Kirkwood, Osteria Rago is an unexpected downtown dinner destination. But once you discover the magic behind their charming stone walls, it’s easy to be hooked.
On its website, the restaurant says it serves “grandmother-style” cooking — food that is comforting and simple while being undeniably delicious. The interior is softly lit and rustic, creating an ambient, intimate atmosphere. The best part? Their prices are comparable to, if not cheaper than, Olive Garden’s, while delivering infinitely better food. For instance, the fettucine alfredo at Osteria Rago is over $2 cheaper than the one at Olive Garden.
After perusing through the menu of pizzas, sandwiches, pastas and salads, I faced the daunting task of actually choosing which dish to order. I am a pasta girl through and through, and after seeing that theirs is homemade, I couldn’t resist trying it. Making a split-second decision, I ordered the Aglio e Olio pasta with chicken.
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Aglio e Olio is a deceptively simple yet widely popular Italian pasta dish — thought to have originated in Naples or nearby — that combines toasted garlic, olive oil and red chili flakes tossed with pasta and pasta water to create an emulsified sauce.
Ever since watching YouTube tutorials on how to make it, I have longed to try the dish. While it has shockingly few ingredients, I felt confident that, if done right, tasting Aglio e Olio would change my life. It’s hard to imagine that three of my absolute favorite things — garlic, olive oil and spaghetti — could not create a heavenly, harmonious combination.
When my pasta arrived, I instantly knew I was in for a treat. Glistening strands of spaghetti were neatly twisted into a spiral with thin slices of golden brown garlic nestled in every crevice. Minced parsley dusted the top, adding an essential freshness to balance the decadence of the dish.
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At first bite, the noodles were perfectly al dente and had a nutty and rich flavor from the olive oil. The garlic slices added a delicious sweet and umami flavor that I could not get enough of, while the chili flakes offered a subtle kick.
While I am normally unimpressed with restaurant chicken — it is too often tough and dry in texture — the slices that came on top of my dish were juicy, tender and well-seasoned.
A small but satisfying slice of spongy focaccia with a crispy exterior accompanied the dish as well, making the ideal vessel for extra sauce at the bottom.
It is safe to say that I left the restaurant with a full stomach and a fuller heart. Osteria Rago creates delicious food from simple and quality ingredients that can be a comfort food to any kind of person. Whether you are looking for your next romantic date night spot, a celebration with friends or somewhere to get your parents to treat you when they visit, Osteria Rago is sure to be your place.