First taste of Italic: New rustic Italian restaurant opening soon in downtown Austin
Italic, the Italian endeavor from the ELM Restaurant group (24 Diner, Arro, Easy Tiger), is just a few short weeks away from opening its doors at Sixth and Colorado streets, but the inspiration has been years in the making.
Chef Drew Curren and Beverage Director Craig Collins met years ago while attending a two-month academic program in Italy. “I thought I knew a little bit about food and Craig thought he knew a little about wine,” says Curren. “We would collect lira from the other students, buy the things we wanted to try and called it a food and wine tasting. It’s where I found my passion for food and hospitality.”
The menu at Italic will reflect the rustic Italian cooking they fell in love with, as well as a diverse Italian wine selection including house wine on tap served in a carafe — Roman style.
“Food can be emotional or cerebral. My food is emotional,” says Curren. “I want it to evoke those feelings of happiness and nostalgia, maybe a flashback to when you were visiting Rome.”
The dinner menu will feature five antipasti (appetizers), five primi (typically pasta), five secondi (entrees, generally meat) and a few contorni (side dishes), with a lighter selection for lunch including salads and sandwiches. Pasta plates will be offered in two sizes, a tasting plate or a full entree, giving diners the option to sample more sections of the menu. Full-sized pasta entrees will fetch under $20 and the secondi plates will be priced in the $20 range.
“It’s not regional cuisine,” says Curren. “We are cooking a very fun, approachable interpretation of rustic Italian cuisine — classics like bolognese, carbonara and amatriciana. When you take Roman classics and don’t try to insert ego here, they are pretty amazing.”
Of course you’ll want to want to leave room for Pastry Chef Mary Catherine Curren’s desserts that will mirror the rustic, simple dishes of the main menu. A seasonal fruit crostada, a chocolate budino, panacotta and olive oil cakes will be mainstays on the simplified dessert menu. “There won’t be as many components on the plate as you might see on a dessert at Arro,” she says.
Any great Italian meal is complemented by an equally great Italian beverage. Master Sommelier Craig Collins has curated a 100 percent Italian wine list that features some often overlooked or hard to find varietals. “I’m very excited about the Lambrusco we will be offering,” says Collins. “American consumers have a negative connotation of Lambrusco because of some not-great wine from the '70s. It’s absolutely delicious when you have the right producer.”
In addition to well-known regions, the wine list will also feature selections from the increasingly popular Mt. Etna in Sicily with an entire section dedicated to Nero Mascalese, a grape that Collins describes as being between red Burgundy and Barbaresco. Italic will also offer extensive vermouth, amaro and grappa choices as well as Italian craft beer.
“We are featuring several up-and-coming brewers like Baladin and Ducato,” says Collins, “and we’ll be serving it all in a special Italian beer glass called a Teku.”
It’s clear that Italic is a passion project not just for Curren, but also for the entire team. “Italic draws our personal and professional careers full circle,” says Collins. “It’s something we have wanted to do for a long time.”
Italic is expected to open in March 2015.