Dining Out: Enoteca

At the corner of Sun Valley Road and Main Street lies the epicenter of Ketchum, Idaho, a short route to the legendary and world renowned Sun Valley Resort and a few miles north to the beauty and untouched wilderness of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. It’s also the home to Enoteca — Ketchum’s newest refined wine and dining experience.

The history of Ketchum’s main intersection has always been a place for gathering as Enoteca is housed in the original Lane Mercantile Building, a Ketchum icon since 1887. Once a supplier for miners, later a hub for local sheepherders and eventually a bank and a Starbucks, the building’s history is a rich tale of mountain town life.

In Italy, an enoteca is a wine library or shop where local winemakers sell their wines for others to try. In Ketchum, Enoteca is where many gather for innovative and contemporary Italian dining with a bevy of regional and Italian wines. A lengthy beer list of international pilsners and lagers, as well as an array of brews from Oregon, Idaho and Wyoming, make Enoteca notable.

Enoteca is the brainchild of Ketchum’s most noted culinary empire: the Mason family — Scott, Anne, Adelaide and Lyndsey — a tight and attractive unit of foodies. Scott and Anne have always had similar philosophies for their culinary expertise since they met working in a hotel kitchen in Santa Barbara in the early ’80s. As owners of Ketchum’s long-standing mainstay restaurant, the Ketchum Grill, the Masons took on the opportunity to birth Enoteca as a passion project from their love of all things Italian. “We wanted to keep it Italian flavors and theme the menu Italian,” Chef Scott says. “I didn’t want to have a grill. I have that. I wanted it to be different. We sauté. Grilling and barbecue are very American. In Europe, there’s more sauté.” Scott, too, has always been curing his own meats and other things, as well as drying. “We make the pizza dough, sausages, desserts and most everything here. We do buy cheeses and try to support regional purveyors as much as possible, especially in the meat department.”

When Adelaide — the restaurant’s manager and ultimate inspiration — decided Enoteca was a must, small plates along with main dishes and sides were to be simple, fast and no-nonsense. Enoteca boasts an eclectic but simple and easy-to-serve menu loaded with savory and hearty options for a range of appetites and flavorful combinations. Lyndsey’s passion for pizza, which grew from Diavola, a highly-touted pizza truck she started at the Ketchum Grill, inspired the open wood-fired pizza oven which is the restaurant’s most visible kitchen entity. Small plates include baked bacon-wrapped dates and an artisanal cheese board with spiced nuts and honey. Homemade focaccia is created from the residual heat of the oven from the night before with grapes and leftover pizza dough. Tasty sides of Brussels sprouts with bacon and goat cheese are scrumptious alongside pan-roasted chicken with mushroom pan sauce and a topping of spinach and dried tomato orzo or a serving of the pork osso bucco with herb-parmesan polenta.

Sweets and after-dinner items are simple and all created by Anne, which she hand-delivers each day from her operation at the Ketchum Grill, where she will walk trays down Sun Valley Road to Enoteca. The chocolate budino served with fleur de sel and mascarpone cream, “is the love child between a brownie and a chocolate mousse,” Adelaide describes. And Enoteca serves up plenty of panna cotta, an Italian staple, in a plethora of flavors throughout the year with huckleberries, peaches or a passion fruit puree. Another Enoteca sweet specialty that exudes Italian food culture is the affogato, which is drowned with espresso and Anne’s vanilla bean ice cream. “Many diners have suggested that the affogato become a breakfast item,” Adelaide says.

According to the Mason clan, people say Enoteca is like being in San Francisco or New York City because it has an urban appeal, but it’s also rustic and country, something which Ketchum interior designer Jennifer Hoey had quite a hand in creating. Hoey’s office, upstairs from the restaurant, was a convenience for the marathon build-out that took place two months prior to the December 2012 opening. A self-proclaimed foodie, Hoey watched with great interest what was happening to her beloved exposed brick building, which she knew was a canvas to create a dream restaurant space.

Creating wire columns with Idaho stones, laying concrete floors and using slotted reclaimed patina grade oak were Hoey’s ideas. Steel finishes, wooden library stools for the bar and steel banquettes on casters create a special dining experience, especially in the middle of the restaurant. Hanging filament bulbs present a combination of classic and modern lighting, which Hoey added for a rustic style with a modern appeal. And just above the long, sleek wood bar is a wine rack, lit from behind, complete with a rolling library ladder for grabbing wine bottles. “There are not many brick buildings left,” Hoey explains. “I like mixing old and new, and with 14-foot ceilings, you can layer the new on top. It’s a feeling you have when you are in an older building. It is a special place. This is the corner of Sun Valley and Main; it had to be an amazing space.”

Since the Masons spend a great deal of time together as a family and in business, Enoteca is an extension of their home where industrial meets classic Italian dining and where a reservation is something to consider when deciding to go.

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