Last Friday I and Tzatziki Champion synchronized our watches, packed the car with all sorts of girly essentials (hair straighteners, nail varnish remover and a small white dog), fed the instructions into the sat nav and set off for our mini break in Turku.
We kicked our culinary odyssey off with the grand opening of Ovo Osteria Romana. The couple behind the newest Italian restaurant in Turku is also the couple behind Pizzarium, which, for some time now, has been responsible for some of the best pizzas in the country. And yes, even if it makes you think of us gluttonous beyond any Dantesque description I will shamelessly admit that it was (again) our first step after reaching Turku.
Ovo's location, overlooking Aurajoki river simply could not be better. Fine dining, however, it is not. It is a laid back osteria and, as the name osteria would suggest, offers simple Italian food designed to make you feel good. Authenticity is something they won't scrimp on.
The venue itself consists of 4 rooms, each with their own feel. The atmosphere is relaxed peppered with fun little details.
Like a hand-carved fountain mounted on the wall. And a Vespa (!). The fountain doesn't work though, as in the end it turned out to be "incompatible with CE standards". Can you think of anything more Italian?
The presentation, too is simple to a point of careless. First we were served kitchen's greeting, which was buck wheat risotto. We think. Packed with taste, nonetheless.
The staff, much like the restaurant, is new and that was obvious. There hadn't been a chance to have any kind of soft opening period, so the next few weeks will be spent polishing the final details. The staff was busy and nobody really seemed to know what they were supposed to do.
The customers weren't greeted with as much as "just a second" as they walked in, nor was there anyone in charge of escorting them to their tables. Nobody seemed to have the time (or knowledge for that matter) to really tell us about the dishes as they arrived, so half the time we didn't really even know what it was we were eating. The other half we sat there waiting for our crockery to turn up and the water jug was never refilled.
Yet the atmosphere was cozy and homely and the smile never left the waiters' faces.
On the opening night 3 options were available: fish, meat and pizza menu. We jumped at the fish and meat menus (€64,90 each).
The fish menu opened with potato and octopus salad. Molto bene. Followed by chickpea puré and baby squid stewed in tomato sauce (more octopus? Yes please! I was in heaven.)
The tomato sauce had the sort of fantastic depth that only comes from having been slowly and lovingly cooked for hours on end and the baby octopi were tender beyond dreamy.
The meat menu set off with antipasti selection. Italian charcuterie and cheeses,warm (!) olives, a croqueta with superbly crispy shell and fluffy interior and a tomato bruschetta. I never had the chance to ask where they'd sourced their tomatos but they were so ripe, juicy and sweet I can swear it wasn't Finland.
At some point there were mussles with wonderfully subtle fresh tomato sauce and some brown bean soup (?) but they (too) got eaten before I even had the chance to dig out my camera....
Then it was off to pastas. Rigatoni Amatriciana's taste was spot on, as was that of the meat-filled ravioli, but unfortunately both dishes were cold by the time they reached our table.
The fish menu featured (excellent!) crayfish risotto and seafood linguine. Probably our favourites all night.
For mains we were served a great saltimbocca and beef of some sort and a seafood selection from the fish menu. The king prawns were packed with flavour and deep-fried calamari boasted a wonderfully light and crisp coating.
You'd be right to assume hunger was the last thing on our minds by now. But you'd be equally right to assume that still didn't stop us from getting silly...
Somehow we managed to convince ourselves we'd just had to trey the pizzas, too. So that's what we did. And yes, they were every bit as dreamy as we'd thought.
And still we managed to leave just enough room for some panna cotta. Great texture, by the way. Great night, all round.
In spite of the somewhat shambolic service the basics are in order. The food is prepared with passion and love; for both food and quality ingredients.
Out of the wines we had we particularly liked the house red: Ciù Ciù Gotica. The Montepulciano-Sangiovese blend had soft tannins and lightness with notes of berry that went particularly well with all things octopussy.