Going out for lunch carries specific expectations. If you’ve gone beyond the decision to just get a bite to eat, other desires come into play: In addition to good food, you want a certain atmosphere, efficient service, and ideally, a reasonable price. A recent mid-day visit to Osianna Mediterranean Taverna in Fairfield satisfied all our requirements for a delightfully laid back lunch with excellent food that nourished, but didn’t stuff us, and proved to be an exceptional value.
An energetic buzz greeted us when we entered the restaurant thanks to one large party and a number of other tables full of engaged, animated diners. Their collective good mood might have been due to the sunlight streaming in from all directions through the large windows on nearly every wall. From the bright blue walls and the ribbons of sail cloth pillowed between the ceiling beams, to the attentive staff dressed in blue and white striped tees, Osianna’s décor places you in the warmth of the Mediterranean. We learned from our very accommodating server that the owners are Greek and Italian and their goal is to recreate the Mediterranean taverna experience through décor, hospitality and food. They refer to their restaurant’s fare as Greek - Mediterranean fusion; whatever they call it, it works!
The menu choices are plentiful and each one sounds as good as the next. Before we knew it, we were prepared to order more appetizers than we could have ever eaten. Then, our eyes fell on the prix fixe menu. For $12, you can select one appetizer from four Small Plates options and one entrée from a choice of ten (the menu also includes 6 additional entrees for an additional $3) The prix fixe menu offered some of the same appetizer choices we liked from the lunch menu and the value proposition was so great we couldn’t pass it up.
The most striking features of the dishes we tasted were the freshness of the ingredients and the simplicity of their preparation. The combination added up to consistently fabulous taste.
The delicious spread that came with our bread was not a thick aioli, but their house-made hummus. “It’s just chick peas, tahini, a bit of lemon zest, garlic and olive oil,” our server told us. Every dish had a light, uncomplicated, but flavorful dressing. It was all so nuanced we struggled to identify ingredients, but eventually gave up and once again asked our waitress. She smiled as if giving away a secret, leaned into the table and said, “It’s the olive oil: A Sicilian extra virgin olive oil and it’s in everything.”
The olive oil might be used frequently, but it is not used heavy handedly. The Gigante Beans were lightly dressed and delicious, and though they might have benefited from a larger splash of herbs, it was the only dish that left much room for improvement. A Rocket and Romaine Salad with gorgonzola was studded with red grapes and green pistachios and the shallot vinaigrette was a perfect dressing to bring out the flavors. The grilled calamari salad was an ample pile of tender cabbage, flecked with carrots, red pepper and celery, imbedded with tender pieces of calamari and sprinkled with oregano and parsley. Once again the shallot vinaigrette was the perfect harmonic accompaniment to the simplicity of the ingredients. The Warm Spicy Feta with tomatoes and chilies was amazing - think fondue, but more interesting in both taste and texture. The cheese isn’t over processed, so each scoopful delivers satisfying chunks of mild feta and small diced tomato, highlighted with a small pop of red chili. If you needed comfort food in the Mediterranean, this would be it. This is a small plate that must be ordered, especially in winter to share with your lunch companions. Our second main dish was the Branzino, which could have stood on its own, it was so light and so fresh, but it too was enhanced by a light olive oil sauce and a bed of julienne carrots, yellow and green zucchini and peas. The presentation was lovely.
All desserts are house-made and even though we were quite content, a brief chat with our server compelled us to order the Karidopita, a moist walnut cake served with ice cream and a drizzle of nutmeg syrup. As promised, it was delicious.
Osianna is a complete package: great food, warm atmosphere, wonderful hospitality and an excellent value. All the servers, were attentive, polite and unobtrusive. Our waitress seemed truly pleased to answer our questions and delighted in our enjoyment of the food. Inside the restaurant, it’s easy to forget that it’s January; come May, you can enjoy all Osianna has to offer on their outdoor patio, but don’t wait that long to experience all this goodness.
Osianna Mediterranean Taverna, 70 Reef Rd. Fairfield 203.254.2070