Josh Dalton's latest is worth the drive.

[Editor's note: After this article was published in Columbus Monthly's February issue, chef Mike Gadd was replaced by chef Andy Stone at Speck Italian Eatery.] 

You’ve got to hand it to Josh Dalton. The chef-owner of Veritas, a restaurant that turned heads in historic downtown Delaware before moving to Downtown Columbus, has managed to fill Veritas’ ancestral home with a congenial Italian spot named after cured ham. In the fall, Dalton handed over the kitchen’s reins to the capable hands of chef Mike Gadd, whose energy pours out of Speck’s small pass-through window.

A meal at the Winter Street restaurant might start with the general manager, Abby Cottongim, handing you a complimentary bite, like a wonderfully crisp kohlrabi and apple salad with manchego, speck and almonds. After ordering one of the bar’s excellent cocktails, the speck starter is a perfect next destination—the dry-cured ham joined by creamy burrata, pungent giardiniera and crusty toast (plenty of it).

The menu changes daily, which is part of the fun. Speck’s pastas are all made in-house, so that’s a good direction to go. Gnocchi is always a solid bet at a Dalton establishment, and the version at Speck is no different.

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On my visit, confectioners’ sugar-dusted ricciarelli—almond cookies native to Siena, Italy—were handed out as (another) kind gesture. Don’t let that stop you from ordering dessert, though. The winter apple and salted cream panna cotta was one of the best denouements to a meal that I had all year. 

Whereas Veritas (named Columbus Monthly’s No. 1 restaurant last year) is modern and a bit fussy, Speck is its foil that manages to both suffer the details and honor the simplicity of Italian cuisine. Not only is Dalton’s newest restaurant worth the drive, it’s enough to make Delaware’s bigger sibling city to the south envious.

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