After building a career in New York, the Central Ohio native has returned home to launch his own Italian restaurant.
Matthew Phelan’s story as a chef started in Powell. Now, several years and several New York restaurant jobs later, he’s returned to Central Ohio to open up his own restaurant, Novella Osteria. In Powell.
Phelan grew up in Dublin and attended the Culinary Institute of America in upstate New York. In 2012, he got his first job as a cook at the bygone Luce Enoteca, an Italian restaurant in Powell owned by Johnny and Mike Ciotola, former owners of La Scala. After graduating from CIA, Phelan embarked on a culinary career in New York City, with stints in kitchens run by big names: Daniel Boulud and Mario Batali.
While many of his fellow chefs went the French route, Phelan felt most at home cooking Italian at Lupa Osteria Romana, Batali’s Greenwich Village eatery specializing in Roman trattoria fare. (Following allegations in 2017 of sexual misconduct, Batali has since relinquished his stake in Lupa, which remains open.)
About a year ago Phelan moved back to Central Ohio and helped restaurateur Rick Ziliak open his second Z Cucina location, in Dublin’s Bridge Park. Phelan says returning to Central Ohio was always in the back of his mind.
“I really wanted to go and learn as much as I could, you know, either on the East Coast or West Coast and bring it back,” he says.
Novella Osteria’s menu will be small, Phelan says, with “a less is more attitude,” and will focus on rustic Italian that doesn’t define itself by one particular region. While Lupa was solely focused on Roman cuisine, Phelan is excited to have a little more leeway. One thing diners can expect: “[Handmade] pasta is going to be the show,” he says.
"For me it's really based on technique. It's more about building the sauce in the pan,” Phelan says. “You know, not really making big, big batches of sauce. Everything is made to order almost à la minute.”
Located in a new development at 170 W. Olentangy St., the restaurant is around 3,700 square feet, seating 100 inside and 20 on the patio. (Its neighbors include Pinot’s Palette and Koble Grill.) The restaurant will have a bar focused on wine and craft cocktails, a private dining room that seats around 20 to 30 people as well as a “pasta bar” looking into the open kitchen.
Originally, Phelan looked at Downtown and Bridge Park, but the rents were prohibitive. “I feel like Powell is ready for something of this caliber,” he says. "The term osteria comes from a neighborhood restaurant, either specializing in meat, seafood or pasta. I really want to become that neighborhood spot for Powell, but really for Columbus to come and eat really traditional pastas."
Phelan looks to open Novella Osteria this July.