Columbus Monthly’s Best New Restaurants: Novella Osteria
A Central Ohio native returns home to create an Italian destination in Powell.
The Roman dish cacio e pepe, which literally means cheese and pepper, is a good illustration of how we lived in 2020, when we went back to the basics and found comfort in simple things—like a great bowl of pasta.
Yet, despite few ingredients, cacio e pepe is deceptively difficult to perfect, requiring a balance of good ingredients, temperature and timing. For a fine example, look to Novella Osteria in Powell, which opened in October. There, chef-owner Matthew Phelan tosses house-made bucatini in a combination of pasta water, butter, olive oil, Grana Padano and Pecorino cheeses and several twists of toasted, cracked black peppercorns. It was one of the best dishes we ate all year. “I guess when you talk about pasta, it’s all about emulsion. It’s all about oil and water and, you know, fat and water—whether that’s cheese, whether that’s butter, that’s kind of the whole dish,” Phelan says.
A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in upstate New York, Phelan built a career in New York City kitchens before returning recently to Central Ohio, where he grew up. Looking to open his first restaurant, he considered Downtown Columbus but found rents to be prohibitive. Instead, the chef picked a space in Powell that offered him a blank slate. (Coincidentally, Phelan’s first restaurant job was in Powell, at bygone Luce Enoteca.)
“I wanted it to look like it was here for, you know, 100-plus years,” Phelan says about the restaurant’s rustic-yet-classy brick dining room, complete with a pasta bar that looks into the kitchen.
In addition to making his own pastas at Novella, Phelan crafts his own focaccia and a rustic loaf that he uses in the ricotta crostini (one of his favorite things on the menu). For the lobster fra diavolo, he uses every inch of the lobsters he sources from local purveyor Coastal Local Seafood. His Sunday gravy with rigatoni, which he calls “a culmination of what we’re trying to do here,” is a rich, wintertime dish that incorporates high-quality cuts of meat from Fredericktown’s respected Dee-Jay’s Custom Butchering.
Phelan’s vision for Novella is simple but hard to execute: create a neighborhood restaurant built around handmade pastas, deft technique and high-quality ingredients.
Check. We can’t wait to see the next chapter.
Novella Osteria, 170 W. Olentangy St., Powell, 614-389-6698, novellaosteria.com