La dolce vita Osteria Papavero still reigns with its rustic Italian fare

Sep 13, 2017 384


Madison has lost some noteworthy Italian restaurants in the 11 years that Osteria Papavero has been open: Nostrano, Peppino’s, Bellini, Gino’s. The last three were operated by members of one family of brothers, in a beautifully Italian kind of way. But Francesco Mangano’s Osteria Papavero has been there through it all, quietly seated in a commuter-heavy stretch of East Wilson and comfortable as old leather.

What brings diners back over the years, quality or familiarity? Is the budino di caramello deserving of repeated praise, or does everyone just remember loving it back around the turn of the decade? I’ll get that one out of the way right away: the budino di caramello is still amazing. It is presented as simply as any pudding you’d make on the stovetop at home, with whipped cream and a sprinkle of cocoa powder, but Papavero makes it silky smooth with just the right proportion of sweet to salty. A perfectly fine butterscotch pudding can be made at home, but if you can make it as Osteria Papavero does, start charging admission.

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