By CORTNEY PETERSEN
When you enter Ottavio’s Ristorante Italiano you enter a world of color and excitement, where good food is served and family ties keep you coming back — you enter into your own corner of Italy.
Ottavio’s is a family owned and operated restaurant that opened in Provo on Jan. 21, 1998. Cousins Vittorio Balsano, Leonard Belvedere and Ottavio Belvedere own the restaurant and another cousin, Mario Donato, fills the general manager position.
The restaurant caters to the cuisine of southern Italy with their rich sauces and the cuisine of northern Italy with their speciality light, creamy sauces.
A popular dish served at the restaurant is the spicy chicken angel hair pasta dish — strips of spicy chicken breasts, olive oil, sun dried tomatoes, fresh basil and garlic tossed with angel hair pasta. They serve various salads and pasta dishes, as well as pizzas and calzones cooked in a wood-fired oven.
“Everything is cooked from scratch,” Donato said. “We pride ourselves on that. The recipes we use are all our own, and they are constantly being improved on and changed.”
The ambiance of the restaurant reflects all facets of Italian culture. Whether sitting by the Sicilian horse-drawn cart or under one of the brightly colored flags from the various regions of Italy, the atmosphere is as deliciously appetizing as the food.
Nightly the ambiance is enhanced by singing waiters and an accordion player performing the folk songs of Italy. One of Ottavio’s accordion players is Andy Hall, a 24-year-old manufacturing engineer major from Provo.
“The accordion playing adds to the ambiance of the restaurant,” he said. “I enjoy my work and play anything that sounds Italian.”
Ottavio’s started when Leonard, who came from Sicily to the United States eight years ago, saw a need in Provo of a nice, reasonably priced restaurant. A restaurant with not only an enjoyable atmosphere, but with good food. He was in Provo on a real estate venture and told his cousins, who were living in southern California, about the location.
The cousins, who had been operating restaurants in southern California, decided to relocate to Provo, and here they opened Ottavio’s.
“We take pride in doing what we do,” Balsano said. “We try to say hello to every customer; we want everyone to feel welcome here.”
One thing that has impressed Balsano and Donato is the fact that there is such an appreciation of Italian culture and food in Provo.
“We have more Italian-speaking employees here than we ever had in southern California,” Balsano said. “They help us here at the restaurant bring out the culture of Italy even more.”
Both Balsano and Donato have been impressed with the graciousness of the people of Provo and their willingness to express their appreciation.
“People here not only say they enjoyed the food, but they say ‘thank-you’ as well,” Balsano said. “We are so grateful to them.”
Ottavio’s is located in Provo at 77 E. Center Street. It is open from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 4 to 10 p.m. on Saturday.