2601 SE Clinton

As we get older, life gets more complicated. The people we encounter have more baggage. The transactions we enter are more detailed, and our actions are tainted by years of interacting with other complicated people and processes. Thus, a little simplicity is welcome relief from the everyday. And simplicity has everything to do with Clinton Street's new restaurant, SubRosa.

When you first look at the menu, it's jarringly straightforward--especially for those of us who are scouring the town for new, inventive restaurants that use exotic ingredients. In SubRosa's case, however, it's the restaurant's mastery of the basics that sets it apart.

Your menu choices are limited to the following: Salads, a cheese plate, soup, pasta dishes (spaghetti with meatballs, fettucini alfredo, etc.), and pizza (cheese, pepperoni, vegetable). Desserts are limited to ice cream with homemade chocolate sauce and homemade cookies. "Huh?" you might exclaim with confusion after perusing the options. You could, like me, even find yourself disappointed that they don't have some medley dish with ingredients that cater to your exact taste. But don't be--rather than dazzling you with rich reductions, glazes, and compotes, SubRosa creates their cuisine with the utmost care.

The Caesar salad was beautifully tossed, so each leaf held the flavor of garlic and anchovy, but not a drip of dressing was left on the plate. The mixed green salad was sprinkled with blue cheese, cranberries, nuts, and vinaigrette in artistically subtle amounts. After choking my way through a recent, horribly overdressed salad, I couldn't have been more impressed with SubRosa's restraint.

Likewise, the spaghetti with meatballs ($9) was made with al dente noodles, stirred with a modest amount of explosively fresh and herby marinara and a few tasty meatballs. It was a dish I could've made at home, only far, far better.

SubRosa's pizzas, though, are the true masterpieces. Keeping to basics, I ordered a Margherita pizza ($14), made with garlic infused olive oil as the sauce, and topped with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and strips of fresh basil. The restaurant's phenomenal version of pizza is something like what you'd get in a great pizzeria in Rome. Shaped like an oval and hand-stretched, the crust is thin and airy, filled with bubbles and cooked to a light golden brown. The olive oil gave the crust a rich, buttery taste, and the garlic was pleasantly apparent without being overwhelming. Fresh mozzarella was melted in a thick white blanket, and the tomatoes and basil tasted like they were picked from the garden.

To accompany your meal, SubRosa has a short, tempting list of wines. Being a huge fan of Chianti, I sampled both menu choices--their Classico is good, but their standard Chianti, the 2002 La Ginestra, is one of the best affordable wines I've had ($5 a glass). Fruity and less dry than other Chiantis, this is a wine I'll be seeking out.

Overall, the quality of SubRosa's food seduces without the need for extravagance. Like spending an evening with an old friend who knows you better than anybody else, SubRosa provides a great evening, devoid of drama.