Fred Moesinger and Aimee Sterling took a giant leap backward when they were forced to move their beloved Italian restaurant, Caffe Molise, and its sister bar, BTG, because of planned city construction. Instead of abandoning downtown for new construction in the burbs (and yes, I count Cottonwood and Holladay), they decided to invest in Salt Lake’s history and take over the landmark Eagle Building. That’s not the Salt Lake way—we generally prefer to tear down the old and put our money into new and shiny—and usually boring—buildings.
So hurrah for Fred and Aimee and kudos to their craziness. The new old space is 15,000 square feet over three floors; the original Caffe Molise space was 9,000 square feet. BTG now has a whole floor with its own entrance, the top floor is a ballroom fit for Beauty & the Beast to waltz across.
Built in 1915-16 for the Fraternal Order of the Eagles, the building has a formality and a presence seldom seen in new architecture. The grand entryway staircase on West Temple leads into the dining room, which, because of tall ceilings and architectural detail, lending a sense of occasion to your meal.
Molise’s menu has remained the same, which seems weird, because it all tasted better in the new space. It’s been proved (as much as social science can prove anything) that where people eat affects how much they enjoy what they’re eating. Caffe Molise’s arista—spice rubbed roast pork tenderloin with fig compote—has always been one of my favorites. The moist pork and the mildly sweet fruit have a naturally beautiful relationship in the mouth, but the newly elegant setting is conducive to slowing down and relishing flavors. Eggplant polpette have all the umami of meat, enhanced by tomato cream and grilled asparagus—a humble dish elevated by its surroundings.
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