By David A. Fryxell
We know it takes willpower, but force yourself to walk past the glass display cases filled with mouth-watering desserts that greet you upon entering Si Italian Bistro. Ignore—just for now—the cheesecakes and the pies in brain-dizzying variety. Keep walking, get seated at a table and order a whole meal, not just dessert. Trust us, it will be worth it.
Dessert, of course, is what this Las Cruces restaurant was known for in its former life and location, as Sweet Indulgence. But now chef-owner Jeremy Hixon has moved onward and upward and expanded his—and our—culinary horizons, opening Si Italian Bistro in a handsome renovated house at 523 E. Idaho. The desserts from Sweet Indulgence remain, don't worry, and we're guessing a bit of the old name does as well. ("SI" for "Sweet Indulgence" equals "Si," right? Or are we overthinking this?)
The restaurant's new setting is much expanded as well—we would have loved to have been invited over when this place was a house. Most striking is the glass-walled (actually they're sliding doors) room to the left of the main entrance, now a bright and airy dining space done up in bistro-style casual elegance. When we lunched there, it quickly filled up and soon buzzed with conversation; obviously, Si has quickly caught on as a noontime hotspot (especially, we noted, for female lunch groups—though the menu fare is anything but, well, girlie). Despite the crowd, service was prompt and attentive, our waitress friendly and chatty without making you feel she's joining you for lunch.
But we were talking about the food, weren't we—and no, it's not time for dessert yet! Wood-fired pizzas are the star of the show: $6.75-$7.95 at lunch for a portion a hungry person can just barely finish solo, small or large sizes at dinner ranging from $5.95-$14.95. The menu dazzles with creative combinations—salami, artichoke hearts and mozzarella cheese, perhaps? Oven-roasted tomatoes, eggplant, garlic and basil? Our pizza choice married tomatoes, garlic and gorgonzola cheese and, no, we didn't share.
At lunch, don't overlook the sandwiches ($6.75-$7.25)—yes, diehard chile-heads, there's even chicken with green chile—or miss the specialties: chicken parmesan, vegetarian lasagna, eggplant parmesan ($10-$12). While we were gobbling our pizza, which just happened to be meat-free, we noted that Si Italian Bistro is an excellent choice for a group that includes the stray vegetarian or two.
For lunch and especially at dinner, Si also serves up plenty of authentic pasta dishes ($8.95-$13): cheese tortellini, spaghettini with clams in red sauce, chicken or veal piccata (which our waitress said is her favorite), and the like.
The dinner menu expands the salad options ($5.50-$7), with Italian chef's salad, Greek salad and Portobello Caesar salad among those that caught our eye. You can also add appetizers ($6-$12), such as red pepper crostini or mussels in several intriguing preparations.
There's no liquor license, so you can't wash down your meal with a hearty Chianti, but sparkling Italian sodas make a good substitute.
All right, now, who's ready for some dessert?
Desert Exposure editor David A. Fryxell makes