Osteria Papavero's Rustic Italian Charm
By Rachel Werner | Photographed by Josh Witzel

STROLLING THROUGH DOWNTOWN MADISON, the culinary opulence can be overwhelming with posh names and mod décor beckoning from each block around Capitol Square. Osteria Papavero stands out because its exterior and internal ambiance are modest, a deliberate nod toward authenticity by head chef and owner Francesco Mangano. While environment is important, he says, “In Italy when we go to a place to eat, it’s about the food.”

Mangano’s osteria brings old school Italian cuisine to life with an array of daily specials—think creamy, veggie-laden risottos with seasonal ingredients—anchored by a few outstanding menu staples like cinghiale, seared wild boar jumbled with fresh pappardelle.

Mangano adamantly stays true to his roots in the kitchen. “Italy is more of a patchwork of regions than a country. Most of the recipes, I learned from family in Tuscany, Emilia-Romagna and Sicily,” he says.

The flavors of each recipe are heightened by their presentation. For example, framed on a pristine-white angular plate, the delicious insalata riso, a colorful mix of hard boiled egg, Sicilian tuna, olives and artichoke, along with miniscule granules of finely shaved Parmesan, stood out on the table like a work of art.

This attention to detail helped earn Mangano a 2016 James Beard Award nomination, an honor he humbly states was a “nice acknowledgement after 10 years of work.” osteriapapavero.com.

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