New Whitefish restaurant is serving up authentic, homemade Italian fare

Story by Justin Franz | Photography by Greg Lindstrom
Last fall, when Pat Carloss, owner of Whitefish’s beloved Tupelo Grille, and his general manager, Paul Abu-Taleb, walked into the shuttered Truby’s Restaurant and Bar, they knew it was the perfect spot for an authentic Italian eatery. Spaces have a way of “speaking” to you, Abu-Taleb says. A few months later, Abruzzo Italian Kitchen was born, and since opening in December, the restaurant has quickly established itself as a local favorite.

To help lead the new restaurant, Abu-Taleb enlisted the help of executive chef Jeremy Grossman, who shared a passion for rustic and authentic Italian cuisine. Grossman grew up on the West Coast, and one of his first jobs as a kid was at a pizza parlor. Grossman joined the military after high school, and when he finished his service, he went back to food service, in part because he was familiar with the atmosphere.

“A kitchen is a lot like the military,” he said. “There’s a lot of yelling.”

Grossman went to culinary school at the Art Institute of Los Angeles and then worked at a number of prominent Southern California eateries, including BLT Steak, Rustic Canyon and Sonoma Wine Garden. After a few years in Los Angeles, Grossman moved to Lake Tahoe, California and Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in search of a better lifestyle for his family. A few years ago, his family moved to Whitefish, where his wife is originally from.

Led by Grossman, Abruzzo emphasizes scratch-made food— the pasta is made in the kitchen and pizzas are prepared in a special wood-fired oven.

“You just can’t fake the taste and the texture of scratch-made pasta,” Abu-Taleb said.
Grossman said the key to great Italian food is simple preparation and not overloading the dish with a lot of unnecessary parts.

“This is the perfect restaurant for me because this is the type of food I love to make … I have passion for doing things simply and doing them well,” Grossman said. “(We make) comfort food at its finest.”

No dish exemplifies the menu better than the Traditional Bolognese. The brown meat sauce is simmered for up to six hours and includes pork and veal. The sauce is poured over pappardelle pasta — made in-house and cooked slightly al dente to maintain a little bite when it arrives at the table — and topped with fresh Parmesan cheese. Grossman said the dish is representative of the resturant’s menu because it lets the ingredients speak for themselves: “You don’t need to do much to it.”

Abu-Taleb said he hopes Abruzzo cements itself as a cornerstone of Whitefish’s growing culinary scene.

“The restaurant scene is evolving here, and 15 years ago, a place doing scratch-made pasta and wood-fired pizzas may not have done as well, but we’re finding that it’s being well-received right now,” he said.

The Details

Description Traditional Bolognese, brown meat sauce with pork and veal over pappardelle pasta, topped with Parmesan cheese
Price $16
Location 115 Central Ave., Whitefish
Website abruzzoitaliankitchen.com