Our very first restaurant review and we couldn't have been more delighted that Terra Mia (My Land) was the place WE landed, giving our taste buds an authentic Italian experience.
We walked into the "fast, casual" family friendly restaurant located at 12361 Minuteman Dr. in Draper.
"We are going to serve our food fast, but we are not going to take any short cuts in the way we cook our food," said Ernesto Lo Russo.
We met Ernesto Lo Russo who was born and raised in Naples, Italy. He has brought authentic Italian cuisine from his region and recipes passed down from generations. Terra Mia prides itself on fresh and authentic ingredients. "We follow traditional recipes from Naples and other parts of Italy. We are excited about food. We make everything from scratch," Lo Russo said. Their dough is made fresh daily. "We are known for our pizza. We started in Orem with this Neapolitan pizza concept. We import our flour and tomatoes. We even brought our own brick oven from Italy, to make the real Neapolitan pizza," he told us. In fact, Lo Russo says they follow the AVPN (Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana). Meaning, the restaurant follows certain standards and guidelines approved by the international organization. The tomatoes must come from a region of Naples. The Neapolitan pizza is something the restauranteur missed the most, so he brought it here to Utah.
We started out with homemade bread. The Lucie kids and the adults had various flavors of Italian soda. It hit the spot on this warm spring day! The chef brought out 10 different dishes. We began with Bruschetta. We learned that to have Bruschetta you have to have the tomatoes and cheese from a certain region to be the true antipasto. So Lo Russo has those ingredients imported.
We then had Scugnizzi or pizza bites. The doughy bites with a drizzle of pesto you dip in marinara sauce are great for the kiddos. Lo Russo said these pizza bites are given to kids playing soccer in the neighborhoods in Italy. There seemed to be a story behind all the dishes.
Who doesn't love an Italian chef who can make pizza from scratch - throw in the air, fresh pizza dough, wood burning oven pie? The 12" pizza Margherita bakes in 45 seconds! Ooey goodness. By the way, Lo Russo says on average, the caloric intake of an entire one of his pizza's, is equivalent to one slice of American pizza. We didn't bring our calorie calculator but we do know it didn't make us feel so greasy.
We then tried four different pasta dishes: Penne Chicken Alfredo, Fettuccine Alfredo with shrimp, Penne Chicken Pesto and Fettuccine with Bolognese. So much variety that one or more will sure to please. Surae enjoyed the Penne Chicken Alfredo. The sauce was magnifico! McCall really liked the pesto pasta.
Unanimously, we all enjoyed the Panuozzo Napoli. A traditional Italian sandwich with prosciutto, mozzarella, tomatoes that is baked in the Italian brick oven.
To save the best for last, we ended the meal with Tiramisù. We both weren't expecting much, but please trust us on this, it blew us away. This is no ordinary Tiramasù. It's extremely creamy, almost like a custard with the strong hint of coffee. The Tiramisù is a secret recipe, again, most of the ingredients are imported. It is one of the most asked about dishes.
The kids also got to pick out a flavor of gelato.
Menu items have an 100% satisfaction guarantee. There's only one item on the menu you cannot return and that's Terra Mia's lasagna. Lo Russo said, "If you don't like it, you are stuck with it." The recipe, for the lasagna, is passed down from his great grandmother. He says they aim to please, but if you don't like his lasagna then pleasing could be a lost cause. What Terra Mia likes to do is change the menu, "because the passion we have is about cooking and about making people happy and surprising people with flavors they have not experienced before." Lo Russo says it's about the balance of ingredients. Nothing is too overpowering in order to taste the ingredients. That being said, you might have to add a few more salt grains to some of the dishes. But our thinking is, it's easier to add than take away.
Lo Russo arrived in America in 1996. His first job was picking corn and tomatoes in the fields. He graduated from BYU. In 2009, he opened his first restaurant, Terra Mia, in Orem and one year ago opened its second location in Draper. He is also the owner of the fine dining Italian restaurant, Carimine's in Cottonwood Heights.
One last note Lo Russo would like to pass on to customers... be open minded and kind. It's a good philosophy to live by in life and that includes enjoying Italian cuisine. "Italian food is as diversified as the regions of Italy or the cities. You move from city to city and the food will be different. We put our hearts in what we do. Be open minded, be kind," Lo Russo said.
If you are looking for a light, healthy, feel-good, Italian meal to enjoy with the kids and the entire family, we say give Terra Mia a try!