Formerly home to the Sierra Cafe, the remodeled space features sage-toned fabrics, marble-topped tables and majolica-style floor tiles

La Dolce Vita

New Hyatt restaurant Osteria Sierra brings an authentic taste of Northern Italy to Tahoe


Originally a spot serving wine and simple food, over time the Italian osteria has evolved into a not-too-fancy eatery focused on pasta, fish and grilled meats prepared with local ingredients. Derived from the word “oste,” which means innkeeper or host, these approachable restaurants also typically offer friendly service and a varied selection of vino Italiano.

So it is with the new Osteria Sierra, which opened this spring in the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa & Casino in Incline Village, replacing the long-running Sierra Cafe in the property’s main tower.

The colorful salsa di fagioli cannellini is artfully composed of white bean puree, garden vegetables, cured olive crumble and sunchoke chips

“We wanted to create an elevated Italian concept with authentic and fresh food,” says executive chef Alan Kubler, who has overseen the property’s culinary operations for the past two decades. “Lake Tahoe has a lot of similarities to Northern Italy, including geographic characteristics and similarities regarding weather conditions and seasons. The experience is inspired by Lake Cuomo and the style of food we want to serve.”

Kubler knows whereof he speaks—he was born, raised and trained in Austria, which shares its stunning, peak-studded southwestern border with Northern Italy.

The first order of business was to update the old cafe’s cabin-y decor to a more sophisticated modern alpine ambiance that would match the menu yet still feel right in the Sierra. Walls, which include some ceramic tile, are now a chic and soothing sage hue; the same shades carry over to the leather- and fabric-covered booths, with camel-colored leather-backed chairs added to the mix. Grey-veined white marble-topped tables work with the majolica-style floor tiles, whose intricate designs and colors that originated in Renaissance Italy are often used in restaurants. Outside, a wood deck illuminated by tiki torches offers seating with mountain and forest (and pool) views, increasing capacity to 88 diners in the warmer months.

Start the evening by ordering an aperitivo, perhaps an Aperol spritz or campari-based Negroni, a traditional Italian way to begin a meal (“apero” means “open” in Latin).

Pasta is made fresh daily on a state-of-the-art Arcobaleno machine

“As we want to remain authentic,” says Kubler, “our beverage list focuses in aperitivos—spritz, vermouths, amaros—some classic cocktails, wines and digestives such as Amaretto, Frangelico, limoncello and some distillates such as grappa.”

Baskets of focaccia and ciabatta baked with flours sourced from Italy are made in-house and arrive with a bottle of Roccuzzo Goccia No. 2 cold extracted extra virgin olive oil.

“We put this olive oil, manufactured by the importer’s family, on the table every night—the Italian connection is important,” says Osteria Sierra chef de cuisine Shay Prince, who has Italian roots of his own in the region; his father’s side of the family immigrated to the Sierra foothills during the Gold Rush era, establishing a hotel and general store in Angels Camp. “We wanted to bring in real Italian food and authentic D.O.P. products from Italy,” he adds.

D.O.P. stands for Denominazione di Origine Protetta (Protected Designation of Origin), a designation assigned by the European Union to indicate a product that owes its characteristics to its place of origin and its production within that geographical area—in the case of this olive oil, Monti Iblei Gulfi in eastern Sicily.

Prince, who previously oversaw the kitchen at Dondero’s Italian restaurant at the Grand Hyatt Resort & Spa in Kauai, collaborated with Kubler in designing Osteria Sierra’s seasonal menu. Many ingredients are sourced via Tahoe Food Hub, which works with diversified family farms, ranches and specialty food producers within 150 miles of North Lake Tahoe.

Though the term osteria may imply simplicity, dishes here are artfully—and sometimes playfully—presented, starting with the antipasti: The smoked veal loin and tuna caper sauce arrives beneath an applewood smoke-filled glass bell, lifted with a flourish. Fresh and seasonal produce takes a front-row seat in several of the starters—for example, the white bean puree topped with garden vegetables, cured olive crumble and sunchoke chips.

Tagliata di manzo is a grilled prime striploin with summer squash caponata, arugula, saffron parsnip puree, gorgonzola arancini, olive tapenade butter and red wine demi-glace

The bread salad with watermelon is a refreshing combo of melon, cucumber, feta, micro arugula and shallot giardiniera, virgin olive oil, watermelon vinaigrette and grilled ciabatta, “celebrating the colors and the pride of the Italian flag with red, white and green,” says Prince, adding that 95 percent of the melon is used. The color coordination continues with burrata e pomodori—fresh burrata, pistachio pesto, fig vincotto (a syrup of sorts), heirloom tomatoes, burrata espuma (foam), virgin olive oil and toasted pistachio.

Pasta is made in-house daily on a brand-new state-of-the-art Arcobaleno machine, with dough mixed from Italian flour and shaped from casarecce (short, twisted tubes) to creste de gallo (a curved, tubular shape with ruffled edges that resemble a rooster’s crest). The casarecce alla peperonata features stewed local peppers and Parmigiano Reggiano, while the classic cacio e pepe tosses creste de gallo with a creamy sauce that comes together with smoked black pepper, guanciale, English peas, black garlic and Pecorino Romano. The linguine all’aragosta, an artistic arrangement of cold-water lobster tail and twist of noodles on a velvety saffron sauce, is topped with a squid ink “coral”—a lacy black tuile made from water, flour and oil. Rigatoni is tossed with a lamb Bolognese, Pecorino Romano and mint gremolata crumbs and comes with a dainty eat-with-your-fingers grilled lamb chop.

Another primi dish worth noting is the mushroom risotto stirred with 18-month-aged carnaroli rice, stracciatella cheese, roasted forest mushrooms, caramelized leeks, sweet pepper drops, mushroom giardiniera and truffle essence. “The aged risotto absorbs more broth and uses less butter,” says Prince.

Osteria Sierra’s updated version of saltimbocca di pollo is prepared with Fulton Valley Farms chicken breast, asparagus, Prosciutto di Parma, sage gremolata, white polenta and cured egg yolk

Entrees, or secondi, are equally impressive. On the lighter side, a poached barramundi is presented with fennel steak and broth, baby vegetables, tomato chutney, anchovy “pearls,” cured lemon and grilled ciabatta. The classic saltimbocca here is made with Fulton Valley Farms chicken breast, asparagus, Prosciutto di Parma, sage gremolata, white polenta and cured egg yolk. A grilled prime striploin is served with summer squash caponata, arugula, saffron parsnip puree, olive tapenade butter, red wine demi-glace and gorgonzola arancini. Non-meat eaters will appreciate the eggplant with tomato sauce, smoked buffalo mozzarella and capellini.

Wines by the glass and bottle are concentrated on Italy’s northern and central regions, from the Veneto to Tuscany, with a celebratory Brunelli Brunello di Montalcino and a total non-Italian splashout Opus One Overture tossed in for good measure for those who really want to toast la dolce vita.

On the matter of dolce, if you’ve saved room for something sweet, a trio of classic finishes await: white chocolate panna cotta with strawberry compote, Kahlua-soaked tiramisu and affogato–espresso-doused vanilla ice cream with dark chocolate and raspberry gel.

Buon appetito!

Osteria Sierra’s Northern Italian menu is served Tuesday through Saturday from 5–9 p.m.; reservations recommended.
111 Country Club Dr., Incline Village, NV, (775) 886-6675,

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