For at least the past few years, it seems like every type of food or drink I could possibly want has been available in Over-the-Rhine. It’s a cornucopia of gustatory delights for all tastes, right? But a new place has come along to remind me that, in fact, something important has been missing.
Billing itself as a “boutique steakhouse,” Losanti has revamped the space near Washington Park that used to be The Anchor-OTR and given the area a meat-centric menu unlike anything in Cincinnati’s hottest neighborhood.
When I compared its menu to other restaurants nearby, I was surprised by how hard it can be to find a steak on or near Vine Street. On fall menus, I found a porterhouse steak for two at the Mercer, a sirloin at Salazar and more casual steak and fries at some of the restaurants near Findlay Market. But this new venture by chef/owner Anthony Sitek — who also owns Crown Republic Gastropub downtown — fills a niche. The neighborhood seems to be responding with open arms during Losanti’s first couple of months.
The space itself certainly is inviting. I don’t remember Anchor’s interior very well, but the transformation has resulted in a couple of beautiful rooms. The front of the house includes a bar with both seating and some standing room — great if you’re meeting people and want to wait, with or without a drink, and not have to crowd around diners. The bar itself is spacious enough to eat there.
To the right of the bar room is a dining/sitting area the staff refers to as “the library.” Its colorful back wall features a mural by regional artist Atalie Gagnet, whose terrific outdoor works are some of the most striking in mural-rich Cincinnati. The library has a few dining tables and also lounge seating with velvet couches and low, marble tables. Front-of-house manager Alex Stevens said people tend to sit there longer than anywhere else because the seats are so comfy.
Otherwise, you can eat in a back room that used to be the main seating area at Anchor, and there’s a charming space with a single, six-seat chef’s table that would be delightful to reserve for a special outing with family or friends.
Stevens said the interior renovations were extensive, with the new owners keeping only the bar itself and rethinking most everything else. They removed the large booths in the middle of the dining room, put in tables and reorganized the space to make it both more efficient and more intimate, according to Stevens. Décor items include family heirlooms such as the chef’s grandmother’s chandelier, which now hangs over the chef’s table.
Chef Sitek cooked at restaurants in Miami, Chicago and New York before he moved to town two years ago with his wife, Haley, who is a Cincinnati native. They opened Crown Republic soon thereafter and then decided to jump into the OTR market right around the time that Anchor closed shop. Haley and her parents took the lead in the renovations and décor for Losanti, Stevens said.
“There’s so much life here,” Sitek said about the neighborhood, “and so many things to drive people to our restaurant.” He noted Losanti’s proximity to Washington Park, Music Hall, the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company and other performance venues, along with the fact that the Washington Park garage is only a block away. And for the convenience of patrons, unlike many OTR eateries, this one takes reservations. That’s a huge plus for the pre-theater crowd and will be another draw.
As you would expect, the menu is heavy on meat choices, from steaks to chops, a burger and a chicken entrée. The three types of steak — filet, New York strip and ribeye — are priced by the ounce, from $3-$3.75 (available sizes actually don’t vary much and usually are at least nine ounces). We tried two cuts of steak — the smallest filet they had that night and a strip — each served with a head of roasted garlic and half a lemon. I’m not a steakhouse regular and thought it odd to squeeze lemon on beef, but I guess that’s a thing. The roasted garlic was tasty although it was rather messy to pop out the cloves with your fingers. As is often the case with these cuts of meat, the filet was almost fork-tender, but the strip packed more flavor thanks to its higher fat content.
The 12-ounce frenched pork chop ($26.95) tasted great, too, and I liked the fact that it came with braised kale, carrots and a few tablespoons of mostarda — a fruit compote in a mustard-flavored syrup. We also ordered one of the four pastas, rigatoni in a rich bolognese sauce ($17), that I thought rather lackluster in flavor, but that might be by comparison to the meat dishes.
Among appetizers and sides, we enjoyed the little gem salad ($12) with avocado, candied walnuts, grapefruit, fennel and champagne vinaigrette. The creamed kale ($8.95) stood out as an improvement on most steakhouse creamed spinach sides; the sauce was creamy without being heavy and the baby kale was tender and flavorful. We weren’t nuts about the focaccia ($5.95) with roasted tomato, parmesan and basil.
The cocktail menu has a little section of variations on an Old Fashioned made with mezcal or spiced rum. I actually tried both of those and can now fully understand why most bars stick with a base of bourbon or rye in this drink.
Sitek said that their most popular offerings thus far have been the filet mignon, which he said sold out some nights, the pork chop and the butter cake dessert ($12). Four of us split the cake, which arrives warm in a skillet topped with salted caramel ice cream. It was delicious, but we couldn’t finish it. One steakhouse tradition Losanti seems to replicate is over-the-top desserts. And the goal of making sure that nobody walks out without a completely full stomach.
Losanti, 1401 Race St., Over-the-Rhine, losantiotr.com