Restaurant Reviews

When the sandwiches go away, pasta comes out to play: Boise deli launches il Sugo

The bolognese at il Sugo can be paired with any pasta and has a very good, authentic taste.
The bolognese at il Sugo can be paired with any pasta and has a very good, authentic taste. For the Statesman

Here’s a thought: Maybe the secret to happiness is making fewer tough decisions and eating more pasta.

If that’s the case, one meal at il Sugo might do you more good than a few years of meditation.

Il Sugo – Main Street Deli’s classy alter ego – promises affordable, satisfying, and customizable Italian dinners for hungry downtowners.

The guerrilla Italian restaurant was born when Main Street Deli remodeled to incorporate the vacant space next door. Owner Grant Rosendahl added dinner service to capitalize on the expanded dining room.

From 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, the bustling deli serves soup, big salads and a newly expanded lineup of sandwiches to its loyal fans. Then il Sugo takes over, eschewing paper napkins and fountain drinks for carefully folded linens and bottles of wine.

The breakfast and lunch menu gives way to straightforward Italian offerings. There are three starters: Bruschetta ($8), Prosciutto & Mozzarella ($8), and mighty Italian Meatballs ($8). There are three big salads: the Caprese ($7), Caesar ($6) and House Mixed Green ($6). And then there’s pasta, lots of pasta, made locally by Ferranti Fresh Pasta (you might remember them from the Boise Farmers Market).

Wine is available by the glass ($7-8) and bottle ($23-30). There are also a couple of beer choices ($3-$4) and a variety of White Claw beverages ($4).

Ordering pasta isn’t complicated. Choose a type (from long and flat pappardelle to tubular penne) and pair it with one of il Sugo’s six sauces. Every permutation costs $12. No tough decisions necessary.

What’s going on in the sauce department? Choose between classics such as the Hearty Bolognese – a traditional, meaty red sauce – or the Puttanesca, which is tomatoes plus olives, capers and Italian parsley. The Italian Sausage incorporates mushrooms and spices into a rich cream fondue, and the luxurious Tartufo folds chicken, truffle relish and mushrooms into the same creamy fondue base.

The il Sugo, perhaps the restaurant’s signature sauce, douses slow-roasted pork in herb butter, cream and sage. It’s so substantial that it could probably double as the filling in a pulled pork sandwich.

Looking for something lighter? The Northender Veggie promises a medley of cherry tomatoes, artichokes, spinach, red peppers and pesto.

Considering the minimalism of the menu, I sort of wish they offered a dead-simple spaghetti sauce that I could cover in a dusting of parmesan. But perhaps I’m just being nostalgic.

The sauces live up to their billing as “delicious family recipes,” but the integration of sauce and pasta has been a little inconsistent in the early going. At times the pasta has been overcooked or the sauce too abundant.

Most of this is owed to the bare-bones nature of the il Sugo operation, where Rosendahl occasionally plays both server and chef. If the experiment gathers momentum, Rosendahl will have the bandwidth to fine-tune his offerings. The success of Main Street Deli indicates that he is capable of turning this resourceful concept into a thriving destination in short order.

And as long as I get to smear tasty house-made herb butter into hunks of complimentary Gaston’s Bakery bread, I’ll be happy to hang around to see what they come up with.

Il Sugo

Address: 904 W Main St, Boise, Idaho 83702

Phone: (208) 386-3354


Hours: Monday-Friday, 4-9 p.m.

Menu price range: Appetizers $8; Salads $6-7; Entrees $12

Opened: May 2019