We've been a fan of Katie Lee's cuisine ever since we stumbled upon her original restaurant in Clayton a few years back. And we were thrilled when we heard about her latest venture, Katie’s Pizza & Pasta Osteria in Rock Hill, featuring a bigger space and better parking.
Though the restaurant is located in a shopping center, the space is anything but prepackaged and sterile. Lee and her fiance/business partner Ted Collier gave as much thought to the interior of the restaurant as to the menu. Accoutrements include live ‘green walls’ (modular boxes of leafy green plants hanging on the walls), funky light fixtures, quaintly mismatched seats and a glorious open kitchen. There's also a spacious outdoor seating area for when the weather finally begins cooperating.
Katie's place is more than just a pretty face, though. The menu features an abundance of handmade, quality fare.
We started out with the House Made Artichoke Toasted Ravioli ($9) and an order of the Fig Mostarda & Prosciutto ($9) from the assorted burrata combinations available. Now, we've never really understood this town's fascination with t-ravs, which we find to be usually bland and unremarkable. Katie's version, though, is a revelation, featuring crispy pasta bites filled with earthy artichoke and topped with shaved Parmesan. Instead of flat marinara sauce, these came with a flavorful pine-nut pesto. For those who haven't been initiated into the delight that is burrata, it's basically a mixture of cheese and cream enclosed in a shell of mozzarella. Our plate had a perfect white globe of mild burrata as its centerpiece, and the creamy cheese was perfectly balanced by the slightly sweet fig jam and salty cured meat situated alongside it.
Since the name of the place includes pizza and pasta, we felt obliged to try both of these specialties. The Cured Meats ($16) pizza has the thin, flaky crust with the nice charred edges typical of expertly wood-fired pies. The dough is handmade in-house, and it shows: The flavor and consistency were spot-on. (A gluten-free crust option also is available for an additional $5.) This pie came topped with a variety of cured meats from local salumeria superstars Salume Beddu that included speck, coppa and sopressata. Try this meat lover's delight, and half-frozen discs of pepperoni and overcooked bacon bits will never be good enough again.
Like the pizza dough, Katie's pastas are made on-site. The Pappardelle ($16) we had is a perfect showcase for the kitchen's pasta prowess. It features a bounty of these wide, tender noodles topped with a thick, rich and savory wild boar ragu.
We almost stopped there, but then the Ricotta Donuts caught our eye and we decided to wrap things up with an order of these crispy bites.
Katie's recently started Saturday and Sunday brunch service, and lunch service and happy hour specials also are available. For truly hand-crafted Italian food—and plenty of culinary creativity to boot—Katie’s is the place to go.
-- 9568 Manchester Road, 942-6555, katiespizzaandpasta.com.
Fried Artichoke Salad from Katie’s Pizza & Pasta
• 4 whole artichoke hearts
• 4 asparagus spears
• Field greens
• Goat cheese
• 1/4 C shelled pistachios
• Balsamic vinaigrette
• Pan fry the whole artichoke hearts and set aside.
• Roast the asparagus spears and set aside.
• In a bowl, assemble a bed of field greens. Top with crumbled goat cheese, shelled pistachios, asparagus spears, fried artichokes and balsamic vinaigrette.