First Look: +39
What struck me most about my inaugural visit to downtown’s +39, which opened last spring, was how airy, bright, and surprisingly elegant the ambiance felt. Many of today’s trendiest restaurants—especially those in Western Gateway’s “21st-Century Restaurant Row”—have a similar spaciousness, though sometimes marked by that sparse urban-industrial feel that’s energetic yet commonplace.
What, about +39 felt so different? Certainly, the unclothed tables and metal chairs stuck to trendy slate-and-black colors. Yet the room’s molded columns and wood-trimmed walls—painted wedding-cake white—mixed a certain Edwardian grandeur into the postmodern edginess. The unmistakably modern chandelier—a massive white sphere of tangled aluminum wire dotted with fairy lights—commands the room.
Adding a certain Euro-allure was Alessandro Andreoni, the stylish Italian-born co-owner who circulated the room and graciously indulged our attempts at speaking Italian. Andreoni opened the original +39 in Ames in 2013.
The menu encompasses back-to-basics Italian dishes—pizza, pasta, grilled and roasted entrees—plus a few American standbys (burgers, Caesar salad). On a lunch visit, thinking I would dine light, I ordered the Chickpea Salad, with grilled shrimp, arugula, artichokes and feta. The salad proved fresh and bright, but the portion was surprisingly massive in that generous Italian-grandmother way.
My dining companion ordered a plate of assorted cheeses, cured meats and olives. The stars of that platter included a sweet and mild Gorgonzola cheese and the Mortadella—Italy’s luscious, fat-studded cured meat. Frankly, however, it was another exercise in heft over finesse. Which is to say that if you prefer Bravo Cuccina over Lucca, this may be your spot.
I'm hoping to return to try pastas and pizzas, as that may be where the kitchen's strengths lie.
+39 is at 1430 Locust Street; 421- 4500.