Right smack in the middle of the United States is an amazing Chef, Nick Strawhecker. In 2009, Chef opened Dante in West Omaha which featured a delicious Italian hyper-seasonal and farm-to-table dining experience. In 2017, Chef saw a need for fast-fine dining in Omaha and opened his second restaurant, Dante Pizzeria Napoletana.
Chef’s new restaurant holds to the same standards as his original Dante, but brings it in a way that is fast while maintaining the fineness, thus fast-fine. Why fast-fine? Well, let’s start with the location and need of the community.
Located in the Blackstone District, just a few blocks from downtown Omaha, the area has many restaurants, shops, and services that are frequented by everyone. So, residents of the area, those who frequent the area, and visitors needed a place they can get great food without having a full service sit down, white table cloth experience. But and it’s a major point, the food had to taste like it. Step in, order, sit down, and your meal is served.
I had the honor of sitting down and dining with Chef in his new restaurant Dante Pizzeria Napoletana. After our conversation, I’m happy to share the five reasons Dante Pizzeria Napoletana Omaha is different from the rest.
Dante Pizzeria Napoletana is a unique space. You feel as though you are in a bustling cafe in Italy with the smells, sounds, and pizzas prepared fresh and stacked, waiting their turn in the oven. The space is relaxed and a wonderful mix of the spaces original finishes and great new Dante additions.
It has a rustic modern feel, full of light with windows all around the corner space. Everything was thought out in the space, including the mirror in the restroom perfect for touching up or putting on make up. No detail has been overlooked.
Chef Straehecker personally picked the pieces he wanted for the space and most are by local artists or designed especially for the restaurant. One of the standout pieces is by Watie White. It’s a painting which he found, fell in love with, and was given to him as a gift from his brother. He found it at a local art auction to raise money for the Bemis Art Center.
The painting, After the Fritz Buhlers – Birth of Venus, is whimsical and depicts what is old and new. It feels as though it is the sister to Dante Pizzeria Napoletana. The painting is rich in history, yet has today’s feel while provoking all who stop to enjoy it.
The other standout piece is the logo of the restaurant itself – the creative and playful Devil’s Head, inspired from Dante’s Divine Comedy. The Italian background of Chef/Owner Strawhecker plays an important role in all he does. The “Dante Devil” came to life over time and creates a visual interpretation of the poem which directly relates to the foundation of the restaurant.
The Seafood program may be what excites us the most. You may say, seafood at a Pizzeria and smack in the middle of the country? Yes! Omaha has fresh seafood and not frozen or the same old same old. We have fresh, off the boat to the kitchen, seafood. Chef orders the fish from what is coming off the boat from Sea to Table of Brooklyn. He counts on what he needs to have on hand, but the menu is always changing based on what is fresh from the sea to be delivered to Dante.
Chef Straehecker also has now taken his seafood to the next level. He is the first restaurant in Omaha to be Smart Catch Certified by the James Beard Foundation. Knowing that the majority of the fisheries around the world are over fished, the JBF has taken the supply chain for restaurants very seriously to help sustain the fisheries for the future.
This is not a pay-to-play program or just another certificate to throw on the wall. This is a model to educate and provide resources for Chefs to make better decisions when serving seafood. This will provide an environmentally-friendly and sustainable way for Chefs to serve delicious seafood in a way to make sure we have seafood in the future.
We’re not talking just any oven, but the only Ferrari Testarossa red Mugnaini wood oven in Omaha. Chef owns three of the ovens. One is in each of his restaurants and the third is ready to roll for off-site events. The color is one of a kind only found in the Dante collection.
These beautiful ovens are the highlight of the kitchens, not just because of their beauty, but also because they produce amazing food! Made in California of all Italian parts, these ovens cook up some of the best pizzas around.
Then there is the food! And oh, the food is so good. Sourced as locally as possible and with care, each dish is designed just for the guests at Dante Pizzeria. Yet the classic dishes you love from Dante are there, too. From shared bites to bowls to pizzas, the flavors of the fresh ingredients shine through. I highly suggest going with friends and eating family style. This is truly fast-fine dining.
Always on the menu and always a favorite are the Farm Greens with lemon and thyme, grana padano, and pistachio. If you’re looking for a nice pizza to go along with it order my favorite, the Funghi Rosso. It has wood-roasted mushrooms, garlic, calabrian chili, rosemary, and mozzarella.
As for a great pasta dish, you cannot go wrong and based on what is available the fresh the menu will change. You can always count on the pasta being made in-house and fresh. If I had to pick my favorite dish on my last visit, I would have to say it was the Gnocchi. Just please, whatever you do, save room for the Butterscotch Budino dessert. It’s simply made with caramel, cream and sea-salt and is to die for!
Dante is an authentic farm-to-table, ingredient-driven restaurant where the ingredients’ true flavors shine. While the menu is always changing, I guarantee that the menu items will be just as delicious when you visit.
Omaha is a destination, but Dante Pizzeria Napoletana is a must for all!
What are your favorite restaurants in Omaha?
I am a home cook that does things my way. In my kitchen, I make breakfast, pack lunches, prepare snacks, and cook dinner. During the week, we eat real food that is homemade, organic, and local. On the weekends we do explore more of our local restaurants. I bake my own bread, juice fresh oranges every other day, and make my own kombucha and other weekly favorites.