On the second floor of a creek-front building in Ashland’s Downtown Plaza lies Osteria La Briccola, a warm and welcoming authentic Italian restaurant that opened in early June 2021. The moment I walked into the modest but intimate space, I was greeted by the smells of fresh focaccia bread baking in the kitchen below, an aroma I had yet to have been greeted with in Ashland before. As wait staff arranged dishware and prepared for the restaurant to open, I sat down with Maddalena Ayala-Deorsola, General Manager of Osteria La Briccola, to learn about the menu, culture, and essence of the restaurant.
When browsing their menu, one can find a diverse, mouth-watering array of antipasti (appetizers), pasta fresca (fresh pasta) with customizable noodles and sauce options, primi della casa (first courses), and secondi piatti (main courses). Customers can choose to indulge in multiple courses for a finer dining experience or keep things modest with a plate of simple yet luscious pasta. Homemade desserts like panna cotta and tiramisù close the meal, and for those 21 years or older, a glass of fine Italian wine can be added to bring a true appreciation to the cuisine.
I was lucky enough to have dined at Osteria La Briccola after my interview with Ayala-Deorsola, and found every description of the food to be true. I was greeted with fresh focaccia bread and olive oil, and took my time to salivate over every item on the menu before deciding on Gnocchi Di Patate with Pesto Alla Genovese (gnocchi with pesto sauce). The pairing of melt-in-your-mouth gnocchi and smooth, creamy pesto nearly had me licking my plate clean, and my sweet-tooth was later satisfied with Tortino Di Cioccolato Caldo (warm flourless chocolate cake) coupled with a vanilla cream sauce and toasted almonds.
One key to the success that brings in crowds of hungry customers is the fact that everything is made in house. “We bake all the focaccia bread every morning,” said Ayala-Deorsola, “as well as every dessert and all the pasta.” The chef of Osteria La Briccola focuses his dishes on the authentic tastes of Italy, from the tomato sauce to the parmesan cheese, which they know tastes best when it’s made from Italian milk. Chef takes that authenticity and makes sure to focus it on all regions of Italy, not just Bologna, where he was born. Even Ayala-Deorsola can taste the authenticity: “I grew up in an Italian family. My parents are from Turin, Italy, and this food tastes like home… it tastes like [what] my grandma used to make. And everyone comes here and that’s what they feel.”
Customers who visit Osteria La Briccola year-round will be able to taste summer specials that cater more towards Southern Italy, and “darker meats and soups that cater more to the North” at other times of the year. Specials also change every few days, meaning that every meal at the restaurant can bring a new adventure, and a new love for Italian cuisine in Ashland.
But it wasn’t by chance that Osteria La Briccola moved to Ashland. Chef and his ex-wife/business partner moved here to spend more time with their son, who lives in the area. As for Ayala-Deorsola, “it was just a happy accident that [she] stumbled upon this town.” After living here for six years and managing the bar of another restaurant prior to this one, she is still learning new things but feels that growing with this new business has been beneficial for both parties: “There’s this transition that we’re all going through of what it is like to run a restaurant in Ashland… but this, for me, [is] a step in the right direction.”
Ayala-Deorsola’s position as General Manager requires an abundance of skills that the average person would have difficulty organizing. From product ordering to payroll to booking private events and customizing their individual menus, she oversees nearly every logistical aspect of the restaurant. But the potential stressors of her job seem to be outweighed by the almost familial relationship she has with her coworkers. “It’s a really incredible team of people, and a really hard working team of people,” she says, “Everyone has an opinion and everyone is allowed to come and share it with me. I really love that there are things that I don’t see from a business point of view that my servers, and my runners, and my dishwashers see and [they can approach me]… It’s important to have that communication between staff and management.” And even on those hard days, Ayala-Deorsola can count on the fact that when she walks through the restaurant doors at 11am, she will be greeted with smiling faces and the heavenly aroma of fresh tiramisù or tomato sauce.
As I concluded my conversation with Ayala-Deorsola, I found a word that perfectly captured the mission and feel of Osteria La Briccola: home. Whether it’s the comfortable environment they’ve carefully arranged, which is currently adorned with holiday decorations, or the food made fresh each morning, this restaurant has the magical ability to turn an evening in Ashland into a holiday in Italy. So, the next time you’re looking for authentic Italian food, a charming venue, and a staff that really cares, visit Osteria La Briccola. One taste, and you’re home.
18 Calle Guanajuato Way,
Ashland, Oregon 97520
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday & Sunday
Dinner: 5pm – 9pm
Friday & Saturday
Dinner: 5pm – 10pm
Closed on Tuesdays