The idea to open a gelateria in Park City began to form, as many good ideas do, over a glass of wine. David and Jo Stamegna were enjoying an afternoon dining in the piazza of a hilly Tuscan town when “we got hooked,” Jo says. “We loved the gelato in Cortona. When you’re there, you eat it every day.” The couple agreed that they should bring the flavors of the storied Italian village back to Park City, and they opened Cortona in July 2012.
Tucked away in Kimball Junction, the restaurant is worth finding for a quick, rich Lavazza coffee, hot panini made with fresh ciabatta, soups like pasta e fagioli, or a sweet gelato treat, all made from scratch by Jo. The signature panini selection is the Cortona, with real Parma prosciutto, sun-dried tomatoes, mozzarella, goat cheese, basil, and a balsamic drizzle—a classic Tuscan combination in which all the flavors express themselves vividly. But the one that most often sells out is the Roma, stuffed with homemade meatballs made from Jo’s grandmother’s recipe. Cortona’s gelatos, meanwhile, tempt with creamy textures and offbeat flavors; adventurers are rewarded and amazed by the delectable honey goat cheese or basil olive oil varieties.
The real buzz about Cortona, however, hovers around getting a seat at one of Jo’s intimate Saturday-night dinners. By reservation only, Jo invites guests to dine as though they were in the Stamegna home, with set menus that feature variations on Italian classics like salmon with cavatelli pasta or lamb stew with eggplant parmesan. The two seatings of 27 fill up fast and are a bargain for around $25 a person. But the real magic of Cortona is how it transports guests from a Utah strip mall to a medieval piazza kissed by the golden sunlight of an Italian afternoon.