La Spina - True Chowhound Hidden Gem in Davis SQ, Somerville
Forgive me as I gush about my new favorite neighborhood restaurant. La Spina, translation "The Thorn" is located behind Rosebud Diner (rosebud, the thorn, get it?!) in Davis SQ. I wandered in there one night for drinks after finding "no room at the inn" at every other Davis bar and was pleasantly surprised by the high quality drink menu and the friendliness of the waitstaff / bartender (great martini-cocktails, quality wine list). I was also disappointed that I had already eaten, because everything coming out of the kitchen smelled wonderful! I've made several trips back for drinks, and dessert (which were wonderful!), but finally vowed to go this weekend for dinner....boy am I glad I did!
Warm lighting, big old-school dark wooden bar, red plush seating, and cocktail themed artwork make it a wonderfully comfortable place to drink and relax (just enough class to make it feel like you are out to dinner, but not enough to make you feel bad for being in jeans)....probably a bit too much with the "rose" theme, but I'll forgive them ;). My 2 friends and I started with the bruscetta (sp?) with fresh mozzarella, which was some of the best I've had! Delicious warm grilled bread (may be their own freshly baked, it was that good), high quality tomatoes, suprisingly good olive oil, chiffonad basil, and small mozzarella chunks all beautifully balanced. It was more than big enough for the 3 of us to share (a round cut into 6 wedges). I ordered the lobster ravioli special with shrimp, which skimped on neither seafood and was covered in a decadently rich tomato & cream sauce (really nicely flavored sauce, wine & sage were some of the many subtle flavors I could identify). One friend had the grilled lamb chop special, which was perfectly seasoned with rosemary (and I forget what else) and some to die for garlic mash potatoes. The last friend has the Chicken Saltimbocca, which was a true stand out. Perfectly light sauce, really, really high quality prosciutto, wonderfully juice chicken, and nicely al dente pasta. What stood out about all of the food was that the kitchen really believed in high quality ingredients and not cutting corners. Classic Italian often gets a bad rep for being low quality, high quantity, and bland flavors, but this places shattered all 3.
The last big stand out I have to mention was the quality of the staff. Someone trained this crew well! Professional, courteous, helpful, and knew just when to disappear to let you enjoy your company, but would reappear instantly when your water was running low, your finished you plate and needed it cleared, or had a question. They never made you feel rushed and respected any question you had on the menu (they know their stuff too!). Entrees ran around the $14-$21 mark and dessert and apps around the $5-$8. Portions were satisfying without tripping into the Vinny Testa platter the size of your head problem.
I know this is going to sound like pimping, but GO, and go often! With friends! I love all the yuppie places taking over Somerville, but we need more high quality, mid price range restaurants like this to thrive in town and they won't unless we support them!
381 Summer Street
Somerville, MA 02143
I tried La Spina last week and also enjoyed it. It was, I think, a step above a typical red sauce restaurant. I had some issues with my panzanella because it was pretty much just chopped up bruschetta, but hey, it tasted good. The eggplant involtini is very tasty, and better than the same dish at Sagra.
Overall, though, I think I like Sagra better. One of my friends does not agree with me, so we're more likely to hit up La Spina again instead.
And yes, the staff at La Spina was great. Our waiter was very funny, joking with us, and very attentive. As we were leaving, the bartender and another waiter wished us a good night; you don't usually get comments from people who didn't serve you, so this was nice to see.
Some (really crappy) photos here:
Maybe I ordered the wrong dishes at Sagra, but I wasn't that impressed :(
Their "Grand Melody" appetizer of fried stuff (olives, rice balls, calamari) was good, but the flavors weren't that distinct (everything tasted like the same breaded coating), especially at $16 for a plate of fried fritters. The "Gnocchi al sugo d'anatra", gnocchi with duck, was a horrible waste of perfectly good duck meat. It basically ended up being gnocchi in a very strong (though nice) red sauce that completely overpowered any duck flavor (it could have been shredded beef for all I could tell).
What should I try there if I give them a second chance?