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Is erbaluce too fancy?

I'm bringing my in-laws out to eat after we go to a BC football game. Last year, we went to Via Matta and loved it. We were wearing jeans and nice shirts, and we felt pretty comfortable at Via. Would we feel underdressed with the same attire at erbaluce? I've never been, so I'm curious.

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  1. no, very relaxed

    but make sure everyone like citrus zest.

    1. You will be completely fine in that attire. Enjoy Erbaluce. I went there for the first time a few weeks ago and absolutely loved it!

      69 Church Street, Boston, MA 02116

      1. I've seen plenty of casually-dressed diners in there. If you felt self-conscious about it, you could always get a table in the bar area: same menu is available.

        Also, I don't share Jolyon's apparent experience of tasting citrus zest in everything. The chef is unusual in that he uses vegetable and fruit essences in places where most chefs would use butter, cream, or other animal fats. The result is a uniquely light take on Italian food, original and occasionally astonishing. I really like his food.


        3 Replies
        1. re: MC Slim JB

          Draghi's one of the few originals in town, and it's unfair for me to dismiss him so casually.

          I feel like there's this constant barrage of floral middle notes that most chefs would use to add complexity, but instead it's the main event in dish after dish. Sunflower, citrus-peel oils, floral herbs, etc.

          Love the concept, love the sourcing, love the price point, love the wine selections, love the non-focus-grouped feel of the menu, love the personal-touch service, love that way of eating. But for the life of me, I can't get beyond an academic appreciation of much of the food. With some definite exceptions.

          I think he's got mad chops in the kitchen. I just don't think his palate and my palate are calibrated at all. Which isn't a tragedy.

          1. re: Jolyon Helterman

            I share your sentiments on the palate calibration - but it's about Tony Maws at Craigie - not citrus-focused, but I just don't get or appreciate the specialness now or when it was the Bistrot - and the price point is much, much too high IMHO - I do love what Tom does in the bar every time, however.

            1. re: rlh

              In my limited experience with his food, Tony Maws' palate is skewed heavily towards fatty and salty and generally rich taste/feel. I found his dishes to be really unbalanced flavor-wise, but I haven't really given him a fair shake. And now we might be forging another thread altogether.

        2. Had my first dinner there last week and loved it. All comments are right on; casual (we sat at the bar, which is great....bar area tables seem more casual as well). Friendly service, fantastic and fascinating wine selection, original take on cooking that really shines. We ate pretty much all seafood, the octopus special was probably the best preparation of that creature I've ever had the pleasure of eating, the scungilli and razor clams were way up there as well.

          Jolyon's point is taken, though not every dish had those features, several did seem to. But the tradeoff, where animal fats would have dominated all the dishes in another restaurant, was well worth it for me. I didn't feel the dishes were repetitive at all, just had some common highlights. And I have not had a chance to work my way through the entire menu though I'd love to!

          It was one of the better and more memorable meals I've had in a long time.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Zatan

            a little gem in the middle of over-priced mob-scenes. I prefer sitting at the bar or in the lounge. try the wild boar with starfruit mostarda if still on menu

            1. re: TopCat

              I asked the chef about this once: wild boar is a signature dish, always on the menu. The sauce varies with the seasonal availabilty of produce: a couple of months ago, it was a mosto based on fresh black grapes.


              1. re: MC Slim JB

                Even back in the days of Marcuccio's -- a restaurant I still remember with great fondness -- Draghi was all about the wild boar.

                1. re: MC Slim JB

                  I didn't get to it, but the boar was being served with that mosto, local concord grapes, lightly fermented for a few days.....sounded great.

                  They also had wild boar meatballs, and I think a ragu for one of the pasta dishes....

            2. The dining area resembles a finished basement, so the atmosphere is not fancy at all. However the food is excellent. You will be just fine in the attire you describe. I actually think the bar has a much nicer atmosphere than the dining room.

              1. How comfortable is this place? The menu sounds great and I'm a Draghi fan but I cannot BEAR to go to another stuffy hoity-toity place with a side of attitude. Actually I don't mind that stuff so much but my friend who I'll be dining with gets totally freaked out by the 'tude and then I have to watch and it's no fun. Thoughts?

                9 Replies
                1. re: yumyum

                  I've never had anything but great service there. Co-owner / host / sommelier Joan is terrific (and very helpful with the rather unusual list she's put together), and her brother Doug is a local treasure of a server. Draghi often comes out of the kitchen to check on your dinner. The room isn't stuffy, either: it's pretty modestly decorated, and the bar is even more casual feeling.


                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                    Agreed. Had very friendly, helpful service with zero attitude. Chef Draghi came out after our meal and spent at least 5 minutes talking to us about our experience. One of the best dining experienced I've had in Boston in the past year, if ever.

                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                      Ditto to your and bella_sarda's posts.

                      I'm super sensitive to snootiness, and Erbaluce is definitely *not* a snooty place. I've been there several times, and loved it every time. I found everyone there, from the owners on down, to be warm, friendly and helpful.

                      yumyum, I think you, and especially your friend, will have a great time.

                      1. re: srgoodman

                        Thanks everyone. Sounds super comfy. This friend has a screw loose and was tense at the Craigie Street bar even though it was mellow and we weren't getting any kind of snootiness or pressure. We were surrounded by cocktail weenies but that is to be expected.

                        1. re: yumyum

                          Cocktail weenies are good people: they just have an odd fetish.


                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                            Some of my best friends are cocktail weenies.

                              1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                I typically put them under a puff pastry duvet or wrap them up in a polenta snuggie, but yeah, you got the general drift.

                                1. re: yumyum

                                  A polenta snuggie! This is too hilarious! Thanks, Barmy and yumyum, for a good laugh.

                  2. Thanks for all the input! I had a fantastic meal there on Halloween, of all nights (I had in-laws in town). Apparently, Halloween is the best night to go out and get a table because it was pretty much dead everywhere. We stopped at Via Matta for a pre-dinner drink (I love the Basil Lime Gimlets) and Michael Schlow has hanging out in the bar. He chatted us up and personally brought us a snack (great guy). The place was empty. I actually felt bad going elsewhere for dinner. Erbaluce certainly removed the guilt quickly. The menu was creative and filled with game meats (which I love). To start we had Sicilian style octopus, wild boar meatballs (2 orders), and snails. For entrees, we had roasted rabbit, fettucine with rabbit ragu, faraona (guinea fowl) and the rack of wild boar. All of them were delicious. I have to say, I prefer the fattier cuts of wild boar to the rack (shoulder, shank, etc..) but it was still delicious. We had a variety of excellent desserts as well. Chef Draghi actually came out at this point and chatted us up, too. He brought us some dessert wines to go with our desserts. Very friendly guy as well. All in all, a fantastic meal.

                    Never felt like such a VIP before. I highly suggest going out to eat on Halloween.

                    Oh yeah, we felt very comfortable wearing jeans.

                    Via Matta
                    79 Park Plaza, Boston, MA 02116

                    69 Church Street, Boston, MA 02116

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: ecwashere7

                      Is it casual enough to go in jeans and a zip up? Thinking about wear to go tonight, want something new and don't feel like going home to change....

                      1. re: Mr Bigglesworth

                        i cast my vote with the majority, above. this is a great restaurant: consistently interesting, comfortable, and thoughtful about both food and service. I've never had a bad meal or a bad vibe here and, if anything, consider it underrated, because it isn't a cookie-cutter version of every other upscale place. The front and the back of the house work seamlessly. Hats off to all.

                    2. Finally got over to try Erbaluce last night. Lordy lord I just loved this place. Definitely in my top 5 meals of the year.

                      Sat at the bar where it was completely comfy and put myself in James the bartender's capable hands with the wine. James could not have been more fun to hang out with -- knowledgeable, funny, gracious, laid back. My Dolcetto d'Alba paired nicely with all the food that was to come. When my freaky friend showed up, he ordered a Piedmontese white that hopefully he will say more about while we contemplated the menu.

                      I'm not familiar with this type of Italian cuisine (mostly Piedmontese) but Draghi's take is characterized by a light hand with butter and cream and a heavy hit of nutmeg, of all things. I didn't get knocked over the head by the citrus thing Jolyon commented on, but perhaps the menu in October was much different than the one last night.

                      We had:
                      Sardines (special): two grilled sardines with an olive tapenade. Just scrumptious. When you see these guys fresh, do not hesitate and order them. My DC happily munched through the heads, which I did not dig, but this was a super dish.

                      Razor clams: this one was citrussy but not too too much. It was the green peppercorns that gave the broth a great spiciness and I could have tipped the bowl up and just guzzled this nectar. Razor clams had been delivered that morning by the Island Creek oyster guys.

                      Octopus: baby octo with a tomato jus. This was an interesting one for me. I never met an octopus I didn't like but this was a little chewy for my taste. Confirmed with James that this was the way chef intended, so who am I to judge, but this was the only dish that didn't have me raving.

                      We were also presented with a little plate of wild boar meatballs and although I had determined to eat only fish that night, these were really meaty good and hit my red sauce spot.

                      I could have gone on and on ... wanted the skate, wanted the whole flounder, wanted to try some pasta (also not on last night's eating program) but instead we enjoyed our complimentary desserts -- some dark chocolate truffle, a sesame crusted goo ball (I'm sure it has another name but desserts don't interest me that much to pay attention) and roasted chestnuts. A nice touch and a great way to end the meal.

                      Draghi came out and talked to us for a while and told us of his remarkable sourcing hassles and hoops -- one seafood purveyor grilled him on how he was going to use the product before he sold it to him -- with good humor and a smile. We also talked about what's coming up on the menu and eel fans should keep an eye out. We talked about eel at Peach Farm and the umami-ness of the creatures -- he was just very pleasant and fun to chat with.

                      Seriously guys, this is one place, like my beloved Estragon, that should be packed to the gills every night of the week. The dining room was full, and kinda bright, not to my taste. But the bar was empty and it shouldn't be. The Bay Village location is a bit tucked away, and parking there can be a real adventure (don't blink or you'll lose your car), but it's just a great GREAT spot and one I hope to return to again and again.

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: yumyum

                        Glad you had a good experience, but bite your tongue at wishing they be packed to the gills. Our second experience there on a recent Saturday night indicated that they might not be able to handle it. It was a 180 degree swing from our first (and stellar) experience, which was incidentally during the week and at about half capacity.

                        It is really too much to go into everything, and hopefully was an isolated incident, but the entire evening was a train wreck service wise from start to finish due in part to the kitchen not being able to keep up in a packed house. Draghi was in the kitchen, but didn't come out once as with our previous visit and most other experiences on this board. He seemed to know they were hopelessly in the weeds. It started with two ladies at our table waiting 30+ min for their glasses of prosecco. The waiter pushed us to put in our order three times during this the wait for the drinks, but couldn't walk around the wall and get the glasses. "The bar was very busy". Timing was off on the food, and at least one incorrect dish was brought out in error for each course. One person did not get their correct entree until the others were entirely done. A bottle of wine come out a different vintage than what was listed and ordered. The waiter's flippant response was "this year is better anyway". It wasn't, and he was talking to a friend who is quite knowledgeable about wine. I had recommended the restaurant and was a bit embarrassed. This isn't even a complete disaster of an evening. I didn't request it, but I was frankly surprised there was no offer to adjust the bill or even bring a complementary desert. The waiter did apologize and shrugged it off to a death in the family. Sad to be sure, but somewhat inappropriate to even bring up IMO.

                        I also was less impressed with the food than on our first visit. As usual, the pastas were the standout. I didn't care for the rack of boar, the concord grape preparation was off putting and the meat itself was not at all seasoned.

                        Hopefully this was an an anomaly, as I was quite excited by chef Draghi's return. One thing is for sure, our next visit will be on a quiet weeknight and I won't be pulling friends there anytime soon.

                        1. re: yumyum

                          What a great review yumyum. I went to Erbaluce a few months ago for the first time and equally enjoyed my meal. I think that Chef Draghi is really doing something great there and like you, I hope to return there again and again for each season!

                          1. re: yumyum

                            I gotta get in for some of them eels, will try not to think of The Mighty Boosh.

                            Had another spectacular meal there not too long ago, pretty much eating everything on the menu that night, and it was packed in the dining room (have never seen more than a few bar tables occupied). They did a nice job in finding some reasonable wines for my vino-swilling crew, which kept our check down to a surprisingly nice number. I haven't yet had a less-than-stellar experience there.


                            1. re: MC Slim JB

                              Wow, Erbaluce sounds great! I just checked out their website and it doesn't appear that they have a menu listed. What are the prices like? This might be a great option for NYE. My husband and I like to try to head out early and sit at a bar and have a great meal. Last year we went to Hungry Mother, which was great. We've been debating where to go this year. This is my first chowhound post! I need to get started on a profile. This is a great website!

                              1. re: kdemayo

                                I found their prices to be fairly reasonable for the quality of food. The entree prices top out in the low 30s except for the exceptional specials that appear on the menu once in a while. Currently, they have a pasta dish with shaved white truffles at 90 bucks (wowsers), but that is the exception to the rule.

                                The lack of menu on the site is because the menu fluctuates almost daily. Very local, very fresh ingredients. The rabbit is definitely my favorite.

                                1. re: ecwashere7

                                  thank you! i'll be sure to check it out.

                                2. re: kdemayo

                                  Yeesh, I guess I hafta come out as the "freaky friend" with the "loose screws" whose blood pressure rises exponentially in restaurants any fancier than, say, Central Kitschen. What can I say, I'm scared of white tablecloths. ;)

                                  But I was incredibly comfy at the bar here and will return to eat the entire menu many times over, as much as possible, as this is exactly the kind of cooking that resonates with me. While it is very simply prepared with utmost respect for high quality ingredients, I do worry that the use of aforementioned flavours will not appeal to the majority of Western palates. My understanding is that the Chef is strongly adhering true to the traditions of Piedmont, Friuli etc, and if that is the case then I need to plan a trip to the region stat. I also like that he's there, in the kitchen, every night and takes the time to yuk it up with his customers. He's extremely personable and had the same crazed look in his eyes as us as we discussed the finer points of XO sauce, among many other things.

                                  kdemayo, the pricing is also incredibly friendly. Several glasses of wine in the $7-10 range, and I particularly enjoyed the $7 arneis, which I could drink all day long, with or without sardines and razor clams. The enoteca menu as well as the appetizer side of the dining menu also has several items under $10 with the most expensive ones coming in around $15 IIRC. In looking at the sample menu at the link below, I think it is pretty reflective of current pricing.


                                  The place is a gem. I will do my best to support them.

                                  1. re: Nab

                                    haha! i like the "freaky friend!" hysterical. thanks for the helpful information and the link, nab. i can't wait to go!

                            2. Had a wonderful dinner there last night. The eel app was great and the rabbitt dish is the best in the city.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: phatchris

                                i love the rabbit and am incredibly happy with everything from a simple minestre to the pasta with white truffle. I have experienced nothing but friendly service, weekdays and weekends both, and, while I prefer the quiet of weeknights, I am happy to see them incredibly busy. I consider this place one of the 5 best in boston and one of the most truly individual.