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Erbaluce v. Sorellina v. Via Matta

I am a native New Englander but moved away from Boston 6 years ago -- my how the dining scene has changed!! Going back in August to catch a Sox game and also to celebrate my wedding anniversary. We would like to have a romantic, delicious meal where we can relive a little bit of the experience we had during our honeymoon in Italy. I've narrowed it down to Erbaluce, Sorellina, and Via Matta, based on recent threads. What would you choose and why? Any comments on the general vibe of these restaurants would be great too - I would prefer a warm atmosphere that is not too stuffy or pretentious. My husband has a weakness for Tagliatelle Bolognese which I notice on Via Matta's menu, but we would love this board's feedback. Thanks so much in advance.

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Via Matta
79 Park Plaza, Boston, MA 02116

Sorellina
1 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA 02116

Erbaluce
69 Church Street, Boston, MA 02116

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  1. I would definitely pick Erbaluce. It is more warm, romantic and feels more personal (chef/owner visits each table) than the others. Personally, I see Sorellina and Via Matta as expense account places that are more about the scene and the space than the food. IMO, Erbaluce is more a foodie destination with more unusual dishes and preparations.

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    Via Matta
    79 Park Plaza, Boston, MA 02116

    Sorellina
    1 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA 02116

    Erbaluce
    69 Church Street, Boston, MA 02116

    1. I like all three of them.

      I think Erbaluce's food is the most interesting, from a chef who is doing something unique among the many Italian places in town. He does more than pay lip service to the local/artisanal/seasonal mantra. I think his food is phenomenal, but it won't please everyone. He has the unusual approach of using fruit and vegetable essences to add richness to his flavors rather than butter and animal fats. It's a Northern sensibility. Very interesting wine list, mostly Northern Italian, with a very helpful sommelier. Great desserts the chef himself makes. Warm, cordial hospitality. Beer/wine/cordials only, though, and the room is quite spare in its design.

      Via Matta is loud, lively, and casually chic. It's got a full bar, a pretty good wine list, a big dining room, and a smaller enoteca side with a more casual, less expensive menu. I'd venture it has a younger, more urban crowd that the other two; it's a popular fancy-date place. It's versatile, and has a pleasant patio. That bolognese is very, very good.

      Sorellina is the fanciest of the three: an expensive modern design and the highest prices. It's a beautiful room. Full bar with respectable bartending, an extensive wine list (gouging a bit, as this restaurant group is wont to do). Very good food: I'd say it emphasizes luxury more than invention. It feel the most like an occasion place, often boasts an older, more exurban crowd that likes to dress up.

      I've been to Via Matta recently and really enjoyed it, as I have many times over the years.

      Haven't been to Sorellina for more than drinks and snacks in the bar in some months, but one thing that organization is about is consistency; I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it if you want that kind of high-style experience and don't mind the tariff.

      Erbaluce is simply my favorite mid-high to high-end Italian in town at the moment: that chef's food just really hits a nerve in me. (I wish they'd find a way to put their daily menu online; it speaks volumes about what the place is about.)

      http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

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      Via Matta
      79 Park Plaza, Boston, MA 02116

      Sorellina
      1 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA 02116

      Erbaluce
      69 Church Street, Boston, MA 02116

      3 Replies
      1. re: MC Slim JB

        join Erbaluce's group on Facebook. Chuck posts something just about every day about new dishes and what's fresh.

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        Erbaluce
        69 Church Street, Boston, MA 02116

        1. re: rebs

          Yep, I'm part of that, but I still would like to see the daily menu online, for Erbaluce and every other restaurant in town.

          http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

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          Erbaluce
          69 Church Street, Boston, MA 02116

        2. re: MC Slim JB

          in addition to everything above i agree with mc slim, i give the nudge up to erbaluce as well. the wine list is way cool with all sorts of off-beat bottles you don't see anyplace else with very reasonable pricing.

          the food is far more creative than the other two spots. sorellina, like its big sister mistral, executes well, but is all about coloring inside the lines at spendy prices.

        3. I really loved Sorellina the few times I could afford to eat there. Food aside, it is stuffier than the other two, I think. But sleek and excellent service, a classy room, valet parking, the whole shebang.

          Via Matta has done excellent things for friends celebrating a special occasion, so if you're looking for them to present a dessert with a sparkler in it or something, let them know. I don't like the food there as much, but it's fine.

          My favorite of the three would be Erbaluce -- and if you and your partner like to roll that way, eating at the the bar is great fun (I find the dining room to be too bright and stark). Draghi is doing lovely things with fish and lots of herbs, and you can't beat the personal touch.

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          Via Matta
          79 Park Plaza, Boston, MA 02116

          Sorellina
          1 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA 02116

          Erbaluce
          69 Church Street, Boston, MA 02116

          1 Reply
          1. re: yumyum

            Maybe they've turned the lighting down recently. I thought the lighting in the dining room was nice and dim when I was there last month. Maybe it varies depending on where you sit.

            If you go, get the panna cotta!

          2. Erbaluce without a doubt would be my pick too.

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            Erbaluce
            69 Church Street, Boston, MA 02116

            1. For the experience you're looking for, I'd choose Via Matta. I love all three restaurants, but Via (IMO) has the right balance of feeling fancy yet comfortable enough that it doesn't feel stuffy. I've had meals at Erbaluce that were more creative and unique, but also less refined. Also, they are known to have "off nights" from what I've heard. Personally, I've never encountered that. Sorellina is definitely the most fancy, but I find it to be a little too stuffy for my tastes. Their wagyu meatballs are insanely delicious, though.

              Via definitely feels more polished in its level of service and the food is definitely top-notch.

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              Via Matta
              79 Park Plaza, Boston, MA 02116

              Sorellina
              1 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA 02116

              Erbaluce
              69 Church Street, Boston, MA 02116

              4 Replies
              1. re: ecwashere7

                Thank you so much for such thoughtful feedback! I am excited to now have narrowed it down to Erbaluce and Via Matta, with an edge to Erbaluce. But I will check both restaurant's availabilities for lunch or dinner during the time I will be in town. I will write a review afterwards!

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                Via Matta
                79 Park Plaza, Boston, MA 02116

                Erbaluce
                69 Church Street, Boston, MA 02116

                1. re: spectra21

                  Via Matta does lunch, a limited menu with some panini, actually a pretty good deal. Erbaluce does not do lunch.

                  http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

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                  Via Matta
                  79 Park Plaza, Boston, MA 02116

                  Erbaluce
                  69 Church Street, Boston, MA 02116

                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                      what happened; what did the OP do and think of the choice?

                2. I love a lot of things about Via Matta, but the bolognese is not one of them.

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                  Via Matta
                  79 Park Plaza, Boston, MA 02116

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: Bellachefa

                    Via Matta's bolognese is my favorite in Boston. What don't you like about it?

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                    Via Matta
                    79 Park Plaza, Boston, MA 02116

                    1. re: Gabatta

                      it just felt pedestrian to me, but the bread and the crispy eggplant and the. . ..

                      1. re: Gabatta

                        Not on the list of restos of the OP, but if we're talking bolognese, in my opinion Sportello has by far the best tagliatelle bolognese in Boston. The quality of the fresh, homemade pasta can't be beat, and the sauce has just the right amount of richness. Otherwise, however, I wouldn't think of Sportello for a warm, romantic evening. Best for a casual lunch.

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                        Sportello
                        348 Congress Street, Boston, MA 02110

                        1. re: bella_sarda

                          Hi everyone! Sorry for the delay and thanks for so many helpful recommendations. We got in so late in Boston on a Friday night that we ended up doing the late night menu at Lucca Back Bay which does include a Bolognese Rigatoni. The dining area was dead, so we opted to sit in their lounge/bar area which was livelier and had comfortable seating. I thought the bolognese rigatoni was delicous - the sauce was definitely meatier/chunkier like a traditional preparation, but the other dishes we had (tuna tartare, polpette, antipasto) were just okay. Looking forward to trying Erbaluce on a future trip and will re-post then!

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                          Erbaluce
                          69 Church Street, Boston, MA 02116

                          Lucca Back Bay
                          116 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA 02116

                          1. re: spectra21

                            All three of those places are indeed great, but Erbaluce is the best and the most authentic. Chuck is bolder and more adventurous in terms of sourcing ingredients than any other chef in the city. And he kills it with each of them. Mushrooms, whelk, eel, watercress, you name it, he can make it delicious. This is no doubt the best kitchen in the city. It definitely makes up for the ambience, which is satisfactory, but certainly nothing to write home about. Enjoy!

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                            Erbaluce
                            69 Church Street, Boston, MA 02116

                            1. re: Jamesthebutler

                              'no doubt' the best kitchen in the city might be a tad strong