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Only 1 good Italian Restaurant in Cambridge and no French Restaurants at all

holldoll Dec 22, 2010 10:51 AM

Why ??
If you live in Cambridge where do you go nearby for a great Italian or French meal?
I know what Boston has to offer so no recs there please.

  1. holldoll Dec 30, 2010 06:24 AM

    Thanks for the posts. If I must cross the river, I've found the classiques @ Pierrot on Cambridge St a short walk from the Charles MGH T. Hate traveling to Boston by car!
    I'm sticking with Gran Gusto which never dissapoints and I can walk to.
    Maybe one day a truly classic french bistro will open up in Cambridge.
    As for the Blanquette De Veau. We'll be cooking at home this winter.

    -----
    Gran Gusto
    90 Sherman St, Cambridge, MA 02140

    1. rlh Dec 23, 2010 03:29 PM

      For French basic, Central Kitchen can't be beat!

      -----
      Central Kitchen
      567 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139

      1. Jolyon Helterman Dec 23, 2010 09:08 AM

        Also, this is a city where the best restaurants have traditionally happened to live at hotels, so calling something a "hotel restaurant" doesn't seem all that useful.

        1. s
          scotty27 Dec 22, 2010 01:17 PM

          That's not easy. There is certainly no Italian restaurant in Cambridge worth the money. I don't want to get into a food fight about this, but to call Rialto good or Italian, well, fine, if you're buying, I'll agree. Otherwise, it's decent hotel food.

          French is easier. There's no French restaurant in Cambridge, other than Sandrine's, which might be avoided, but I agree with MC on French-influenced places: Craigie, Rendezvous, Upstairs in the Square, TW Food.
          www.shrinkinthekitchen.com

          -----
          Sandrine's
          8 Holyoke St., Cambridge, MA 02138

          30 Replies
          1. re: scotty27
            c
            cambridgedoctpr Dec 22, 2010 01:31 PM

            ok, where do you eat italian in boston? in nyc besides Esca?

            1. re: cambridgedoctpr
              s
              scotty27 Dec 22, 2010 02:13 PM

              I go to Scampo. It ain't great, but I love the vibe, Mario the waiter, the room, and the breads. If they bothered to drop bucks on the pasta, it has the potential of being a great restaurant. But do they care? They do not care, and that is a shame; who wants to see anyone function below their potential?
              www.shrinkinthekitchen.com

              -----
              Scampo
              215 Charles Street, Boston, MA 02114

            2. re: scotty27
              holldoll Dec 22, 2010 01:36 PM

              I'm looking for classique french. Steak au poivre, blanquette de veau, duck l'orange, pate, frites, onion soupe, profiteroles, chocolate mousse. Not Cuban, Belgian, Cambodian, Middle Eastern or anything that is "french influenced" whatever that means. I've been to all of the above and while they are good restaurants they aren't exactly what I was thinking of.
              Sandrines is Alsacian and more German/Swiss than "french" French ;-)

              -----
              Sandrine's
              8 Holyoke St., Cambridge, MA 02138

              1. re: holldoll
                c
                CookieLee Dec 22, 2010 02:01 PM

                If they don't have what you're desirous of in Cambridge, why not go into Boston or Brookline? Get on the 66, and go to Cognac Bistro on Harvard St. in Brookline. Petit Robert Bistro is Kenmore Sq. , on the Green Line. (my go to place for profiteroles. ) Jacky's Table on Comm Ave in Brighton., also on the Green Line. All pretty close to Cambridge, closer if you drive.

                -----
                Petit Robert Bistro
                468 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, MA 02215

                Cognac Bistro
                455 Harvard St, Brookline, MA 02446

                1. re: holldoll
                  s
                  scotty27 Dec 22, 2010 02:15 PM

                  Ah, I see. Well, fuggetaboutit. Not here, unless you want to drop by for dinner. You are 100% correct about Sandrine's. Try France. It's winter. Prices are low on airfare.
                  www.shrinkinthekitchen.com

                  -----
                  Sandrine's
                  8 Holyoke St., Cambridge, MA 02138

                  1. re: holldoll
                    MC Slim JB Dec 22, 2010 02:32 PM

                    That's a pretty narrow definition of what constitutes French food. Elephant Walk and Chez Henri don't do fusion with their other cuisines, but pretty straight-up French bistro dishes (and you can't even get the Cuban dishes in Chez Henri's dining room). Ost may be Alsatian, but most of his menu is straight-up French bistro, too, with only a handful of Alsatian specialties.

                    French-influenced means using the long-codified techniques of haute French cookery -- think Carême, Le Guide culinaire by Escoffier, and Larousse Gastronomique -- and that's clearly evident in Cambridge's many fine chef-owned New American places (e.g., TW, Craigie, Salts), though they give it a highly seasonal and locally-sourced slant.

                    What you're looking for is on the other side of the Charles: the Petit Roberts, Pierrot, Brasserie Jo.

                    http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                    -----
                    Elephant Walk
                    2067 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02140

                    Chez Henri
                    1 Shepard Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

                    Brasserie Jo
                    120 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02116

                    1. re: MC Slim JB
                      s
                      scotty27 Dec 22, 2010 04:08 PM

                      I know, I'm prissy. But Elephant Walk is dreadful and Paul Conners? Well, the less said the better. French. Not at all.

                      I certainly agree about Petit Robert, despite their frozen bread and inexcusably bad service. Brasserie Jo? If I was starving, I'd consider it. French? Well...

                      www.shrinkinthekitchen.com

                      -----
                      Elephant Walk
                      2067 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02140

                      Brasserie Jo
                      120 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02116

                      1. re: scotty27
                        MC Slim JB Dec 22, 2010 05:11 PM

                        My comment was directed at the OP. The chef/owner at Chez Henri is Paul O'Connell. But thanks.

                        http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                      2. re: MC Slim JB
                        h
                        hckybg Dec 22, 2010 08:16 PM

                        Also, since I presume the "Middle Eastern...french-influenced" shot was directed at my recommendation of Baraka Cafe, I'll point out that Baraka is actually North African, and the family that runs it is either French or lived in France, so they are actually cooking French dishes (and North African dishes...from countries that were long French colonies), like Steak Frites, with an inflection from other traditions. I guess my definition of what constitutes "French" includes the country's *many* culinary traditions...which include Alsatian among others mentioned here.

                        -----
                        Baraka Cafe
                        80 Pearl St, Cambridge, MA 02139

                      3. re: holldoll
                        barleywino Dec 22, 2010 03:40 PM

                        please post if you know of any place in the greater Boston area that has blanquette de veau, thanks!

                        1. re: barleywino
                          9
                          9lives Dec 22, 2010 03:52 PM

                          La Voile on Newbury lists it on the menu. I haven't had it but been pleased by the other dishes I've had there.

                          -----
                          La Voile
                          261 Newbury Street, Boston, MA 02116

                      4. re: scotty27
                        holldoll Dec 22, 2010 01:37 PM

                        Ditto!!

                        1. re: scotty27
                          Jolyon Helterman Dec 23, 2010 02:19 AM

                          FWIW, after Jody Adams, chef of Rialto, broke away from the Sapphire Group a few years ago, Rialto moved very deliberately into a more Italian idiom (in contrast to the less focused mix of New England and Italian and general Mediterranean). And I happen to think it's excellent Italian food, especially when Adams is in the kitchen.

                          Also: Salts is pretty darned French, in my book.

                          1. re: Jolyon Helterman
                            s
                            scotty27 Dec 23, 2010 04:26 AM

                            I agree that Rialto thinks of itself as an Italian restaurant, but is it? Look at this menu from Rialto. Italian? Via Matta is Italian.
                            www.shrinkinthekitchen.com

                            Mushroom stuffed cabbage…chervil spatzle, celery root, mustard 26

                            Icelandic char… quinoa, hops, sunburst trout roe 32

                            Seared scallops… parsnip, almond, bitter orange 37

                            Butter poached lobster… cauliflower, golden raisins, capers 42

                            Lamb chops and meatballs… fennel, quince, rosemary potatoes 39

                            Grilled boar chop… squash, kale, beans, pomegranate 34

                            Quail stuffed with gorgonzola… lardo, trevisano, figs 33

                            Roasted breast and braised chicken thigh… squash crespelle, pancetta, mascarpone 28

                            Slow roasted duck… escarole, roasted fingerlings, Sicilian olives 36

                            Grilled Pineland Farms sirloin steak… portabella, arugula,
                            Parmigiano Reggiano, truffle oil 43

                            -----
                            Via Matta
                            79 Park Plaza, Boston, MA 02116

                            1. re: scotty27
                              MC Slim JB Dec 23, 2010 04:52 AM

                              Except for the seafood, those all look like Northern Italian dishes to me, e.g., the steak and boar chop look like Tuscan preparations. One might argue that a Northern Italian might be more likely to stuff cabbage with a meat mixture than mushrooms, but Adams is clearly not going for a super-traditional approach.

                              http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                              1. re: MC Slim JB
                                s
                                scotty27 Dec 23, 2010 06:03 AM

                                Mushroom stuffed cabbage…chervil spatzle, celery root, mustard 26

                                Icelandic char… quinoa, hops, sunburst trout roe 32

                                Seared scallops… parsnip, almond, bitter orange 37

                                Butter poached lobster… cauliflower, golden raisins, capers 42

                                Lamb chops and meatballs… fennel, quince, rosemary potatoes 39

                                Grilled boar chop… squash, kale, beans, pomegranate 34

                                Quail stuffed with gorgonzola… lardo, trevisano, figs 33

                                Roasted breast and braised chicken thigh… squash crespelle, pancetta, mascarpone 28

                                Slow roasted duck… escarole, roasted fingerlings, Sicilian olives 36

                                Grilled Pineland Farms sirloin steak… portabella, arugula,
                                Parmigiano Reggiano, truffle oil 43

                                Well, let's agree to disagree on this one.
                                Portabella in Tuscany, for example? It's not a matter of tradition, but a cheap mushroom when porcini would be so much more obviously tastier. Lamb chops and meatballs? Less said the better.

                                But on a pleasant note: The bar is really fun at Rialto! No place better for a drink.
                                www.shrinkinthekitchen.com

                                1. re: scotty27
                                  StriperGuy Dec 23, 2010 06:08 AM

                                  "The bar is really fun at Rialto! No place better for a drink."

                                  I actually find it kind of depressing, older Cambridge singles crowd, but if the shoe fits...

                                  1. re: StriperGuy
                                    s
                                    scotty27 Dec 23, 2010 06:16 AM

                                    I'm trying to be pleasant. I can't say I drink much in bars, but it is a fun place. So are Harvest, Casablanca, Upstairs in the Square. Now...if we could only get the kitchens fired up.
                                    www.shrinkinthekitchen.com

                                  2. re: scotty27
                                    MC Slim JB Dec 23, 2010 06:30 AM

                                    Yes, as I said, Rialto's is not a super-traditional approach, but still clearly fundamentally Italian in origin. What's wrong with lamb chops and meatballs? I've seen mixed-grill kind of dishes like that all over Italy, again primarily in the North.

                                    http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                    1. re: MC Slim JB
                                      s
                                      scotty27 Dec 23, 2010 06:42 AM

                                      I see your point. I think what happened, however, is that Rialto was supposed to be Rocca, which is Italian and lower priced, and when that did not happen, it morphed into a luxury restaurant informed by Italian, French, and NE traditions. As far as meatballs go, I agree with Bella-Online: "Meatballs are often hard to find in Italy. Polpette are generally found in Southern Italy, but not with pasta. They are served as a second course. It was when spaghetti and meatballs were brought to the US by Italian immigrants that the two were combined." Mixed grill in Italy is usually offal, sausages, funny cuts of meat, but grilled polpette? Mai. That said, I maintain that Rialto has a fun bar and serves decent hotel food.
                                      www.shrinkinthekitchen.com

                                      1. re: scotty27
                                        MC Slim JB Dec 23, 2010 06:57 AM

                                        That spaghetti and meatballs isn't a traditional Italian dish is not a newsflash, at least not on Chowhound. But I don't agree with your take on the Italian mixed grill. I've seen it many different ways: small chops, sausages, salumi, offal, little pounded cutlets and steaks, and yes, meatballs. Not hard to find in Venetian bacari, for one, done on little charcoal grills.

                                        I'd say Rialto gets away with a luxury-hotel premium on pricing, but calling it hotel food is unduly dismissive.

                                        http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                        1. re: MC Slim JB
                                          s
                                          scotty27 Dec 23, 2010 07:06 AM

                                          You're right about polpette served as cichetti in Venice at ombra.
                                          Jasper White was the one who called Rialto, "the best hotel restaurant in the city." I was quoting him.
                                          www.shrinkinthekitchen.com

                                          1. re: scotty27
                                            MC Slim JB Dec 23, 2010 07:17 AM

                                            Here's an obvious point: Jasper called it the best hotel restaurant in the city. You called it "decent hotel food". That's a backhanded diss if I ever heard one.

                                            http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                            1. re: MC Slim JB
                                              s
                                              scotty27 Dec 23, 2010 07:24 AM

                                              You're right. I should have said, "best hotel restaurant."

                                          2. re: MC Slim JB
                                            StriperGuy Dec 23, 2010 07:09 AM

                                            Hey my Italian in-laws, from Abruzzo and Campobasso (not Italian American, but living in Italy now) make meatballs. They often cook them in tomato sauce. Serve the sauce on pasta, then serve the meatballs as the secondi.

                                            1. re: StriperGuy
                                              s
                                              scotty27 Dec 23, 2010 07:11 AM

                                              Sounds delicious. When are we invited?
                                              www.shrinkinthekitchen.com

                                              1. re: scotty27
                                                StriperGuy Dec 23, 2010 07:19 AM

                                                The made from scratch (pasta) for lasagna for Christmas (day) dinner is already in the works. Seven fishes from New Deal for Christmas eve.

                                                1. re: StriperGuy
                                                  s
                                                  scotty27 Dec 23, 2010 07:21 AM

                                                  Yeah, it's fish here Christmas Eve, too. Which reminds me: NEW DEAL FISH on Cambridge Street. This store is by far the best fish store on the East Coast. You want Italian? The owner's people are from Gaeta. This is Italian.
                                                  www.shrinkinthekitchen

                                                  1. re: scotty27
                                                    Jolyon Helterman Dec 23, 2010 09:05 AM

                                                    My favorite Italian in the city: Rialto (sorry, but it reminds me of food I've eaten all over Italy!), Via Matta, Faison-era Rocca, and maybe—just maybe—what the chef who started a couple months ago is doing at Bina Osteria.

                                                    For that last one, I hope this one's the charm that finally breaks the post–Brian Konefal curse.

                                                    -----
                                                    Via Matta
                                                    79 Park Plaza, Boston, MA 02116

                                                    Bina Osteria
                                                    581 Washington Street, Boston, MA 02111

                                                    1. re: scotty27
                                                      b
                                                      baldbert Dec 23, 2010 09:13 AM

                                                      Man- the piling on is furious here- I say- let him live.

                              2. e
                                Ella Bella Dec 22, 2010 01:10 PM

                                Pescatore is great! I think if it were anywhere but its little corner in Ball Square it would be slammed with people. Food is super tasty, prices are reasonable, service is good - what more could you ask for? We love this place - but of course we're walking in knowing what exactly to expect.

                                -----
                                Pescatore
                                158 Boston Ave, Somerville, MA 02144

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: Ella Bella
                                  holldoll Dec 22, 2010 01:25 PM

                                  I will go tonight!

                                  1. re: Ella Bella
                                    holldoll Dec 22, 2010 01:46 PM

                                    what are your 3 favorite dishes there?

                                    1. re: holldoll
                                      a
                                      autopi Dec 22, 2010 06:35 PM

                                      i've had, and enjoyed, the fusilli amalfi and the steak tips. their pizza is also very good. it's not a super fancy place, but a fantastic neighborhood joint.

                                    2. re: Ella Bella
                                      g
                                      gimlis1mum Dec 22, 2010 03:10 PM

                                      I've only been to Pescatore once but I was a little disappointed. I had the Fusilli Amalfi, and the shrimp were overcooked, the lobster too - but the scallops were very good. To be fair, my DCs enjoyed their meals very much (sorry, I can't remember what they ordered - it was a couple of months ago). The service was good and our waiter was VERY handsome - I chuckled b/c I was there with 2 girlfriends, and most of the other tables seemed to be full of women too.

                                      -----
                                      Pescatore
                                      158 Boston Ave, Somerville, MA 02144

                                    3. StriperGuy Dec 22, 2010 11:25 AM

                                      You must not get out much ;-) I agree with the other posters below. Lot's of options.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: StriperGuy
                                        c
                                        cambridgedoctpr Dec 22, 2010 01:01 PM

                                        or your standards are very high; you can always try lyon.

                                      2. b
                                        BackBayGirl Dec 22, 2010 11:09 AM

                                        I disagree as well. Sandrine's is good as is Rialto and Dante. I've heard great things about Craigie on Main & Chez Henri.

                                        -----
                                        Chez Henri
                                        1 Shepard Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

                                        Craigie on Main
                                        853 Main Street, Cambridge, MA 02139

                                        Sandrine's
                                        8 Holyoke St., Cambridge, MA 02138

                                        1. hiddenboston Dec 22, 2010 11:05 AM

                                          What is the good Italian restaurant you are mentioning? Gran Gusto? I'm a big fan of that place. Also, East Side Bar and Grille on Cambridge Street has some decent Italian food as well.

                                          As for French, Bondir on Broadway has been getting good reviews, though it may be a bit closer to New American than French.

                                          -----
                                          Gran Gusto
                                          90 Sherman St, Cambridge, MA 02140

                                          Bondir
                                          279 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02139

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: hiddenboston
                                            yumyum Dec 22, 2010 12:05 PM

                                            I like Gran Gusto and in the same vein Posto is very good as well. Somerville, yes, but the boundaries blur.

                                            -----
                                            Gran Gusto
                                            90 Sherman St, Cambridge, MA 02140

                                            1. re: yumyum
                                              yumyum Dec 22, 2010 12:15 PM

                                              And here's a picture of the great pizza at Posto. (this was the Calabrese with very good salumi, basil and fiore de latte)

                                               
                                            2. re: hiddenboston
                                              holldoll Dec 22, 2010 01:18 PM

                                              It is Grand Gusto!

                                            3. MC Slim JB Dec 22, 2010 11:04 AM

                                              Disagree that there's no good French or Italian in Cambridge. Here are some suggestions nearby and not in the direction of Boston:

                                              Italian: dante, Rialto, Trattoria Pulcinella, Bistro 5, Lil Vinny's, Vinny's at Night, Posto, Il Pescatore

                                              French: Craigie on Main, Salts, Sandrine's, T.W. Food, Chez Henri (dining room), Elephant Walk

                                              http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                              -----
                                              Trattoria Pulcinella
                                              147 Huron Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

                                              Pescatore
                                              158 Boston Ave, Somerville, MA 02144

                                              Elephant Walk
                                              2067 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02140

                                              Bistro 5
                                              5 Playstead Road, Medford, MA 02155

                                              Chez Henri
                                              1 Shepard Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

                                              T.W. Food
                                              377A Walden St, Cambridge, MA 02138

                                              Craigie on Main
                                              853 Main Street, Cambridge, MA 02139

                                              Sandrine's
                                              8 Holyoke St., Cambridge, MA 02138

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: MC Slim JB
                                                h
                                                hckybg Dec 22, 2010 11:56 AM

                                                Also more downscale Italian/Italian-inspired options including City Girl Cafe, Armando's, Emma's, Cambridge One...Baraka Cafe is heavily French-influenced as well.

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