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Local/fresh/organic Italian

One of the problems with moving to a new city is that it's hard not to look for exact parallels of favorite restaurants from the old city in the new city. Case in point: right now I have a crazy, mad craving for the local hole-in-the-wall Italian place in my old neighborhood in NYC, Quartino. And I'm hoping someone can point me to a Boston equivalent.

Basically, I'm looking for a reasonably low-key Italian restaurant that emphasizes organic, seasonal ingredients (local too, why the heck not?), simply prepared. Think: asparagus risotto, spinach pasta, grilled fish, a glass of decent but inexpensive white wine. Nothing fancy, and nothing that will make me feel guilty going out on a Wednesday night (e.g. white linen tablecloths, $30 pastas, etc.).

I'm in Newton, so metrowest would be great, but I'd be willing to drive to Cambridge, downtown, or anywhere else reasonably local for this.

Many thanks for any help!

Oh, and if you're ever in Greenwich Village, Quartino is worth a look...

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  1. The closest we have here is Via Matta, which isn't close, but it's the closest.

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    Via Matta
    79 Park Plaza, Boston, MA 02116

    1. Erbaluce in Bay Village or Gran Gusto in Cambridge

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      Erbaluce
      69 Church Street, Boston, MA 02116

      6 Replies
      1. re: robwat36

        Erbaluce is pretty pricey. From Menupages:
        Pastas
        Ciccatelle with a porcini sauce, foraged mushrooms and marjoram 24.00
        Pizzoccheri with braised cabbage, potatoes, sage and crucolo cheese 19.00
        Roasted Potato Gnocchi with a ragu of rabbit and spring herbs 26.00
        Main Courses
        Sauteed Whole Black Back Flounder Filets with a parsley, caper and horseradish pesto 24.00
        Nasello Filet roasted with swiss chard and a roasted yellow pepper sauce with anise hyssop 26.00
        Slow Roasted Lamb Leg with an abuzzese egg and pecorino sauce 26.00
        Roasted Organic Baguette Steak with a crust of parmigiana, thyme, crushed walnuts and a red wine brasato 29.00
        Roasted Rack Of Wild Boar with a concord grape misto 32.00
        . Is Gran Gusto still open? I forgot to add: Pizzeria Posto.

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        Gran Gusto
        90 Sherman St, Cambridge, MA 02140

        Erbaluce
        69 Church Street, Boston, MA 02116

        Pizzeria Posto
        187 Elm St, Somerville, MA 02144

        1. re: scotty27

          Erbaluce is in the same ballpark as Via Matta (I also wouldn't put too much stake in Erbaluce's MP page, as the menu changes constantly).

          Gran Gusto is still open, still popular, and still very good (especially during truffle season). Definitely more affordable than the other two.

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          Gran Gusto
          90 Sherman St, Cambridge, MA 02140

          1. re: robwat36

            That's cool about Gran Gusto; I drove by, it looked closed. Eager to try it. You're right about Via Matta prices, of course, haven't been there in years: No value. When I eat Italian in Boston, it's Pizzeria Posto or Mia Cucina alla Nonna.

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            Gran Gusto
            90 Sherman St, Cambridge, MA 02140

            Via Matta
            79 Park Plaza, Boston, MA 02116

            Pizzeria Posto
            187 Elm St, Somerville, MA 02144

          2. re: scotty27

            Erbaluce pricey? Perhaps, but oh so worth it. Chef Draghi does marvelous memorable things in his Piemontese idiom. This place may not be your regular, but it's astoundingly good.

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            Erbaluce
            69 Church Street, Boston, MA 02116

            1. re: scotty27

              Ha - a coworker recommended Erbaluce, and while it looks delicious, it also looks much more expensive than what I was looking for. It also looks delicious, and it's now on my list to try, but not exactly an I-feel-like-a-plate-of-homemade-pasta kind of place.

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              Erbaluce
              69 Church Street, Boston, MA 02116

              1. re: cjd260

                Have you tried Trattoria Toscana in the Fenway? Not sure to what degree they bill themselves as local/organic, but simple, fresh, under-$20 pasta dishes in a casual setting? Absolutely.

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                Trattoria Toscana
                130 Jersey St, Boston, MA 02215

          3. Try Stellina in Watertown Square. It's northern Italian-ish, moderately priced, many local ingredients, nice wines. Comfortable place. Current menu has, for example, asparagus risotto, bunch of fish options, eggplant parm lasagna, fusili w/ sausage and chard. The warm tomato salad with goat cheese is an old favorite.

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            Stellina Restaurant
            47 Main St, Watertown, MA 02472

            1. Give Il Casale in Belmont a try.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Duster17

                I second Il Casale. Some of the best-value Italian in the area. I also agree with post below that it's easier to create this kind of unfussy food at home than to find it reasonably priced (and well-executed) at a restaurant, if you know what you're doing and know where to get the good ingredients. As poster below noted, however, for many people dining out is the whole point.

                That said, there are some good, local purveyors of high-quality Italian ingredients (and many local purveyors of high quality, non-local Italian ingredients).

                One case in point:
                Mozzarella House, out of Everett, makes excellent--you guessed it---Mozzarella and Burrata, as well as Ricotta. They are increasing their distribution locally; I buy it at Savenor's and not sure where else you can get it (maybe Russo's?). Capone' market (locations in Somerville and N. Cambridge) also makes some very good ricotta, in a slightly drier style.

              2. "Basically, I'm looking for a reasonably low-key Italian restaurant that emphasizes organic, seasonal ingredients (local too, why the heck not?), simply prepared."

                For me, this usually means a stop at Russo's and an evening at home, especially this time of year. I'd encourage you to go that route, but I do appreciate the pleasures of dining out from time to time, so I won't fault you for looking.

                1 Reply
                1. re: emannths

                  Second to Russo's and the experience you describe. Add to that visit to Salumeria Italiana in the North End. Went there yesterday for the billionth time and was wowed by the cheeses, meats, unpretentious staff, great Neapolitan pastas, and the very reasonable pricing.

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                  Salumeria Italiana
                  151 Richmond St, Boston, MA 02109

                2. Carlo's on Brighton Ave. in Allston fits some of your requirements, but I don't think they use organic ingredients and I'm not sure how seasonal the menu is. But it's a local "hole in the wall" neighborhood Italian restaurant with good old school Italian American food , reasonable wine, unpretensious atmosphere and decent prices. Food wise, it might not be what your looking for though.

                  1. organic and sustainable are the focus of mare, but it is not cheap.

                    (please also realize that "local" and "seasonal" can be true only for a very short window here in new england.)

                    evoo, in kendall square has a farm to table sort of ethic, the food is excellent and definitely has a mediterranean swing to the menu. ditto for the blue room, rendezvous in central square and rialto in harvard square.

                    boston and cambridge still struggle with that lack of great food at medium-ish pricing.

                    1. Not Italian but Mediterranean- Kouzina in the Waban area of Newton. Low key, delicious food. Very fresh, very carefully prepared. Won't break the bank. The bronzini is very good. It's a little restaurant, so you might call ahead, but there are some tall 2-tops in the back near the kitchen which are often open for walk-ins.

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                      Kouzina
                      1649 Beacon St, Waban, MA 02468

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Scruffy The Cat

                        Second Kouzina - very underrated place. Really more Greek, but very good chow. DW agrees completely on the bronzino.

                        Also, the other end of the Med, consider Oleana, which can pricey in the aggregate, but most dishes are inexpensive small/smaller/sharable plates, so you can self-limit. Definitely not Italian though.

                        Also, haven't been to Appetito in Newton Center in ages, but my memory is that it served pretty decent Italian chow, and today there is a Groupon to consider.

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                        Kouzina
                        1649 Beacon St, Waban, MA 02468

                      2. ".......restaurant that emphasizes organic, seasonal ingredients (local too, why the heck not?)"

                        Why not? Because no matter what they want you to believe local, seasonal, organic is almost impossible.

                        1. La Morra on rte 9 Brookline village. Consistently great food. Wife and I have been going for years and have never been disappointed. Fresh pasta and one of the best Bolognese in all of Boston. Great wood grilled fish as well.

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                          La Morra
                          48 Boylston Street, Brookline, MA 02445

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: cpthandsome

                            Didn't they have a fire recently? Up and running again?

                            1. re: Beachowolfe

                              They've been back open for over a month now.