L'Impasto, Cambridge last night
Friends invited us to have dinner last night at L'Impasto on Mass Ave in Cambridge. I have driven by this place many times and had seen quite a few reviews of it so I was looking forward to trying it. Overall we had a very positive experience and all of us agreed that it would be nice to return and try some of the other menu items.
L'Impasto is a very small restaurant and doesn't accept reservation but when we called to check they said if we called about 15 minutes before we arrived they would hold a table for us. I felt this was a very reasonable way to handle our request given the size of the restaurant so just before we left home we called and our table was ready when we got there.
The restaurant was about 2/3 full on Sunday evening at 7:00 PM and there was one server but the service was good throughout our meal.
We started by sharing two apps. One was a very nice Burrata wrapped with Prosciutto and served with cherry tomatoes, Balsamic vinegar and olive oil. The other was the Calamari Fritti. Both apps were well executed and a perfect way to begin dinner.
For the mains each of us chose something different. It seems that all the pastas are made on the premises and therefore make up most of the menu choices. There are also 5 or 6 apps and 3 entree choices.
I chose the Pacherri served in a delicious tomato sauce with mussels, clams and shrimp. Think of a classic Frutta Di Mare but the sauce had a deep seafood flavor to it and was sligh5tly spicy. It reminded me of similar dishes I have enjoyed in Italy. The Pacherri were rather large squares of pasta that were thick and chewy and went very well with the sauce and the seafood. It was also a very generous serving. My DC chose the Integrali with mushrooms. This came as a tangle of whole wheat pasta which had obviously been handmade with a creamy sauce with several types of fresh mushrooms. The sauce had a base on dried porcini mushrooms which gave it a very intense mushroom flavor.
One of our friends chose the Gnocchi with a lamb ragu and said several times how delicious it was. Due to a gluten allergy our other friend chose the daily special of grilled salmon with sauteed mushrooms. It arrived as a very generous serving of perfectly cooked salmon and a nice mixture of sauteed mushrooms. They even substituted a well made small mixed green salad for the potato fritter that is usually served with the dish because it contained flour.
I also have to comment on their breads. The Foccacia and the Olive Bread were both fantastic and as I noted in some other reviews would make going to L'Impasto worth it alone. Each table has a cruet of very flavorful olive oil and Balsamic vinegar f.or dipping. It would be very easy to O.D. on the bread while waiting for your meals to arrive.
For dessert we split an order of the Tiramisu which was very good but not the high point of the meal.
I will definitely be returning when I have a craving for well executed Italian food.
I was just about to post and ask if anyone has been recently! I was thinking about going tonight, but alas they aren't opened on Monday.
Great report, by the way. I have a couple of questions. Since it's such a tiny place, is it freezing every time the door opens? And, do you happen to remember whether the wines by the bottle were reasonable? The prices seem ridiculously low for the food.
It wasn't uncomfortable at all when we were there last night. Even though it is a small place the tables are well spaced and we didn't feel cramped. They have a small beer and wine list. Wine is available by the glass or bottle. The prices (if I remember correctly) were about $8.00 per glass and $30.00 per bottle. They are all Italian wines. We had a very nice Tuscan that paired well with what we ordered.
I have been to Gran Gusto many times and it has always been quite good but I found the pasta offerings at L'Impasto to be more authentic tasting and more like pasta dishes I have had in Italy. The menu isn't as extensive as Gran Gusto and they don't serve pizza but as I noted in my review everything we had was very good and it is certainly worthy of a return visit. It is also less expensive than Gran Gusto but a heck of a lot smaller so I can imagine it could be difficult to get a table on peak dining out nights and times.
When I find a place I have really enjoyed I always like to go back and hopefully that it was as good the second time around. Last night we went to L'Impasto again and found ti to be as good as our first experience a month or so ago. The restaurant was almost empty with only us and one other table to three. I think this might have been because the Pat's game was on at the time we were there.
This time it was just two of us so we split and appetizer of Fritelle de Baccala. This was four small fish cakes nicely pan fried and served with marinated yellow peppers and a nice mild aioli. The cakes tasted like they had been freshly made and the taste of salt cod came through very well.
For main I chose one of the nightly specials with was freshly made ravioli stuffed with Mortadella and mozzarella and served in a wonderfully light, simple cherry tomato sauce. It was an example of simple but delicious Italian cooking at its best. The taste reminded me of ravioli that I had when visiting Italy. There were four quite large raviolis. My only criticism might be that they were a bit more al dente than I like but I would rather have them that way than to be overcooked. My DC had the Integrali with a wild mushroom cream sauce which is the same dish she enjoyed during our first visit. She confirmed that it was just as good the second time around.
After having enjoyed the wonderful bread they serve and our app and mains we couldn't handle dessert too.
Once again L'Impasto was excellent. Very nice authentic tasting food, casual, friendly service in a small comfortable little restaurant.
We had a good (not great) meal there one Saturday night but the service was awful. Just after we were seated a large group of obvious regulars came in and we might as well have vanished from the server's line of sight. The woman busing tables finally took pity on us and the two top next to us and scribbled our order on a scrap of paper. Five mins later I heard the server yell at her for taking orders. We had to ask for everything - parmesan cheese for the pasta, water refills, dessert menu, coffee, check, etc. Actually an educational experience - as a middle aged, middle class couple, we're not used to being invisible.
I would only return early or late and never on a Saturday.
Based on this thread, we headed over there on Friday night around 6:30. There was about a 5 minute wait for a table. We shared the endive salad. The wife ordered the bucatini amatriciana and I went with the lasagna. The bucatini was quite good. The lasagna was just ok. The breads, as others have noted, are pretty fantastic. Our favorite was this roasted tomato and rosemary one they had. They were willing to give us a whole loaf to go, but we told them 4 slices would do just fine. I can see how some would think the service is a little subpar. There are only 2 waiters who are responsible for being the host and handling takeout orders. Combine that with the fact there's no computer so they tally all the bills by hand with a calculator, and you're going to hit some snags. That being said, I found the service totally acceptable.
Thx to CH RoyRon, we made it to l'Impasto for a very early pre-Brattle dinner tonight.
We were told it's usually packed by 6pm, but tonight when we left at 6, no other wouldabeen lucky campers were there yet.
Neither of us had eaten anything today so we ordered 3 courses each (and had leftovers.) Everything was very very good; pricing was fair; service was friendly and lovely; Sangiovese by the glass was good. We had and much enjoyed from one-man-band Chef Ricardo:
-very generous app of cold octopus, w/ potato, olive paste and more.... Beautifully tender and flavors very well balanced.
-- mushroom and melted cheese and arugula crostini
--pasta with lamb ragu. Rich and filling
--canneloni filled w/ Italian fennel sausage and artichoke, in fontina fondue. Quite wonderful and relatively light, even if i do prefer my canneloni to have a marinara WITH a beschamel (or, in this case, its equivalent.)
-- veal saltimboca // Only thing we'd not order again, because of the unnoteworthy sauce
-- eggplant parm // When it arrived in a casserole covered w/ alot of marinara, I was concerned, but freshness and flavor were there. Melted cheese topping was surprisingly rubbery though. (The one time we went to Gran Gusto, i had the best (and crispiest ) eggplnt parm i've ever had in the states. gotta get back there for that)
We look forward to our next visit to l'Impasto. BTW, they don't take reservations, but from the phone calls i heard, headwaiter Ali told a number of local people to call just before they were coming so he could help get them seated.
Just wanted to throw some more love at L'Impasto. We went straight there after picking the in-laws up at the airport on Saturday night. Called when we were 15 minutes out and they held us a table. We shared a little bit of everything, the cioppino, pacheri with shellfish and chicken parm - all were quite excellent as usual. Only minor complaint is that the fried zucchini blossom was slightly over battered, but everything else about the dish worked. The bread was once again excellent.