Haven't seen anything on this board about this new Italian restaurant (in Cambridge, between Harvard and Porter) since it opened a few weeks ago. Anyone been?
Went last night and it was full.
I enjoyed the house made sausage with white beans, spinach, and roasted peppers for my entree and a bruschetta with kale, garlic, and ricotta cheese for an appetizer.
I wanted a pasta dish for my entree but the menu is designed so that the pasta dishes are the second course of the meal.
I only had wine but the bartenders were measuring the cocktails and using fresh juices which is always a good sign.
I went on Friday night - it was full when we got there at around 9:30 - got two seats at the bar.
Started with the escarole hearts with radicchio, white beans, and orange anchovy vinaigrette* 10 - Really enjoyed the salad - good mix of bitter, tangy, salty - there were white anchovies on the salad that tasted a little fishy, and not in a good way, but we were none the worse for wear.
Then the tiny clams ‘in brodetto’ with pancetta, ceci, and spinach* 16 - small portion, maybe 8-9 truly tiny clams - good flavor, lots of broth, the pancetta was meaty.
Finally, we split the orecchiette ‘cacio e pepe’ (assorted peppercorns and grana-style cheeses)* 14 We were splitting everything - like Italian tapas - but we were warned that the portion size was small. It looked small, because of how the orecchiette spooned together, but it was fine. The pasta was more like shells than what I have had as orecchiette - they were thinner than orecchiette too. Could have used more black pepper, and I am not fully convinced that orecchiette is right pasta. But it was a good dish.
There were several offerings of wine by the glass, slanted to Italian naturally - I started with a Roman Coke, which had an amaro, some rum, lime - it was excellent.
Certainly had a much better experience in the space than at the prior incarnation, Rafiki.
Something about the place just sort of rubbed me the wrong way in total - ordered one thing and got a different thing. The fishy anchovies. The small portion of clams. A minor billing mistake on the bar tab (which I did not mention). Just a funny vibe. Not sure what the antennae were picking up. Probably nothing.
I went on Thursday night with a friend who had gone the previous week-end and couldn't wait to go back. We split the escarole salad as well; she had the wild boar pappardelle and raved about it, and I had the orecchiette, which I thought was perfect, although the portion was a bit skimpy for the price. For dessert, she had the special olive oil cake, which was very good, not dry as olive oil cake can be, and I had the panna cotta with poached quince, which was pure heaven. I did everything but lick the bowl. The chef came by to check on us while we were eating, and the waiter was very well-informed and chatty (he was hired from the Four Seasons, as he wanted to be somewhere "less corporate"). We liked the vibe. However, we also had a problem with the bar bill, which my friend pointed out and they just comped her second glass of wine. I'm certainly going back.
I went for an early dinner last week and was seriously disappointed. The service was bizarre -- we were rushed through the meal by just about everyone -- server, busser, manager -- even though it was a Wednesday at 6:00 and the restaurant was nearly empty. The server came to 'check' on us every two bites, and tried to clear everything before we were finished. She also asked us if we wanted anything else to drink about ten times, even though it was clear we did not. We ended up spending more than $100, but the server seemed annoyed that we weren't there to booze or have a 4-course meal.
Also, the food was fine but nothing special. We split several appetizers, pastas, and sides, and nothing stood out as great. A week later, I can barely remember what we ate.
I won't be back.
I've been twice in the past week. The first time we had the 5 course tasting, which was really just amazing: pastas and bay scallops were standouts, but everything was great and very creative. Went back for a light bite at the bar and ended up eating much more than intended, couldn't help ourselves. This deserves a fuller report, but for now I'll just say that it's absolutely a new top tier place, a very pleasant surprise, and we'll be back often.
Photo is from the final savory course of the tasting.