Cheat Sheet: Pastoral, Wood-Fired Pizza in Fort Point
The Gist: Pastoral is the first chef-owner venture from Todd Winer, a former executive chef at several Todd English restaurants most recently commanded the culinary for the Metropolitan restaurants. The menu of hearty, countryside-inspired and peasant-style dishes is comprised mainly of small plates and pizzas. The latter are fired in a glitzy red oven made with the ashes of Mount Vesuvius, and Pastoral is only the second Massachusetts restaurant currently certified by the U.S. and Canadian branch of the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, the international board governing authentic Neapolitan pizza-making.
The Vibe: The high-ceilinged industrial space is big and airy, filled with exposed pipes, polished concrete floors and brick walls adorned with rotating works from Fort Point's artist community. Light fixtures made of metal milk crates hang over rustic tables of reclaimed barn wood and cheerful, colorfully striped leather. The bar area, (barely) separated from the dining room by a wall of mismatched antique window frames, is lined with glistening copper tables. Two big garage doors roll up, letting in Spring (hurray!) breeze. Think: rural Americana by way of industrial Fort Point.
Eat This: Do not - we repeat, under penalty of deep regret - do not pass up the hot, wood fired bread knot stuffed with roasted garlic ($7.50) and sitting in a shallow pool of EVOO. (Beware: Not great for date nights.) From the small plates, octopus ($13) is a standout, served with a healthy helping of chickpeas, fingerling potatoes and orange that sweetened things up nicely. Pizzas were predictably awesome, with one of the best crusts we've had in a long time. We especially loved the lemon pizza ($15) topped with mozzarella, jalapeno, arugula and bonito; it was so wonderfully hot out of the oven, the thinly sliced cured fish roe still curled and cooked from the heat. If you get to Pastoral pronto, ask if the Forest Floor is still available. That special pie was topped with fiddlehead, taleggio, and devil's root, which had a fresh juniper-like flavor.
Drink This: Beer cocktails are a focus here, and we especially loved the Grano ($10), orange-infused Campari with Hoegaarden, and the eponymous Pastoral ($12), lambrusco with maraschino, Kasteel and cola.
Skip This: A duo of artichokes ($11) was probably the prettiest thing on the menu. And it tasted good too, if slightly understated; we wished the mint and orange flavors popped a bit more.
The Damage: Surprisingly affordable, especially given the generous portions. The "small" plates are quite sharable, and the pizzas price in the mid-teens. You and a pal could easily split two apps and then have your own pizzas for $30 each. Add booze to taste.
The Verdict: Pastoral actually delivers what pretty many new openings have been promising: excellent food, average (no, really) prices, and a fun, comfortable atmosphere. If you need a surefire people-pleaser for visiting out-of-towners, and want to introduce them to one of the city's most buzzing neighborhoods, this is your go-to. In fact, among the spate of recent Fort Point and Seaport openings, we think it might take the cake. And we didn't even try dessert.
Pastoral, 345 Congress St.; 617-345-0005