Feature

The 7 Hottest New Italian Restaurants in Boston

By Scott Kearnan  |  August 29, 2014

In Boston, the North End is often considered the epicenter of the Italian dining scene. And it is — but not all eateries are created equal, and for every awesome option (like these) there are some less-than-stellar spots sliding by on tourist dollars. For a side of buzz with your bucatini, you'll want to think outside the geographic box, and hit newcomers from Fort Point to Charlestown that have strong buzz and stronger menus. Here are some of the hottest that opened over the last year, plus one that we're excited to see on the horizon. 

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  • Credit: Vincent DeWitt

    Legal Oysteria

    The Boston-based Legal Sea Foods brand just opened the latest in its conceptual spin-offs. This Charlestown eatery takes its culinary cues from coastal regions of Italy. 

    Must-Try Dish: There's plenty of seafood (obviously), but Legal also retained the brick oven left behind by the space's former inhabitant, Todd English's original Olives. It's used for pizzas like the sopressata ($12), topped with stracciatella, banana peppers and a spicy red sauce. 

    Good to Know: In August, Oysteria launched a separate, weekend-only lunch menu available from 11 AM-4 PM. Cannoli pancakes, anyone?

    Where: 10 City Sq., Charlestown; 617-712-1988

  • Il Casale Cucina

    Chef Dante de Magistris chose historic Lexington to open this fresh-faced sibling to his five-year-old Belmont original. The 138-seat newcomer focuses on cuisine from Southern Italy, the region from which de Magistris' ancestors hail, and delves deep into his library of family recipes. 

    Must-Try Dish: "Neapolitan Street Food" receives its own corner of the menu, and includes noshes like the Panzarotti ($9), a potato croquette stuffed with smoked scamorza (an Italian cheese similar to mozzarella) and served with a roasted pepper sauce.

    Good to Know: In keeping with the spirit of the space, "family-style dinners" are available. Choose between the four-course "Fiat" ($45 per person) or six-course "Ferrari" ($60 per person).

    Where: 1727 Massachusetts Ave., Lexington; 781-538-5846

  • Parla

    Putting an Italian spin on the "speakeasy" concept (parla means "speak" in Italian), this North End newcomer aims to be a hip alternative to the neighborhood's traditional, red-sauce-driven old-world restaurants. 

    Must-Try Dish: Dig into flash-fried fresh burrata ($9) plated with red pepper purée, eggplant caponata and pistachio crumbs. For more ideas, check out our Cheat Sheet of what to eat, drink and expect.

    Good to Know: Ssh! Ask for the "Secret Menu," and you'll be graced with a by-request-only selection of additional cocktails at accommodating prices. 

    Where: 230 Hanover St.; 617-367-2824

  • Credit: Michael Young

    Pastoral

    Though it's housed in a brick former factory building in industrial Fort Point, Pastoral is inspired by the rustic, peasant-style cooking of the European (primarily Italian) countryside. Its big red oven is 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.

    Must-Try Dish: Slice into a lemon pizza ($15) topped with mozzarella, jalapeño, arugula and ultrathin slices of cured bonito.

    Good to Know: Like what you taste? Pastoral has an annexed market area that packages and sells chef Todd Winer's housemade sauces, pasta and more for all your home-cooking needs.

    Where: 345 Congress St.; 617-345-0005

  • M.C. Spiedo

    Culinary power couple (and Top Chef Masters alums) Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier made their foray into Boston with this regal restaurant at the Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel, where contemporary techniques explore the cookery of Renaissance-era Florence, Bologna and Venice. 

    Must-Try Dish: There's lots of hearty fare, including roasted meats. (Spiedo means "spit.") But lighter plates include one literally ripped from the history books: Leonardo's Notebook Salad ($9), composed of ingredients from an actual shopping list found in Da Vinci's notes. (For the record, that's garlic, fennel, lettuces and torn herbs with a fresh and light vinaigrette.) 

    Good to Know: Head here to stay updated on menus for Spiedo's Sunday "Supper Club," weekly 6 PM "feasts" that run $49 per person or $65 with wine pairings. 

    Where: 606 Congress St.; 617-476-5606

  • Ostra

    This sleek, luxe latest entry from Columbus Hospitality Group (the team behind Sorellina and Mistral, among others) focuses on contemporary, coastal Mediterranean. There are strong Italian leanings, but the menu encompasses elements of Spanish, French and even Eastern Mediterranean cuisine too; often, aspects of several combine in a single dish.

    Must-Try Dish: Seafood is the specialty, and the ricotta gnocchetti ($22) features Maine lobster with mushroom and shaved black truffle.   

    Good to Know: They're available in limited quantities, but if you can catch one, try the salt-crusted branzino ($90), a whole fish for two. 

    Where: 1 Charles St. S.; 617-421-1200

  • MAST'

    In the interest of what's "hot," we'll also nod to one of the most anticipated openings of the Fall: MAST', which will bring Southern Italian cuisine to Downtown. It bodes well that the kitchen will be under the command of Celio Pereira, a 17-year alum of the North End's Mamma Maria

    Must-Try Dish: We're excited to pull up a seat at the promised "pizza bar," and to sample Neapolitan street food like fried baby octopus.  

    Good to Know: The space, designed by HGTV personality Taniya Nayak (pictured), will bear some steampunk-style accents — and boast rentable lockers where guests can store bottles of scotch, wine and cordials. 

    Where: 45 Province St.