As the sidewalks of Boylston Street were handed back to the City of Boston, the 617 area code is mustering the strength to power on (albeit prouder than ever). I feel that it’s no better time than to bring your hard-earned money to Boston. Eat, Sleep, Do! Let me help you with the first one: EAT! Cuz, we’re all about food, here, right? I have been sitting on this review for a couple of weeks… so here is my first of many tributes to the wonderful Boston eateries: Review of Giulia Restaurant.
Giulia Restaurant (www.giuliarestaurant.com)
1682 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
Serving dinner Monday-Saturday
It is hard to replicate “Italy” outside of, you know…Italy. Until now. Across the river in Cambridge, Giulia Restaurant allows you to travel to Italy without even digging out your passport. Mike Pagliarini, previously of Radius and Via Matta, along with his wife Pam Ralston, have created a piece of heaven in Giulia. Named after “Via Giulia” in Rome, where Mike and Pam decided to pursue their joint dream of creating, owning, and operating their own restaurant. They both endorse that perhaps the most time-consuming effort was finding the location. Location, location, location! After scouting out many locations, it was this location at 1682 Massachusetts Ave., smacked between Harvard and Porter Squares, that spoke to them. (FYI for locals: It was the same site as the now closed, Rafiki Bistro.) This place is so good, and so special, I will continue to venture across the Charles River to go to it!
As you enter the intimately lit Giulia, your senses become heightened. There are white flickering tea lights in clear shallow candle holders. The light ricochetes on the exposed brick wall (which the owners discovered during demolition). Your first encounter is with, typically, Pam herself, as she welcomes you to her home away from home.
The menu is more authentic than some restaurants in Florence, near the Duomo that have those English/Italian menus with American and Italian Flags on large tripod-sized menus. You know the ones I mean? Well, not this place. Giulia – from start to finish – is tastefully done. As Pam sweeps you to your table, you can feast your eyes on what everyone else is having. It’s hard to make a decision, and even harder after some of their delicious prosecco.
John and I started with an antipasto plate, which featured mortadella, soppressata, finocchiona and wild boar. These salty and smooth meats paired well with the robust Sangiovese that we were drinking by that point. For “primo” piatto, I had bucatini all’amatriciana. Bucatini-shaped pasta is hard to find. “Buco” meaning “hole” gives this pasta its unique shape, as it’s hollow, yet dense at the same time. John had the classic, pappardelle with wild boar, which I kept helping myself to. The portions were respectful of the fact that they were first courses. The homemade pastas were the perfect canvas for the flavorful, full-bodied sauces. After we nearly licked our plates clean, out came the bistecca alla fiorentina adorned with a grilled lemon and a garlicy salsa verde. I could have made a meal just of the salsa verde alone. It was, hands down, the BEST steak I have ever had. It easily feeds two people (so, split it!). If you get anything from this, “Try the bistecca alla fiorentina!”
To cap the evening, we split the chocolate terrine with toasted coconut gelato (yum) and salted almonds (yum). Because it was my birthday dinner, a candle was inserted in the terrine for an added touch. The coffees, served with cream and raw sugar, brought out the sweetness of the cocoa in the dessert. Never once did we feel rushed. It was a dining experience for sure. Giulia is booking far in advance, so you’ll need a reservation if you are planning on a table (vs. eating at the bar). Reservations can be made online by visiting Opentable.com or calling the restaurant directly.