Wedged between Porter and Harvard Squares in Cambridge, Giulia is Italian done right. The pastas are homemade and the fare is hearty, but you won’t find yourself weighed down with takeout containers (or struggling to move after overindulging in starch). The dishes can be split into half portions, in case you can’t decide between the Pappardelle with Wild Boar or the House-Made Lamb Sausage. If you’re needing an after-dinner lift, the Affogato is one of the best in town.
Italian food has never not been in demand, but Boston diners are now moving beyond red sauce thanks to restaurants that place a premium on freshness and innovation. Ahead, peruse four of our favorite new wave spots, plus one beloved red sauce joint—because who doesn’t love a good chicken parmigiana?
If you’re going to take creative liberties with a cuisine as beloved as Italian, you better know what you’re doing. Fortunately the team behind Pammy’s, a stunning spot between Central and Harvard Squares, most certainly does. The Lumache’s Bolognese sauce gains its heat from gochujang, while Thai papaya salad finds its way onto the Lamb Belly Piadina. Which isn’t to say that every dish yields surprises: a simple entree of Halibut with cannellini and fava beans represents rustic Italian at its best, while desserts (like a seasonal fruit crostada, if it’s available) are the ultimate in comfort-food perfection.
Nestled into a sleepy residential street in East Boston is Rino’s Place: a no-frills restaurant where red sauce dreams come true. Pollo Parmiggiana, homemade Lobster Ravioli, mozzarella-stuffed eggplant: All the greatest hits are here, perfectly executed sans complication and portioned to hearty excess. Just be aware that due to a no-reservations-under-six policy and a Guy Fieri shout-out (thanks, Guy), tables can be obscenely hard to snag.
SRV, a.k.a. “Serene Republic of Venice,” is bringing bacaro-style Venetian dining to the South End, one small plate at a time. The “Cicchetti” section of the menu provides bites like toothpick-skewered mini pork-and-beef meatballs or soft-boiled quail eggs, while a range of homemade pastas, from Squid Ink Bigoli to a goat’s milk ricotta-stuffed Tortelloni, ensures that no one leaves hungry. If all the options have you feeling overwhelmed, trust the chef and spring for the $45 per-person multi-course Arsenale menu that’s served to the entire table.
Coppa, a picture-perfect spot on a South End street corner, is the Italian trattoria as conceived by local chefs Jamie Bissonnette and Ken Oringer. Here pizzas can be topped with the likes of smoked bone marrow, and you’ll find sea urchin in the carbonara. Want to stick with a classic? Ask for an Italian Grinder and you’ll get a version that adheres to the old formula—but it’ll be made with outstandingly good house-cured meats. While the spot is a year-round hit, warmer weather brings sidewalk seating and Aperol Spritzes by the pitcher.