December's Can't-Miss Dish

By Ellen Bhang · 12/02/2019

Looking for a no-fail, mouthwatering, gonna-tell-your-friends-about-it plate? Each month, Boston Globe columnist Ellen Bhang highlights the dish you need to try right now—and something to sip alongside it. 

On the plate: Bucatini all’Amatriciana 

Where to find it: It’s impossible to imagine the stretch of Mass Ave between Porter Square and Harvard Square without Giulia. The seven-year-old Italian restaurant—where locals line up for bar seats before the doors open—is the establishment of chef-owner Michael Pagliarini. Housed in a cozy brick building, Giulia is a paean to handmade pastas and soulful wines. “It feels like one of those places that has always been there,” says the chef. The metal letters spelling out the eatery’s name above the entrance are already taking on the patina of age. 

Notes on the nosh: Bucatini all’Amatriciana, named for the central Italian town of Amatrice, showcases bucatini, a thick, hollow spaghetti made from durum semolina. The tubular pasta, enrobed in rich tomato sauce studded with pancetta and onion, arrives to the table sprinkled with pecorino. “This is the dish that started the pasta program for us,” says Pagliarini proudly. “It’s a perennial favorite.” 

A visit to Rome almost a decade ago provided ample inspiration. Pagliarini recounts how he hopped from one trattoria to another, comparing versions of classic dishes. Near Campo de’ Fiori, a piazza famous for its vegetable and flower vendors, he discovered a rendition of bucatini featuring nubbins of pork belly rendered in their own fat. “There were hot chewy pieces sizzling on top of the pasta, so that’s what we did,” says the chef. 

Sip alongside: Trevor William Martinez, general manager and beverage director, is pouring a chilled fizzy red from La Tollara, a family winery founded by three sisters in northeastern Italy’s Emilia-Romagna. The wine is a 2018 Gutturnio Frizzante ($14 a glass, $56 a bottle) crafted from barbera and croatina grapes. “With the bucatini, I look for something with a lot of fruit,” says Martinez. He loves how it provides a counterpoint to the salty pancetta and robustly tart sauce. “They got it right,” says the wine pro of the vintage. “It’s juicy but also high enough in acid to be refreshing.” 

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