December's Can't-Miss Dish

Lumache with Wild Mushrooms at Tonino in Jamaica Plain
Credit: Chris McIntosh
By Ellen Bhang · 12/05/2022

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. 

 

Lumache, Wild Mushrooms, Roasted Garlic, Crème Fraîche

 

On the plate: Lumache, Wild Mushrooms, Roasted Garlic, Crème Fraîche  

Where to find it: When Claire Makley and Luke Fetbroth stepped inside the narrow, intimate space on Centre Street in Jamaica Plain, they knew exactly what kind of restaurant they would open there. “We’ve always said that the location dictates the concept,” Makley says. “And so while Boston certainly did not need another Italian restaurant, JP was missing that.” The former Little Dipper, and before that, Centre Street Cafe—a neighborhood mainstay—was just the place to do it.

Inspiration for an Italian-inspired concept was already top-of-mind. After returning from a trip to Italy in 2019, the duo couldn’t stop thinking about a meal they shared in Naples at a tiny, family-run establishment called Osteria Da Tonino. They loved the spot’s heartfelt cuisine, and how the server, despite the language barrier, made them feel right at home.

So when the opportunity arose to open a restaurant in their own JP neighborhood, in partnership with David Doyle and Mari Pérez-Alers, owners of nearby tapas eatery/record store Tres Gatos, Makley and Fetbroth jumped at the chance. In October, the business partners opened Tonino, a cozy 28-seat spot focused on pasta and pizza. Makley manages the front of the house, and Fetbroth is in charge of the kitchen.

Notes on the nosh: Fetbroth, whose extensive culinary CV includes Sarma, Giulia, and Moody’s Delicatessen, loves taking good ingredients and, in his words, “doing as little as possible with them.” So when you read “Lumache, Wild Mushrooms, Roasted Garlic, Crème Fraîche” on Tonino’s menu, you know exactly what will be doing the heavy-lifting.

Snail-shell-shaped pasta, crafted in-house from semolina flour, cradles a luscious sauce. Fetbroth roasts garlic low and slow to coax out the allium’s nutty sweetness, then adds a puree of the cloves to crème fraîche from Ronnybrook Farm Dairy in New York’s Hudson Valley. Maitake and oyster mushrooms, sourced from RI Mushroom Co., are dramatic to behold: “They’re organic and come in these giant honeycomb clusters the size of my hand,” Fetbroth says. He tosses the fungi with oil and salt, then roasts them in the pizza oven on fragrant sprigs of thyme. Makley theorizes why a vegetarian dish like this is so appetizing. “When mushrooms are prepared well, they have all of the meatiness and satisfaction of meat, but don’t sit as heavy in the stomach,” she says.

Sip alongside: A decidedly non-Italian beverage pairs winningly with the Lumache. Makley, who previously worked at O Ya, Hojoko, and The Koji Club, devotes a whole section of Tonino’s drinks list to sake, Japan’s beloved brewed rice beverage. “The reason that sake and Italian food go so well together is that sake starts with a savory ingredient—rice—rather than a sweet ingredient like grapes,” she explains, adding that sake’s inherent umami profile amplifies the flavors of mushrooms, cheese, and tomatoes. She encourages guests to ask for a taste, especially if they are new to pairing sake. Like all of the wines on the menu, you can sample any sake before committing to a full glass.

A sake called “The Seven Spearsmen,” crafted by Tomita Brewery, one of Japan’s oldest makers, is excellent with the mushroom pasta. “It has all of that earthy umami while still being elegant in mouthfeel, texture, and body,” Makley says. “And there’s still this presence of acidity that balances some of the fatty, creamy sauces—like in the lumache—while tapping into the umami of the mushrooms.”

Subscribe to our newsletter!

Sign up for our weekly newsletters for curated guides, can't-miss dishes, restaurant recommendations, and more.

Enter Email