By Molly McDonough · 01/19/2017    Cambridge · Italian · $$$

There’s a sprawling phrase painted in white across Giulia’s brick and black walls: “quel che non ammazza ingrassa,” or, “that which doesn’t kill you makes you fatter.” No, it’s not that Nietzsche quote you’ve heard a million times—it’s a distinctly more Italian proverb, a reminder that everything is worth eating even if it’s not beautiful. It’s funny to see the phrase here, recalling a “nonna” wagging a wooden spoon (“mangia, mangia!”), when in reality it’s a guy with a bowtie and gelled hair delicately placing your ribbony pappardelle atop a perfectly set table.

Chicken liver mousse crostini from Giulia

But under the super-classy exterior there is a carnivorous realness to the dishes here. Courses of wild boar, lamb sausage, and chicken liver mousse deliver those deeply savory, buttery flavors that only rustic cuisine can. Don’t expect to be stuffed to the brim with starches; even delectable homemade pasta becomes more of a vehicle to sop up that long-simmered sauce, a bed for those braised meat morsels. And it’s all speckled with color: tiny chopped carrots, a chanterelle or two, abundant parsley.

Lamb sausage from Giulia

No surprise that the restaurants of Italy are the inspiration; it was on the tawny-walled, cobblestoned via Giulia in Rome that chef Michael Pagliarini and wife Pamela Ralston finally decided to open their own spot. Giulia’s launching in 2012 was a long time coming for the well-traveled Pagliarini, who had lived in France and then bounced around in acclaimed kitchens from Boston to Chicago before completing a stage under U.K.-based Heston Blumenthal.

That wordliness, that respect for the European tradition of long and hearty meals, is reflected in the menu here. While it isn’t your grandma’s favorite “Ay-talian” buffet spot, neither is Giulia a hipster regurgitation of Italian cuisine into tiny sharing plates. And that’s refreshing: To be full and wine-drunk from abundant dishes and generous pours of red satisfies just the right amount of our fattened, meaty instincts.

Dessert from Giulia

These aren’t small plates, but if you’re a table of two and want to share, Giulia will split dishes in half for you. Each “half size” feels like enough, especially if you’re getting two to three courses.

These days, tables are totally booked over a month in advance. Chance it on the early side, though, and you might just snag a bar seat.

Summer diners rejoice: Giulia serves excellent chilled reds.

Must Haves

  • Satiny-smooth and topped with a green tomato and cardamom jam.

  • Stewy, melt-in-your-mouth braised meat tops homemade pasta—exactly what a ragu should be.

  • This perfect “segundo” arrives alongside colorful accompaniments that change with the seasons.

  • You’ll never want a normal coffee again after this dreamy melting concoction of hazelnut gelato, espresso, Amaro Montenegro, and crispy crumbled cookies—“dolci,” “caffé,” and “digestivo” all in one.

Fun Fact

Before dumping it over your gelato, savor the Amaro Montenegro for a second. The liqueur, which is creeping into bar menus all over town, contains 40 different herbs and botanicals. Try to spot them. (Hint: rose petals, lavender, liquorice root, saffron, allspice, orange peel, black pepper . . . )

Tastes of Giulia

So good we can't stop writing about it. Read more about Giulia!

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