By Molly McDonough · 03/16/2017    South End · Italian · $$$

Unlike the Coppas and the Giulias of the world, this restaurant’s acronym of a name betrays no hint of its Italian-ness—nor does its airy, wood-floored, brick-walled interior. That’s a good thing; this is not the place to stumble into while searching for the ubiquitous Italian menu, the one you could recite without looking (head to the North End for that). Thank you, SRV, for reminding us that Italy is itself a mosaic of food traditions, each region and each village worthy of its own restaurant. Tonight you are not in “Italy” eating spaghetti-and-meatballs. You are in Veneto, in a “bacaro”—a place to sip wine and eat small plates.

Food from SRV

There will, however, be meatballs. Order some Polpette off the Cicchetti menu, and they’ll come in a tiny dish, ready to be plucked with toothpicks. Their soft, meaty insides enveloped by a deeply browned surface doused in tomato sauce and pecorino dust hint at the savoriness to come. With your meat-eating instincts ramped up, dig into a dish of Lamb Belly topped with rainbow carrot slices and a doughy crumble, with slices so fatty and generous you’ll forget you’re still in appetizer territory.

There’s only one thing better than succulent meat: succulent meat absorbed into homemade al dente pasta. Grain sourced from Four Star Farms in Northfield, Massachusetts, is milled in-house before being shaped into Venetian specialties like “bigoli,” a long udon-esque tube made with whole wheat and served in a buttery, sage-laced duck ragu. Like the best cooks in Italy, SRV’s chefs choose sauce ingredients judiciously and then pair the pasta to highlight them—like when the oxtail with celery root and leaves transforms house-made gnocchi into a pretty pile of celery-forward pillows.

Meatballs from SRV

And then there are the risottos. No risk of a gluey, mushy pile of rice here—expect just-crunchy-enough, just-starchy-enough masses that embody the virtues of their seasonally changing ingredients. The wine menu’s limited to Italian selections, but a glass of dark, bold Ripasso is all you need to wash down those umami-laden bites, until the post-meal grappa happens and you’re ready for the gondola to come and paddle you home.

Pasta from SRV

Patio alert: In summer, head to the back for a much-coveted outdoor area enclosed by brownstones and ivy.

In keeping with its bacaro vibe, SRV offers wines not only by the glass, but also by the ombra—a smaller 2.5-ounce pour (half the size of a regular glass).

While dinner stops by 11, Cicchetti are served until midnight—we love to stop by late-night and snack while drinking at the standing bar, bacaro-style.

Must Haves

  • No spaghetti needed for these gems to forever change your definition of a good meatball.

  • You can't go wrong with any of the several seasonal varieties always on offer.

  • For those who like to be surprised (pleasantly): a rotating $45 multicourse menu of small-yet-bold dishes.

Fun Fact

The acronym? It stands for the Serene Republic of Venice (or “Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia”), a city-state that existed in Venice and its surroundings from 697 to 1797.

Tastes of SRV

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

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