Location: Cambridge, MA
The Foodie: Recommends
Sooooo – It’s been a quiet month here on NicktheFoodie.com – but not for lack of eating. During this slow, cold month of January, your master of ceremonies has been patiently waiting to spring a deluge of fun filled food adventures on you.
In this short month of February, you will be magically swept off your feet to vicarious experiences of Italian dining in Cambridge, to our nation’s capital, and to the exotic culinary capital of Peru.
Let’s start with the first item on that list – Giulia.
After assembling a pretty impressive CV in Boston and Chi-town, former Via Matta Exec Chef Michael Pagliarini stepped out on his own to bring us a very solid upscale Italian joint. Thank you, Michael.
We managed to snag a table just a few short weeks after Giulia’s grand opening, and impressively the FOH (or Front of House for the laymen) were running the place like they’d been practicing with plastic kiddie toys and mannequins around the clock for a solid month before the first breathing customers arrived.
Which is to say, service was very attentive.
I could go on and on about an exposed brick interior and a “pasta table” while filling up this site with expertly-crafted photographs, but I will skip right to what you rely on me for – the food.
So enjoy my food blurb complete with poorly-taken smartphone snapshots:
Giulia has everything that an Italian expat nostalgic for the flavors of the motherland would want:
- House-made pastas rolled out with nice technique into lovely shapes such as pappardelle, fusilli, ravioli, orecciette, agnolotti and linguini
- A menu structured to facilitate several courses slowly devoured amongst family and free-flowing bottles of wine
- Dishes that prominently feature a range of beloved meats, that when sung in an operatic fashion, sound like a classic tragedy set in a salumeria: mortadella, soppressata, pancetta, lardo, prosciutto and Finocchiona (a version of Tuscan salami made with fennel seeds)
- The famous cheeses of Italia sprinkled, shaved, sliced, and diced up into your favorite dishes – think aged parmigiano, pecorino, ricotta, and grana.
I had the good fortune of sampling several delectable dishes here over a few courses – here are the highlights:
- Warm Semolina Cakes with Lardo – Soft little circular slices of love slathered in a substance that is the subject of every segment of food porn – yes, lardo. That thin layer of fat under the pig’s skin that is wonderfully herbed and melts like butter onto a warm slice of good bread.
- Pappardelle with Wild Boar – An amazing pasta dish from start to finish, this creation will meet and exceed every thought of mouth-watering anticipation once the order escapes your mouth and reaches the pen of your server. Beautifully thick strands of pasta with braised wild boar, seared black trumpet mushrooms, juniper, aged parmigiano and a little spicy heat bubbling up from below.
- Burrata – Another foodie buzz word that features prominently into full-length foldouts in Bon Appétit magazines and winds up posted on your favorite chef’s locker. That cream-filled mozzarella-like cheese is served up at Giulia with roasted peppers, pine nuts, and golden raisins.
I left still dreaming about a few dishes that I’ll be back for like an Arnie flick: Veal medallion with umbrian lentils, cippolini and pomegranate saba, house-made lamb sausage with broccoli rabe, pepperonata, and gigante beans, and the classic bucatini all’amatriciana (consisting of house-cured pancetta, tomato, onion, pecorino and white wine).
My beefs with Giulia are few, but I feel that I must step up onto my all-important soapbox to air them into the cybersphere:
- Wine list is too aspirational. When the cheapest bottle starts at $55, you are missing out on a wide market of drinkers who are happy to slug down an excellent bottle priced at $35.
- The “Small Plates” phenomenon taken too far. The way Giulia is priced, you will be dining on a miniscule portion of excellently cooked food for the price of a heaping portion at other places. Unfortunately, I thus need to file this spot in my ‘special occasion’ folder next to other restaurants that I spring out when in the doghouse with me lady.
Overall – a fantastic food experience, which is undoubtedly the most important thing. But like any good Italian tragedy, we need a little drama thrown in to make life a little more juicy.