Five years ago Ventuno opened, replacing the old “21 Federal” restaurant with an elegant upscale Italian concept, created and managed by Scott Fraley along with chefs Gabriel Frasca and Amanda Lydon, who also run Straight Wharf restaurant. The Chef de Cuisine is Andrea Solimeo. In this time the restaurant has only gotten better, but maintaining its clever menu of Antipasti, Primi, Secondi, Contorni (for sharing), Table Morsels and Dolci (desserts).
Much of the restaurant is on the second floor, although there are some first floor tables and a bar as well. The relaxed elegance includes white tablecloths and lovely place settings and attentive service throughout the meal.
A lot of the appetizers and antipasti are large enough to be considered full courses, and as it happened we both ordered their delicious meatballs (polpette, $16) as an appetizer. These (shown above) are served in a tomato sauce with thin slices of pecorino and a sprig of basil. Three meatballs makes a pretty filling course, even though the menu classifies it as antipasti , it’s a good deal of tasty meatballs.
For our second course, we ordered the half-portion of pappardelle al sugo d’agnello or tomato braised lamb, with taggiasca olives, pecorino and marjoram ($19). The pappardelle was perfect for absorbing the lamb and tomato flavors, making an elegant dish.
Our other second course was a half portion of strozzapreti ($19), which is spicy chicken sausage with broccoli rabe and pecorino. This was moderately spicy and was enhanced by the generous serving of pecorino.
Just so you don’t think everything is a pasta dish at Ventuno, they also offer a fantastic piccata di capesanti e gamberi, or grilled Nantucket sea scallops and wild shrimp, with baby spinach, leeks, cauliflower, pine nuts, caperberry and lemon ($36). Order a small appetizer of salad if you order this one!
For dessert we sampled Bomboloncini ($12), consisting of bittersweet chocolate filled donuts, coffee gelato and chocolate sauce. Since there are two substantial donuts, you could split this one without feeling left out, but we noted they also offered Gianduja Semifreddo ($11) a chocolate cake, hazelnuts and a honey and bay leaf gelato which is pretty spectacular as well.
You are certainly not going to leave Ventuno hungry, and are likely to be more than satisfied with the more than imaginative food and excellent service. We try to get there every year!