Ever since hearing about this little Italian restaurant gem in the Boston neighborhood of Bay Village (yep, not the North End), I was intrigued to try it out. It had a bit of mystery to it since on their website there are no menu’s posted…at any time. The chef, delightfully known as Chuck, bases his dishes off of what is in season on that particular week. So the menu changes frequently. This was a bit unnerving for me, since I always love looking at a menu before going to a restaurant. It’s nice to have a game plan. But that feeling was quickly swept aside when I heard the good reviews about the food. I knew I would find something that I liked.
David and I went on the Saturday before Valentine’s Day and we were lucky to get a reservation at 6pm. When we arrived, the bar area was empty, but the dining room was filled to the brim. I was immediately charmed by the quaint corner location, but the inside looked like a cleaned up, spaced out basement living room. The tables were set up in rows of three and offered seating for groups of 2 or 4 (larger parties being accommodated by moving tables together). There were little plants of what appeared to be herbs on our tables and Home Depot style fans on the ceiling. It wasn’t exuding the charm that I thought would be present, given the outside. But I reserved my criticism, hoping that it would be the food that really stood out.
To start, for drinks, I had the 2010 Santa Tresa “Purato”, organic wine from Sicilia which was smooth with a slight bite to the back. Nice taste without the pucker-ness of too much tannins. Very nice. I enjoyed two glasses throughout the evening. David opted for their sweetest white. I’m not sure what he had but he seemed to enjoy it. They were also passing around Italian bread, which was so thick it reminded me of corn bread. Dense and delicious.
The service throughout the evening was slightly delayed, but I did notice the packed dining room and the bar area was starting to fill up. It never got to the point where we were tired of waiting, though. And of course, we just enjoyed each other company. It was nice, too, that even though the dining room was tight, we still felt that we could have a conversation without having to shout over people.
For our entrees, I ordered the roasted potato gnocchi with a ragu of wild boar and Fruilian spices. After placing our order, the server came by and placed two plates in front of us for our starters. Starters that we didn’t order. They were from the owners, Joan and Chuck. How nice! Placed in front of us were meatballs with sauce and speck with apples. (Since we weren’t expecting these, I did not write down the names from the menu). Both were delicious. The meatballs had the perfect consistency; not too crumbly, not too dry. And the sauce was a slight tomato-y pairing. The speck was something I had never tried before. After doing a bit of research, I found out that speck is like prosciutto in that it is made from the hind leg of the pig, but it’s boned before curing. It’s cold smoked and cured for 5 months. (How about that little nugget of knowledge! Thank you Wikipedia.) I loved wrapping the speck with the apple. It wasn’t too salty, tough or fatty. It was easy to down a few slices (or 4).
When our entree’s came, I noticed the slightly small sizes (for $24 & $26 each) but I again equated that to the high, fresh quality of the ingredients. The gnocchi was perfectly cooked and pillowy. The sauce wasn’t overwhelming and the wild boar had a slight spicy and gamey flavor to it. And there were generous amounts of parmesan cheese. It wasn’t hard at all for my plate to be wiped clean. I enjoyed every bite. David liked his tagliatelle, as well.
We perused the dessert menu but instead decided to head to Finale and bring dessert back to the room. Although the desserts did look amazing! When the waiter gave us the check he said that we just needed to provide a signature and a business card; the meal was on them. So unexpected and so nice of erbaluce. *And even though this dinner was complimentary, my opinions are honest and that of my own.*
If you happen to be staying in the theatre district or south end neighborhood of Boston, erbaluce is definitely a dining experience to have. Although next time, I might just sidle up to the bar and have a bit more of an atmosphere.
erbaluce is located at 69 Church St. in Boston