Carroza – Pan toasted buffalo mozzarella, Red bell peppers, Baby spinach, Small tomatoes, Black olives, Capers
Insalata – Baby arugula, Poached pears, Parma prosciutto, Reggiano parmesan, Lemon
Zucca – Sweet potato ravioli, Reggiano parmesan, Brown butter, Sage, Amaretti
Spinaci – Baby spinach, Beets, Walnuts, Goat cheese, Raspberry vinaigrette
Zuppa – Garlic and black truffle soup, Parmesan, Toasted bread crumbs
Fonduta – Fontina cheese fondue, Beef tenderloin, Aged Balsamic, Truffle oil, Portobello mushrooms
Mare – Grilled calamari, White beans, Peppers, Greens, Lemon
Cavatelle – House prepared ricotta pasta, Sausage, Peas, Mushrooms, Pancetta, Cream
Osso Buco – Slow braised lamb, Stuffed red bell pepper, Braising sauce
Mattone – Pan roasted all natural chicken, Risotto, Wild Mushrooms, Chicken jus
Carne – Grilled beef tenderloin, Reggiano risotto, Asparagus, Red wine
Zafferano – Crab ravioli, Asparagus, Almonds, Saffron
Pettini – Pan roasted diver scallops “ravioli”, Leeks, Wild mushrooms, Arugula
Spaghetti – Meatballs & Grotto’s insanely fabulous tomato sauce
Gnocchi – Short ribs, Mushrooms, Gorgonzola
Antra – Apple stuffed duck breast, crispy leg, Prosciutto, Dried cherries, Potato gratin, Black truffle, Madeira
Cioccolato – Melting chocolate cake & Vanilla ice cream
Budino – Banana bread pudding, Caramel ice cream, Walnuts Panna Cotta Butterscotch “pudding”, Rum raisins, Soft whipped cream
Tre Ice cream – Vanilla, Chocolate, Caramel
Me: the mozzarella with spinach, the scallops, and the chocolate cake. Stealth Eater: the grilled squid, the chicken, and the chocolate cake. Miss M: the fondue, the duck, and the chocolate cake. Mr. K: the insalata, the duck and the chocolate cake. Miss M took pictures. We were all more than happy and seconds away from food coma by the end of the night.
First impressions? Small and cute. To get there, we walked past Boston Common and turned onto Bowdoin Street. Bowdoin Street is kind of interesting. It’s the Beacon Hill area, but it’s a bit more on the business side of the neighborhood than the residential side. At 7pm on a Monday, it’s a quiet street – you start to wonder if you’re in the right place. Grotto, marked by fairy lights around the entrance, is almost easy to miss with its small stairwell leading to a basement entrance. We walked in, and were all sort of in awe by its size – we thought it’d be a larger restaurant for some reason. Regardless of size, I think we all immediately liked it with its wooden tables, wall to wall red paint, and glowing chandeliers.
Thank goodness for reservations, I highly recommend making some if you want to dine here (it’s that small). We were seated almost immediately, tucked away in a corner, and given our menus (and after our order was taken, we were served with fresh bread and olives in olive oil – the bread reminded me of prezels except softer and spongier).
The restaurant week menu is pretty much Grotto’s normal menu, except with pricing changes, which meant that we had several dishes to pick from (see menu above). Everyone seemed pretty happy with their selections. M loved the fondue and K took a taste. They both thought it was amazing. I took a bite of my sister’s grilled squid – pretty good and much easier to eat than that one time I bought grilled squid at Russo’s (as much as I love Russo’s, that squid made me feel like I was eating some sort of kitchen cleaning solution). I really liked my first course – the mozzarella was sandwiched between something that was either bread or polenta (I couldn’t tell in the dim light and I don’t ever cook polenta). Under my mozzarella sandwich, was baby spinach drizzled with some sort of balsamic vinegar dressing. Oh, it was really delicious. It was special. I did my best to not make a mess, but alas! At least, my table companions aren’t sticklers for etiquette.
The second course? M and K kind of stared at their plates for a bit. M exclaimed “that’s the prosciutto?!”, not because there was anything wrong with it but because they did not skimp on the prosciutto. Not at all. They were like mini towers of prosciutto. (Actually, Grotto did not skimp on any of their plates.) Meanwhile, I worked on my dish. The scallops were presented in something vaguely looking like a sandwich (this explains why the word ravioli is in quotes). The top and bottom layer was a large round piece of pasta. In between, the scallops were topped with a lot of arugula, and the sandwich was surrounded by mushrooms (hmm, I couldn’t see or taste the leeks – the mushrooms were dominant). It was really good, but I think I liked my first course better. As I jokingly said to Stealth Eater, the first course put a little twinkle in my eyes. I think I like the chicken presentation best – the chicken sat on top a bed of mushroom risotto, and had a little bouquet of thyme sticking up. Even though it was a lot of food, I think everyone finished their plates.
[edit from Miss M: “I was too busy eating to mention it, but that thing of prosciutto was actually the duck breast wrapped in prosciutto with apple inside. “]
And of course, we all picked chocolate for dessert. It’s hard to resist and hard to mess up at a fine restaurant. I had to leave my last bite of chocolate on my plate. It’s been two hours since I’ve been home, and I STILL feel like I’m going to explode. I feel a little sorry for that last little bite.
Overall, I’d be happy to recommend Grotto to anyone. Compared to Sel de la Terre (the Awesomesauce of Boston favorite), I guess I’d currently give Sel de la Terre five stars and Grotto four stars. Why? The food is excellent in either location, but the service at Sel de la Terre is very efficient. Your glass of water will never be empty. But if you’re looking for good food in a cozier setting, Grotto is probably the right place. It’s not the end of the world if I need to pour my own water from the large bottle the waitstaff dropped off. I’d love to go again.
Grotto, 37 Bowdoin Street, Boston, 617-227-3434, www.grottorestaurant.com