Monday, July 25, 2011

Al Fresco Dining at Rialto

In 1992 Esquire Magazine named Jody Adams one of America’s best young chefs to keep your eye on. Four years later Bon Apetit named Rialto one of the top 25 hotel restaurants in the country. In 1997 she won a James Beard Award. Clearly, people took Esquire's advice because that list goes on. And on. And present day, over fifteen years later, this amicable chef is still delighting restaurant goers and Charles Hotel visitors with her simple yet sophisticated approach to Italian cuisine. Inside, Rialto's peaceful dining room with sweeping gauze curtains and soothing color tones overlooks Harvard Square. It was here where I first experienced not only Jody's cooking by way of a three course lunch; but her warmth and generosity as a person and prowess as a chef through a demonstrative cooking class. This time around, I was joined by my friends Amy, Emily, Megan and Bianca for dinner on the terrace. Equally as relaxing, and relatively new to the scene (opened last spring) is the shaded outdoor space defined by an orange awning, those same wispy curtains and strands of small white light bulbs. We started off with cocktails, I ordered an Equinox ($11) Hayman’s Old Tom gin, Aperol, grapefruit & lemon bitters.Aperol is my latest go-to, this Italian Apertif delights with its presence in various cocktails both in taste and in presentation (that bright orange color, swoon!) In addition, we were greeted with a glass of bubbly poured by Rialto's Wine Director, Allie Foote. To eat this evening we shared a little bit of everything. The appetizers began with Lourdes’ Burrata ($15) served with pickled greens, sliced fava beans and spiced anchovy. I love the understated whimsy to the presentation, the colorful elements forming a little circus ring around the burrata.A salad appropriately named Simple Lettuce ($12) consisted of frisee and pickled melons coated lightly in a lemon chardonnay vinaigrette. I do think $12 seemed overpriced for a small salad, but I did enjoy this as a light starter. Once our waitress described the Cod Cheeks special, we quickly added that onto our order. Delicate batter encased morsels of fresh cod served with a creamy elevated tartar sauce, radishes and ramps, this was one of my favorites!
The Prosciutto di Parma ($16) was excellent, beholding a soft stinky blue cheese, arugula, thinly shaved beets and walnuts.Off the bar menu we couldn't pass up some Crispy Fried Calamari ($7) with your standard pepperoncini, lemon and olive oil.
I am so glad Bianca convinced us to order the Roasted Duck Sandwich ($12) loaded with Gruyère, gingered figs and hand cut fries. The fries are more like chips, but they are truly sensational, as is the sandwich. On the other hand, $12 was a pretty reasonable price for this sandwich, proving the bar menu extremely worth while if you're dining on a budget!
The chef sent out three complimentary side dishes. The first was Local Barley ($8) which I didn't care for - I guess I'm just not a huge barley fan?
However, I loved the Pan Seared Mushrooms ($8) flavored with herbs, shallots, white balsamic and served in the cutest mini cast iron cauldron.

I was also a fan of the Spring Vegetables ($8) which were cooked until tender in shallots and parsley.
Rialto's pasta dishes are remarkable. They are offered in half portions, ideal for those of us who like to sample and share. The Lobster Bucatini ($16/$30) is made with green and red tomatoes and seasoned with chilis and saffron.
The Orecchiette ($15/$28) has greens, garlic scapes and housemade sausage. The pastas embrace a delicate elegance and both prove incredibly satisfying.
You will want to linger over dessert at Rialto, where pairing fresh seasonal fruits with expertly constructed pastries and a dusting of nuts are the main focus. The Rhubarb Rose Meringue ($12) with pistachio and strawberry-rhubarb sorbet was a flawless example.
Sfogliatelle ($12) was sent out with the chef's compliments. The raspberry mint sorbet and pine nut sauce was a refreshingly unique combination.
The Summer Fruit Crostata ($12) with brandied blackberries and a peach ice cream to finish off the trio was equally as exciting.

Rialto proved tonight why it continues to stand out among a crowd, whether you narrow it down to the Harvard Square scene, broaden the scope to include Cambridge and Boston dining alike, or look to the vast category of Hotel Restaurants and Bars nationwide. As with my lunch and cooking class last November, I will fondly remember this summer evening on the patio!

Rialto on Urbanspoon

20 comments:

Fun and Fearless in Beantown said...

What a beautiful dinner! Your photographs look gorgeous and it looks like you're adapting to your new camera just fine!

MelissaNibbles said...

Delicious! I wish the universe would bottle the color of your drink and make it a nail polish.

Jaime @ La vie...J'aime said...

looks like a nice dinner! i have never been...the mushrooms look yummy.

kitchenmisfit said...

I'm a big fan of Rialto. Everything looks so good!

Bianca @ Confessions of a Chocoholic said...

It was so nice seeing you! That duck sandwich was so awesome and I'm glad you guys liked it too since it's my go-to Rialto order!

Jen said...

From here on out, I want to eat everything out of those mini cauldrons. Too cute.

Also, I love that you continuously drink beverages I've never heard of. I need to step out of my wine & beer comfort zone.

Everything looks delish and it's the perfect time of year for terrace dining!

Lizzy said...

Your pictures look so beautiful!!! I made Barley last night (haven't eaten it yet tho) and it was a bitch to cook- took an hour. I wonder if I will like it. I want to try that duck sandwich! Everything looks great : )

Michelle Collins said...

Everything looks spectacular!

In and Around Town said...

Looks like such a fun dinner with loads of great food - cod cheeks, who even knew they existed!

Boston Food Diary said...

Whoa- your photos are basically professional! Amazing! I love the reviews of this meal- it all sounds wonderful. That Proscuitto de Parma looks amazing!

very married said...

looks super yummy. i could definitely handle one of those cocktails about right now.

Meghan@travelwinedine said...

Your cocktail looks delicious. I am sad I missed that night!

Amber Blue Bird said...

everything looks really good especially the Orecchiette, that looks amazing

5 Star Foodie said...

Very tasty foods here, that rhubarb rose meringue looks spectacular!

Megan said...

Loved the orechiette... and those amazing desserts!

this free bird said...

I would have torn it up and down to the ground in this place.

Kerstin said...

What a meal! I'd especially love to try that duck sandwich - yum!

Emily @ A Cambridge Story said...

Looks like the Rebel is treating you wonderfully. This was such a fun dinner - I'm getting hungry just thinking about it.

Meesh said...

wow this looks awesome. i went to rialto for valentine's day last year and was totally underwhemeled. i guess its always better to order off the normal menu instead of prix fixes

Ché @ Knight at the Restaurant said...

I've wanted to go here since Jody Adams was on Top Chef Masters - I thought it was basically high end Italian, I had no idea the food is so inventive. Now I want to go there even more!