Tucked away into the quaint Beacon Hill façade is the little Italian restaurant, Grotto. Grotto, meaning cave, is a perfect name for the eatery, as it is slipped right beneath the sidewalk and can be easily missed to any passerby. The small row of windows on the exterior are decorated with displays of culinary excellence and seasonal décor, while the bright sign catches your interest. The ambiance inside Grotto is dark, dimmed, and very tiny, elements that succeed in resembling a small hidden trattoria in Florence or Trastevere in Roma. The tables are close together, with a few roomier booths scattered along the walls. For a small space, one would expect a noisy experience, but that is thankfully not the case at Grotto. If you’re looking for a typical Italian dining experience like Davio’s, Grotto might not fit in with other options. Here you’ll find a much more sophisticated atmosphere that appeals to foodies willing to try a new environment.
The overall dining experience was positive. The menu is simple and not too complicated, which is great for those who may get overwhelmed by restaurants with page after page of countless menu items. Grotto’s offerings featured choices from primi, to pasta, to carne. My desire to try a little bit of everything coupled with the tasty plates descried on the menu left me with tempting incentives to return, wanting to try items like the crab ravioli primi and fonduta. The wine list on the contrary is extensive and expensive, with the by-the-glass section being a little more modest and smaller… a good option for anyone not wanting to break the bank. I ordered a 10 oz glass of a Sicilian Nero D’Avola ($14) and my guest ordered a 10oz glass of Montepulciano ($14). This was my first time tasting a D’Avola, and I could distinctly smell and taste it’s qualities. A strong, bitter, sour taste, and a harsher aroma than the Montepulciano which was creamer, smoother, and more gentle. A sweet hint to the generous serving of table olive oil was certainly a surprise and well-liked component to the dinner. I ordered the Pasta Bolognese ($21) and my guest the Anatra ($26) which was an apple stuffed duck breast and crispy duck leg, wrapped in prosciutto, served with potato gratin and drizzled with black truffle aioli. The Bolognese was made with fresh pasta, making the dish lighter and the sauce was a combination of pork, lamb, and beef making it flavorful with every bite. This Bolognese differed from a traditional recipe; the sauce was creamier, resembling more of a alla vodka sauce. The balance between both sauces made it delectable and will have any pasta-lover licking the bowl. A very classic choice, that was tasty.
Our service was mid-range. The staff was attentive in refilling water glasses, but the attention from the wait staff was not as strong. However, much of the service in Florence and Italy is extremely comparable. The level of service expected compared between Italy and the United States is absolutely a cultural difference that one would only understand by spending time eating out in both locations. The mediocre service is a strong reason why I am not jumping for joy and recommending an immediate trip to Grotto. It was a pleasant dinner, good, well-made and presented food, but it was missing a distinctive dining component. Grotto came up short by not offering antipasto platters featuring meats and cheeses, which are one of my favorite components to any Italian meal. Perhaps another reason for my reservation with this restaurant is also that I did order a safe and simple Bolognese, and didn’t risk trying the Ricotta Gnudi instead. In any case, Grotto could have been more memorable. It is worth another go, but not before I try some other gems in the area first.
Grotto, 37 Bowdoin St, Boston, MA 02114. Website: grottorestaurant.com Phone: (617) 227-3434
TripAdvisor Rating: ★★★★★ #107/2,671 of Restaurants in Boston. $$$