Where: Giulia- 1682 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138
After reading about Giulia on one of those “hot new restaurant” lists, I quickly made a reservation to go with OZT. Excellent. I had a week to pine over the menu and figure out a tactic to convince her to share a few different items with me, which it turned out was just waiting for her to make the suggestion. Great minds think alike.
Giulia is conveniently (for me) located between Porter and Harvard Squares in the old space where Rafiki briefly lived. The layout is similar but with an additional built up seating area (watch your step), open kitchen, large pasta / dining table at the back and more rustic charm. Our server told us that if you walk by Giulia during the day around 3:30 you can peek in and see the chef making all the pasta from scratch on this big table. Not sure I could resist joining if I ever caught that.
We were quickly seated and greeted by our server. He poured over the menu describing half of the menu items in great detail while we stifled our giggles at explanations of fairly well known items like “lardo”.
“I still don’t understand this trend in restaurants to have the server describe each item on the menu in flowery detail. One or two items to point out fine, but if you don’t want me to read the menu for myself don’t give me one! I could have taken a nap in the time he took to finish!” – OZT.
After we were left to look over the menu, he came back and told us that he “didn’t want to previously tell us about this other item but is now ready to…”. Um, why didn’t he want to tell us before?! Did he think we weren’t worthy of knowing? Was he watching us to make sure we were sophisticated enough? Why was it some big secret?
We started with the Bruschetta with tuscan kale with house made ricotta and chilies. The bruschetta looked gorgeous with the deep green kale and bright white ricotta with little specks of chili oil. Sadly, the Bruschetta didn’t taste as vibrant as it looked – it was pretty bland. We couldn’t taste any heat, zing, or seasoning from the chilies. Nada. Salt helped a little but the Bruschetta were definitely missing something.
We then shared two pasta plates – the lobster agnolotti (umbrian truffles, chives and lobster brodetto) and pappardelle with wild boar (black trumpet, juniper and aged parmigiano), the latter being highly recommended by our server.
The lobster agnolotti, which were like little tortellinis, came out in a delicate broth and looked divine. I couldn’t wait to get in there so I started with this one before we did the midway swap. I was pretty disappointed to find that the lobster flavor was very, very mild. I likely wouldn’t have been able to distinguish the lobster in the pasta at all had it not been for the small pieces (2) of shell I came across.
We did the midway swap, and as soon my OZT took a bite of the lobster agnolotti she said that what she had started with, the pappardelle with wild boar, was definitely better. I couldn’t agree more. The pappardelle with wild boar was phenomenal. The pasta was perfect, the sauce rich but not heavy and boar salty and a touch gamey. Delicious. I would like another whole plate of that, please. I polished that off and then dug into the bread to get the rest of the sauce off the plate. This dish made up for the first two.
I wasn’t too bothered with getting dessert but why not? Boy am I glad we did. We split the Panna Cotta with madagascar vanilla bean, and poached quince and it was well worth the calories. The panna cotta was nice and firm and the vanilla tickled my senses before I could even take a bite. The quince, which I realize I know far too little about, was light and a perfect contrast to the dessert.
Overall, I’d go back to Giulia for a drink at the bar but I don’t think I would go back for dinner, at least not until they settle in and for a few months and work out a few of their kinks. Half of our meal was fantastic but the other half was lacking in flavor. The wait staff were a little too attentive which may just be growing pains, but you really don’t have to reach in front of us mid conversation to fill up our water glasses after each sip. I really wanted to love you, Giulia, but you didn’t give me much of a chance.