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Pastoral: The newest restaurant in Fort Point neighborhood, South Boston

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Although familiar with the Seaport area of Boston and its flourishing restaurant scene, I was a newbie to the nearby Fort Point neighborhood, where Pastoral recently opened its doors. Literally.

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We parked, and then walked to 345 Congress St., past crowds of 20- and 30-somethings hanging out at a few bars along the way. We could see perfectly because these old buildings have garage-type doors that lift open to expose a welcoming atmosphere, weather-permitting. Fortunately, the weather was wonderful when we arrived to the open space entrance to the bustling bar at Pastoral. But wait, I wanted to enter in the actual restaurant entrance, where families and couples head after a day spent at the Children's Museum, or simply head for a night out indulging on dishes they couldn't possibly get anywhere else in town.

Yes, that's what Pastoral is all about: a large industrial space with exposed beams and kitchen with a 900-plus degree wood-fired oven from Naples that weighs three tons and is made from stone and sand from Mt. Vesuvius. It also cooks Clams Vongole, Spinach & Fontina, and Duck Sausage artisan pizzas in 90 seconds flat. The spring special is an uncured proscuitto pizza worth ordering. The menu is all about European farmland dishes and reminds me of days spent in Southwest France in the land where cassoulet was discovered, as well as Tuscany. Peasant food, yes, but delicious nonetheless. Off the hook, really.

In fact, Pastoral Owner/Chef Todd Winer has recently been certified by the VPN (Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana) as an official Pizzaiolo.Winer has decades of experience being at the helm of some of the county’s most recognizable restaurants including Boulevard in California, Charlie Palmer in NYC, Bobby Flay in NYC, the Metropolitan Restaurant Group in Boston, as well as holding the post of Executive Chef at several of Todd English’s restaurants across the world.

OK, so my first impression was that it was loud in the dining area, but the ambiance was really intriguing, especially the distressed window panes that connected to make a wall separating the bar scene. The artwork along the wall space is from Fort Point artists and for sale. Once the music was turned down a bit, I was able to hear our amazing waitress explain the cocktails and menu items at length.

Given that I felt like a walk through Europe's countryside, I ordered an Italian negroni di spagliato (Prosecco/campari/torrino) and it brought me right back to Italy. The duck sausage pizza was a great share item for our table, and it arrived pretty quickly (they can make 77 pizzas every 15 minutes in that oven). But wait! What is this? A wood-fired garlic knot...oh yes. And it was ordered with a salad to share. Once it arrived, we split the garlicky concoction of knotted dough that sat in a base of olive oil and was topped with Parmesan cheese and goodness in abundance of my favorite seasoning, and if I could have, I would have licked that cast-iron plate clean. It was that good.

According to Winer, his menu is all about simple ingredients added to a little fire to make it better. His preparation and plating of the veal and pork pojarski (check out the slide show for an image of this dish) is artful and well thought out, as well as out-of-the-box. It's basically a meatloaf wrapped in cow stomach lining, so if you enjoy tripe, order away! And don't forget about dessert. Using Winer's daughter's recipe, he'll gladly serve warmed chocolate chip cookies to end a perfect evening.

Owned by Chef Todd Winer and industry veteran George Lewis, Pastoral offers an entertaining and interactive dining scene for guests to enjoy delicious quality food and service. Pastoral is open daily for lunch, dinner, Sunday brunch, delivery, late-night dining and takeout. For reservations, visit www.pastoralfortpoint.com. Pastoral is located at 345 Congress Street, Fort Point, Boston, MA. For reservations, call 617-345-0005.

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