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Ventuno: just as good as ever, if not better

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One of the nicest things about returning to Ventuno, as we did yesterday, is that you might be able to have that dish you really loved again. A lot of the menu remains unchanged from year to year, but there are a few additions as well as some nightly specials to try out as well. As before, the menu is divided into antipasti, and primi, either of which would make effective appetizers, secondi, which are large main course sized portions and contorni, small side dishes. Ventuno is at #21 on Federal St, replacing the venerable eponymous restaurant that closed several years go.

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After the four of us had studied the menu for a few moments, the waitress reminded us of their daily specials, including a delicious hand-pulled mozzarella, tomato and peach salad ($17). Unable to resist, we ordered it for the table and all shared it.

For appetizers, we ordered polpette (pork and beef meatballs) served with a delicious tomato sauce and thin slices of parmegiana cheese($14). This simple, but satisifying dish is one we always make sure someone orders: it’s good for both adults and youngsters. We also ordered formaggio fresco, a terrific salad made using fresh goat’s milk cheese, Bartlett’s zucchini, basil, arugula, griddled foccacia and a preserved orange relish ($15).

Three of our other first course selections came from the primi section of the menu and were all excellent. First was spaghetti alle vongole ($17), or spaghetti with littleneck clams, green garlic, chilies and toasted breadcrumbs. This delicious garlicky pasta set off the shelled clams wonderfully.

Someone also ordered another of our favorites, pappardelle con sugo di maialin ($17), pieces of roast suckling pig mixed with the large pappardelle noodles, topped with sliced parmigaino, cracklings and a bit of marjoram. This one is really terrific.

As a main course, we ordered the conchiglie alla norma ($17 or $32). Conchiglia is a shell-shaped pasta, but these were closer to spherical. As a vegetarian dish, this was truly marvelous, with fresh Bartlett’s tomatoes, eggplant, basil and house mozzarella.

The local fluke dish, passera in brood ($33) was tender, flavorful and imaginative, served on roasted faro, braised squid, a tomato fumetto, spring garlic toast and herbs. Probably the best flue preparation on the island, and definitely one we’d come back for.

And finally, our old favorite, piccata di capesanto e gamberei ($25), grilled Nantucket scallops and wild shrimp, cauliflower puree, pine nuts, caperberries and lemon. This one is not only delicious, it is gorgeous to contemplate on your plate.

We didn’t stay for dessert because the ice cream shop was calling, but we’d had a couple of them last year and recommend them highly.

Ventuno represents the best in high end Italian dining and is a restaurant you really shouldn’t miss.

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