Restaurant Review: Umbria

Umbria – the city known as the “green heart of Italy” – is the inspiration for this eating establishment located in Boston’s Financial District. It was born on the platform of providing traditional Umbrian dishes, as well as simple, yet robust, cuisine.

The truth is, Umbria has oozing potential to be a first-class joint, yet our visit fell short of spectacular.

The dining room could be the pride of any savvy restauranteur. Exposed beams amid the high ceilings complement the brick and dark wood surroundings. The bar divides the room, with an open-concept kitchen off to one side. Tables are smartly clothed and lit with candles, and the ambiance is soft and romantic…minus the music…minus the patrons. The odd mix of elevator jazz, modern jazz, and 80s and 90s selections seemed to match the strange mix of clientele, from smartly dressed business people to tourists sporting jeans and baseball caps. Thank goodness for the stylishly clad (and good looking!) waiters, who did provide some of the best service in the city.

The starters were less than impressive. the petite wild mushroom crostata with balsamic capsicum and caramelized gorgonzola was excellent – a filo tartlette cooked to perfection infused with sage and marscapone. Yet we noticed a few domesticated mushrooms that make the m‚lange less than wild. The polpette di polenta offered a similar experience – warm, moist mounds of white polenta smothered in a spicy tomato-based stew entice the palate, only to be interrupted by the fat attached to the otherwise enjoyable submerged veal morsels.

Mains were a pleasant recovery. The lamb scottadito was a very healthy portion of two grilled chops, accompanied by a warm lentil salad and braised shank mixture. The au jus chops were succulent and cooked to perfection and the shank melted in the mouth. Homemade garlic crostini, which was lightly toasted, made the dish superior. The risotto was a similarly delectable experience, with morsels of tender lobster, peas, artichokes and mushrooms and a hint of parmesan. Steaming, flavorful and purely excellent.

Dessert was simple yet elegant. The budino di riso was a cake of firm caramelized rice infused with pumpkin and chunks of chocolate, and served with a spice cranberry coulis – perfect for the autumn weather. The goat cheese panna cotta was a grainy blend, surrounded by honey seared figs and a crisp biscuit dotted with rosemary. Truly soothing food for the winter soul.

The experience ended as we exited the restaurant and passed a large group of twenty-somethings dressed kill and heading for Umbria’s lounge above. Indeed, it has all the makings for a classy joint. Perhaps patience is a virtue? With time, this venue may mature and achieve its potential.

Dinner for two: ~$120 with wine
Address: 295 Franklin St
Boston, MA 02110
Phone: (617) 338-1000