Cooking, Opinion, Reviews

Critical Seasoning

Aki Terasaki, Restaurant Critic

A monthly feature in The Harbus reviewing the most interesting bars and restaurants near HBS

The squares of Cambridge have always served as hubs for the local neighborhoods. To the west lies Harvard’s posh polish and to the east Kendall’s industrial gleam, but between them sits Central Square, the slightly grittier middle child. What Central lacks in sparkle, though, it makes up in its diverse array of culinary options. Viale, with its Italian-inspired menu designed by Chef Greg Reeves and co-owner Mark Young, reflects the square around it: dependable and comforting, if a little rough around the edges.

From the faintly sweet House Negroni to the more bracing lemon-infused House Aperitif, the light cocktail list will prepare your palate for what’s to come, but it might be more important to prepare your eyes—it seems that the food at Viale exhibits an inverse relationship between quality of preparation and presentation. Rarely does octopus have the same moist tenderness as potatoes, but when both are covered in the ugly (albeit delicious) grey sludge of a squid-ink aioli, it’s hard to tell which is which. Conversely, the fried cauliflower is a vision of golden crustiness, but it swims in enough butter to drown a small child.

More consistently successful are the handmade pastas, served in half or full sizes. The subtly spiced pimenton fettuccine is laden with tenderly poached chunks of lobster, while the perfect pillows of gnocchi cushion a hearty boar bolognese. Avoid the larger plates, which crumble in comparison to their sturdier al dente peers. When the braised lamb leg stew arrived, I wasn’t entirely sure if I had ordered meat or a pile of slowly disintegrating brown floss.

Fortunately, the amicable staff smile so much, constantly bringing water and bread, that you soon forget such missteps and focus on the inviting atmosphere instead. In fact, these factors, plus its reliably available reservations, have made Viale my default recommended date spot—warm, relaxed, with just enough excitement to keep it interesting. If only it were as easy to find a date with the same traits.

  • Viale—502 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge—
  • ** (Out of four stars)
  • $$ (Out of four dollar signs)

Aki Terasaki (HBS ’18) spent the last eight years satiating his appetite (and emptying his wallet) in the city of New York. Now he enjoys regaling anyone who will listen with tales of #startuplife and fulfilling the role of Section A’s Chief Snark Officer (unofficial title).

March 21, 2017

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