Summa Shines In North End Crowd
Published: Thursday, April 19, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
Purportedly, humans cannot effectively make decisions when given more than three options, which makes the North End a cacophony of bewildering culinary options. With so many restaurants in one area, competitively priced and almost uniformly delicious, how do you choose? There’s the regular that has been a staple for years, or the friend recommendation, or the newly opened. But being reckless patrons, we tried something completely radical and chose La Summa completely off of its online reviews (a risky venture, since the most frequent reviewers are the ones strongly biased, with starry eyes or hateful opinions).
Just off the busiest part of Hanover Street, La Summa is tucked away on Trent Street (with first right after Mike’s Pastry) but lacks none of the authenticity of the main strip Italian restaurants. The decor harks back to its Mediterranean origins with yellow-orange walls and beautiful sconces, creating a dim lighting that is relaxing after fighting your way through Hanover to get there. The finery of the place settings and the professionalism of the waiters foster the environment of a much higher-tier restaurant than prices suggest.
Beginning with the least expensive item on the menu, their bruschetta was one of the most delicious iterations of the classic Italian fare. La Summa chefs managed to keep the tomatoes almost entirely soft despite going in the oven with the lightly toasted and flavorful bread. Sometimes such a dish can be overly crunchy or doughy, masking the really flavorful interaction of the cheese and the tomato (since honestly, the bread is just a vehicle for that deliciousness), but this dish was worth getting more than one serving per person. A nice touch on the wait staff’s part was offering to order one slice per person in our party and charge accordingly, even though that wasn’t a number exactly divisible by their standard four-piece serving.
But the real test of any Italian venture is the pasta, and La Summa succeeded in all iterations. From flat pappardelle to stuffed ravioli to stringy linguine, all of La Summa’s main courses were artfully prepared and presented in a timely fashion (none of that Mediterranean lingering in their American adaptation). But more importantly, they were uniquely concocted. With so much competition, North End restaurants need a signature taste that fosters repeat patrons. The eggplant of the pappardelle e melanzane was so lightly breaded and carefully fried that it never overwhelmed the pasta, both coated in a savory red sauce that had the slightest spicy kick. Equally flavorful and very unique in its use of ingredients, the spinach gnocchi plate (a special that sadly is not always available for mass consumption) was a rare bread gnocchi that is lighter than its purist, potato-based relative.
The most difficult part of a meal is sectioning off part of your stomach for the dessert course, since it is a turning point between being perfectly satiated and being so full that the food loses some of its appeal. La Summa anticipates that many patrons will be closer to the latter end of the spectrum. The tiramisu was a bit too saccharine after the savory goodness of the main course, the ladyfingers nearly dripping with Kahlua. But, one of their less traditional deserts–the creme caramel–was absolutely spot-on. The caramel flavor was subtle, and the texture of the custard made it a dish for leisurely, thoughtful enjoyment.
As with many North End establishments, La Summa picked up quite a bit of business and became quite crowded by 6 p.m. Luckily, the restaurant does not pack its tables in closely nor hurry patrons through the meal, but a reservation would be a very good choice for any weekend night.