Every Eataly aims to bring a taste of Italian culinary culture to cities around the world, but this month, only Boston’s branch is highlighting the subtlest of ingredients that diners often overlook: herbs.
The simplicity of Italian dishes at times leads people to think that the cuisine lacks variety, but the chefs at Eataly Boston combat this generalization with their rotating concept kitchen, La Cucina, located in the central La Piazza dining area. Every few months, the restaurant presents fresh culinary concepts to its visitors that draw from Italian culture. These concepts are completely unique to Eataly Boston. The restaurant’s chefs develop each menu over a month or two, combining seasonal ingredients to creates dishes that represent the flavors they intend to showcase.
L’Orto, the current pop-up, launched this month and will be open through June. L’Orto in La Cucina translates to “Herb Garden in the Kitchen,” emphasizing the menu’s focus on the versatility of various seasonal herbs. Chefs Sam de lo Santos and Rob Wing created this concept to highlight the use of herbs—including rosemary, parsley, ramps, and thyme—in simple dishes made with local and seasonal ingredients. The menu features many options to complement these subtle flavors, from shareable items to personal plates—including pasta and meat dishes, as well as cocktails that gracefully incorporate the herbs.
Most if not all of the dishes on L’Orto’s menu showcase ingredients produced during springtime in New England. With each concept, Eataly hopes to strengthen their connection to the Boston community. The chefs prepare fresh and seasonal local ingredients in their genuine Italian dishes that really showcase the culture and highlight their natural flavors, from a steak grilled to perfection accompanied by a charred lemon, octopus skewered with potatoes in a spicy Calabrian anchovy sauce spice called neonata, or triangoli—identical to ravioli but in the shape of a triangle—that are filled with ricotta in a light lemon butter sauce.
The simplicity of these dishes is not to be overlooked—if anything, one ought to admire the talent these chefs’ display in the mouthwatering dishes that combine the subtle flavors of incredibly fresh ingredients. L’Orto’s menu includes simple plates of vegetables, fried artichokes with fresh parsley and Pecorino Romano, and lemon ricotta on toasted bread with spring peas and prosciutto that provide the light flavors characteristic of springtime dishes as the season quickly approaches.
Not only is the food representative of spring, but the small decorations are reminiscent of the season too, as rays of sunlight beam around fake potted plants hanging upside down from the ceiling of Eataly’s La Piazza. La Piazza is set up in a way that the four counters—La Cucina, Crudo Di Mare, Enoteca, and Salumeria—are stationed in the corners of the room around a high-table seating area. Its design is inspired by the plazas in Italy, with various markets offering different products encompassing a lively and personal setting.
The pops of color in the decoration for this concept add additional liveliness to the already vibrant atmosphere in the monochromatic interior of La Piazza—with skylights allowing sunlight to naturally brighten the space, the bright green “herbs” hanging from the ceiling summoning spring and creating anticipation for this season of warmth and growth. Plus, the natural brightness creates optimal lighting for photos of the elegant plates.
The rotating menu in La Cucina aims to accentuate seasonal products from local distributors. Past concepts have engaged similarly seasonal ideas: Le Alpi served wintery dishes inspired comfort of the Alps, Campo de’ Fiori presented dishes inspired by a floral festival Rome, and Il Tartufo offered dishes that nearly all incorporated truffle. They reflect specific culinary staples from Italian culture—like herb gardens, Rome, and the Alps—in order to show the “breadth of Italian cuisine,” said Maya Vaidya, PR & communications associate for Eataly.
Since these pop-ups in La Cucina are unique to Eataly Boston and created by the Boston chefs independently from the restaurant’s other locations, they design menus that truly highlight local and seasonal ingredients. For months in advance of the pop-up launch, de lo Santos and Wing had been testing combinations of flavors in simple dishes that would show the versatility of herbs that one could grow in their own home garden. These chefs showcase their own culinary talent in the rotating concepts at La Cucina. Every few months, they hope to deepen their connection to the community by using local ingredients to expose Boston to the variety in Italian cuisine.
Featured Image By Mary Wilkie / Heights Editor