Through its 20-year history and persevering through the pandemic, Tartufo Restaurant—a two-story operation in Newton Centre painted an inviting yellow color—has served the community when it needed the most.
Tartufo, a fine-dining Italian restaurant, features authentic cuisine from the Abruzzo region of the Italian coast. This unique cuisine, which features plenty of seafood, sets it apart from other Italian restaurants, according to co-owner Ted Mountzuris, who also runs the operations of the restaurant.
“It’s not your basic lasagna and chicken parm kind of place, although we do offer that,” Mountzuris said.
The restaurant, which opened in the spring of 2004, has stayed in the same location over nearly two decades. Its long-standing presence in the community makes the restaurant stand out, according to Mountzuris.
He added that the restaurant’s location—much more convenient for Newtonians than traveling all the way to Boston’s North End—is another bonus, allowing the eatery to provide quality Italian cuisine in a local setting.
The name Tartufo is based on a rare truffle mushroom only found in the Abruzzo region of Italy, Mountzuris said. From the veal chop to pappardelle al tartufo to various seafood options, the restaurant uses the truffle in many of its dishes.
One of the business’ original partners was from the region but is no longer affiliated with Tartufo, according to Mountzuris. The restaurant ofen hires chefs from Abruzzo in order to embrace the cuisine and the tradition, Mountzuris said.
Mountzuris and his wife, Anna Mountzuris, are co-owners of the restaurant, as well as a few other restaurants in the area. While they are from Newburyport, not Newton, Mountzuris still emphasized the importance of the restaurant’s location and its proximity to Boston College.
Mountzuris said the restaurant—only a 20 minute walk from Upper Campus—is especially convenient for BC students.
When dining, guests have two different seating options. The upstairs of the restaurant is more elegant, featuring chandeliers and large windows accented by golden drapes.
In the newly renovated downstairs portion of the restaurant, customers can sit at an expansive bar or at elegant tables featuring white table cloths, folded napkins, and wine bottles. Mirrors on the walls make the dining room seem bigger and more modern.
“We’ve had customers that have been coming here for the past 18 years, and they noticed the change and said, ‘Wow, it looks like I am walking into a totally different restaurant,’” Mountzuris said. “It’s kind of cool that we were able to upgrade the downstairs but yet still keep that elegant, fancy upstairs look, too.”
Guests can enjoy warm rolls of bread while browsing the menu, and a quiet ambiance fosters conversation.
Two old friends enjoyed a meal at the bar before going to a Celtics playoff game on a Wednesday night. Leo Power, a Chestnut Hill resident and BC ’89, and Bill Heard, a resident of the nearby Needham, are regular customers, and they said Tartufo’s food and atmosphere keep them coming back.
“We rotate around, but I like to mix it up and try the seafood and chicken parm and risotto,” Power said. “I love that they have so many great dishes that I always have trouble trying to decide what I want.”
The classic chicken parm comes in a large portion and includes rigatoni pasta covered in tomato-basil sauce. The chicken is perfectly crunchy on the outside, and the sauce and cheese combination melts in the mouth.
The portion is big enough to have some leftover food to take home and enjoy the next day.
Though the interior of the restaurant was closed during the peak months of the COVID-19 pandemic, Tartufo adapted and provided take-out options. Consistent customers continued to enjoy their favorite food from Tartufo and also brought in a new customer base, according to Mountzuris.
Without changing its food options, the restaurant lowered its prices during the COVID-19 pandemic, Mountzuris said.
This flexibility and commitment to community allowed for the restaurant to not only survive but thrive as the pandemic has subsided.
“People that would never think about getting takeout from the restaurant are now doing that—and not only doing it, but doing it at a high volume,” Mountzuris said. “So it actually, in my opinion, worked out well in the end.”
In its 18 years of existence, Tartufo has had just one change in ownership, and it has always been involved in the Newton community.
“We’re always looking for community events where we can give back,” Mountzuris said. “We don’t want to be that establishment where we’re only receiving. We always want to give back.”
From the authentic Abruzzese food to the fine-dining interior to affordable takeout options, there is something for everyone to enjoy at Tartufo.
“And I think that we are very fortunate to be able to be considered very important—a staple if you will—for this community,” Mountzuris said.
Tartufo Restaurant, located at 22 Union St., is open for lunch Monday-Saturday from 11:30 a.m. until 3:45 p.m. It is open for dinner Monday-Sunday from 4:00 p.m. until 10 p.m.