Italian eateries may be a dime a dozen, but SRV, the new South End addition, is a welcome departure from the beaten path of red-and-white checkered tables and chianti bottle candleholders, says my culture and lifestyle correspondent, Michael C.
Oh great, another Italian restaurant in Boston! As if Cinquecento, La Motta’s and Stella, to name just three in the South End alone, aren’t enough. I always say that we need another Italian joint as much as we need another Greek one, complete with Ionian columns, the ubiquitous Greek Key on the wall and a statue of Hercules slaying the Hydra. In other words, we don’t.
Let me take that back. I’ll qualify my statement and clarify that, well, it depends on what kind of Italian we’re dealing with. Italian food has become such a broad and loose term it almost means nothing. There is, after all, a difference between chicken parm drenched in marinara and the authentic Italian fare (Venetian to be precise) offered at the Serene Republic of Venice, or SRV for brevity.
The food – dinner may start with decently-portioned – and priced – cicchetti (Italian for tapas or meze) that don’t leave you feeling ripped off at the palate or the pocket. These are creative, interesting and esthetically satisfying dishes, albeit on a menu peppered a little too liberally with esoteric Italian culinary terminology – you know, for the mandatory element of pomposity. After all, why bother dining out if you can just tell what every dish is comprised of without third party consultation, right? At SRV, the redeemer of this affectation is its purpose, namely to stimulate conversation between you and your server (in my experience, a very stylish, graceful and impeccably attentive young lady). The much-publicized fact that they mill their own flour is a nice touch that can actually be tasted in the outstanding pastas – this isn’t your college cafeteria spaghetti and whatever, I promise.
The ambience – the décor is more than just passable. It’s chic with the right amount of quirk. I liked the exposed brick (typically a little overdone these days), dotted with ceramic planters, although I would hang twice as many. I loved the pendant lights, seemingly made of repurposed crystal decanters and pitchers and was enamored with the tile-hardwood combo floor in the bar area, in my mind channeling the designer Paola Navone. I must say, however, that the color scheme left me longing for more. The velvet upholstery on the banquettes could have been forest green, rather than that ubiquitous steak house burgundy. But hey, you can’t have it all, can you. Overall, I liked it – a lot.
The bonus – even if I hadn’t enjoyed the food and space as much as I did, I’ll admit right now that a lot would have been forgiven on account of one specific feature that is really (and I mean really) up there in my books, namely the restaurant’s flawless acoustics. It was a full house, yet the place never felt loud. It was perfectly conducive to civilized conversation and the music, though unmistakably present, never intrusive or distracting. What a novel idea – rejoice! Now you can actually enjoy dinner and hold a conversation without screaming at the top of your lungs, as you have to at another South End hotspot with the worst acoustics ever – which of course will remain nameless 🙂
SRV – 569 Columbus Avenue, Boston, MA 02118
© Michael Constantinides 2016 – all rights reserved