Sunday, October 14, 2012

Posto a Fine Addition to Somerville Dining Scene

Posto, which opened to wide acclaim in 2009 in Somerville’s Davis Square neighborhood (and was named one of Boston Magazine’s Top 50 restaurants in 2011), is an upscale wood fired Italian restaurant and pizza parlor that, for the most part, manages to achieve decent marks.

Three years after its opening, the lengthy lines forming outside at 9:30 in the evening are indicative of this bustling bistro’s ever-growing popularity. Posto’s floor plan works marvelously, including a sleek bar to the back left of the room with black wine racks adorning the walls, which give way to a most impressive site: a giant open kitchen where diners can view their meals being prepared by a team of chefs. The kitchen’s piece de resistance is an Italian wood burning oven in which neopolitan pizzas are cooked in excess of 850 degrees (Posto’s pies are the only ones locally with the distinction of being certified by the Verace Pizza Napoletana or VPN). There’s also a more private backroom area adjacent to the kitchen. Posto’s cathedral ceilings and acoustics however, make for a rather loud setting and challenging conversation (although our friends insist that Posto’s owners’ newer establishment, Painted Burro, is far worse in terms of noise level).

Appetizers open strong. While the Crisp Calamari ($7) are more soggy than crispy in texture and come with a disappointingly bland pine nut romesco sauce, the rosemary sea salt bread ($2.5), baked to order, is divine, salty-doughy goodness. My favorite dish of the evening consisted of a quartet of tender lamb meatballs ($6), the meat swimming in a unique goat cheese crema, sweetened by apricot mostarda and mint gremolata, and which packed a surprising, yet welcomed touch of heat which, our server responded when questioned, originated from a dash of chili flakes.

Entrees were also noteworthy, particularly Posto’s pasta dishes. I could easily have devoured the ultra-tender beef short rib with potato gnocchi, soaked in port wine and parmesan crema ($23), for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It came highly recommended by our server, and it was superb. Also impressive was the crab toretellini ($22) with squash puree. Like the aforementioned short rib dish, Posto does not skimp on meat or seafood when incorporating them into their pasta dishes. The Posto Steak Burger ($15) has been recognized on many critics’ lists as one of Boston’s best burgers, and the sandwich deserves such merit. The uber-tender meat, which has a nice char and is a juicy served medium rear, consists of a unique blend of quality meat - archer form short rib and sirloin. Plopped on a warm, buttery brioche bun and served with crispy sea salt fries, it’s upscale comfort food at its finest. Most disappointing, however, was Posto’s much hyped pizza. The porchetta ($18) pie consisted of San Marzano, fior di latte, Swiss chard, slow roasted pork, roasted garlic, and red onion. What sounded like a meat-lover’s paradise fell far short of expectations as a result of an overly doughy, chewy pizza with a limp base that made lifting/eating slices virtually impossible. The pork was also excessively dry. The pizza might be VPN certified, but perhaps Posto needs a Neopolitan chef to properly cook Neopolitan-quality pies in its oven?

Inventive cocktails were exceptionally prepared, particularly pumpkin spiced sangria ($8), which was light, refreshing, and just potent enough. Our server, upon ordering it, beamed, “It’s terrific. The owner actually ferments the pumpkin right here in our basement.” Other seasonal concoctions included a spiced apple martini with local apple cider ($9). Posto’s beer selection is narrow, yet interesting, ranging from a Peroni Nastro Azzuro from Milan, Italy ($5.50) to more local brews such as Somerville’s Happy Sol ($5.95). Posto’s wine selection is far more extensive, and it is refreshing to see an eatery offer these not only by the glass or bottle, but also by carafe (Posto also offers up entrees in half-portions as well).

While desserts were not as complex as the beverages, they did deliver intense flavor. An enormous slice of tiramisu blended with Taza chocolate is every bit as richly indulgent as it sounds, while a chocolate cherry torta (think of a really dense, slightly fudgy brownie) topped with Vin Santo soaked cherries is akin to eating a giant chocolate covered cherry cordial. It’s fantastic.

Service was excellent. Our waitress was extremely friendly (she instantly recognized the couple we dined with as regulars), polished (nary a wine or water glass was left unfilled), and knowledgeable of the menu (oh, how I wished I had taken her recommendation of the short rib dish over the pizza!).

Posto doesn’t knock all of its dishes out of the park, but for its reasonably priced cuisine, its hip, relaxed ambience, and great service, it’s definitely worth recommending.