Fine dining by the sea
Attentive service and beautiful views accompany Italian cuisine at Strega Waterfront
1 Marina Park Dr., Boston
When was the last time you ate at a restaurant alone? For that matter, when was the last time you went out alone, took a walk alone, or amused yourself alone? It seems to me that when people have fun, they go in duos, trios, quartets, a whole crowd. Those that dine solo are branded “forever alone” by society and self. However, recent failures in my love life have made the thought of dining company intolerable, so I recently decided to eat lunch alone at Strega Waterfront.
Perhaps the staff divined my secret purpose in visiting their restaurant — or perhaps I was dressed for some somber occasion in a black turtleneck dress — but I was treated quite well by the staff. I was seated quickly, at a table-for-two awkwardly placed by the side of a decorative arch. As it was restaurant week, they offered a three-course meal for lunch, which would not have been out of place as a dinner menu elsewhere.
The restaurant’s glass walls open to what would have been a lovely dockside view, had the day been clear and not grey. As the surrounding area is full of banks and office buildings, the clientele was mostly older professionals on lunch, quite different from the young atmosphere of Central Square. During the lunch rush, the restaurant was loud and bustling, but it gradually died down as the bankers and businessmen returned to their posts.
What did I do while waiting for my food to arrive, if I didn’t have a conversational partner? I had been planning on acting like an art student on vacation at the nearby Institute of Contemporary Art, so I had my sketchpad ready to draw the elegant knives. Without any company, my attention was focused on the food, especially the salty and crusty complementary bread, with flavorful olive oil on the side.
For my appetizer, I had chosen the rollatini di nico, an eggplant-wrapped ball of ricotta, spinach, and mozzarella drenched in tomato sauce. The food arrived almost as soon as I had ordered it, and was full of eggplant and tomato flavor, although it was slightly lukewarm. I suspect that it had been premade and then heated to order, but it was delicious nevertheless.
My main course was the porchetta, two tenderloin rounds rolled with ham and mushrooms. Since the tenderloin is a very lean cut of meat, it has a tendency to be dry when improperly prepared, but Strega’s tenderloins were as moist as could be expected. The well-salted gravy complemented the dollop of creamy mashed potatoes and spears of thick, yet tender, asparagus. I was initially unsure whether the bright yellow pepper on my plate was ornamental or edible, but it turned out to be sweet and non-spicy, like a tender young bell pepper.
Because of my indecision between the three desserts offered, the server gave me a plate of all three: tiramisu, chocolate and almond biscotti and pizzelle, and a cannolo. Their tiramisu was creamy and sweet, but without the promised “espresso” flavor. The almond biscotti tasted like an oatmeal raisin cookie minus the oatmeal and raisins, with a stronger cinnamon flavor than almond, and the chocolate version had a hint of cocoa. Although this would not have been a problem if I had gotten each desert separately, the delicate toasted vanilla of the pizzelle, a sweet Italian cracker, was drowned out by the stronger-flavored tiramisu. Hidden in the ricotta filling of the cannolo were chocolate chips, providing a textural contrast to the intense sweetness.
What truly makes the restaurant stand out to me was the attentive care given to its patrons. Although my water glass was smaller than those at other restaurants, it was constantly kept full. Between each course, a server would clean the crumbs off the table. It was so delightful to receive such wonderful service that I was tempted to leave a 50-dollar bill behind as tip. Alas, on my college student budget, I can only pretend to be rich.
I left Strega Waterfront full and happy, without having to make small talk or worry about splitting the bill. There’s something to be said for being alone; if only more people would embrace it!