Thursday, December 23, 2010

Thursty: Strega strays off the reservation

If you have friends who live in the North End, you know it can be hard to get them to travel outside the neighborhood for dinner or drinks. Why would they, with so many options like Italian favorite Strega nearby? Strega Waterfront, the ambitious new venture from owner Nick Varano, will at least draw them a little further south along the water. It’s already attracting the celebrity and athlete clientele for which Strega is known. 

The second location has more space. There’s also a gleaming modernist design feel to the room, with chic angles and contrasts of smooth stone, wood and light. The presence of the ICA looming in the near distance affects a sort of artsy gravitational pull.

“I feel like when people come to the new place, I don’t know if it’s the decor, they feel like they’re in an expensive place,” says head bartender LJ McKanas. “The whole perspective, if I can use a metaphor, it’s like the family is going from eating in the kitchen to eating in the dining room where they eat on special occasions.”

True to that high-end feel, the cocktails featured here tend toward the aspirational, flashy downtown Boston style. A few too many are of the flavored vodka persuasion, but they are made with care by McKanas and company. With so many herbal Italian liqueurs appearing in cocktails lately — Aperol, Cynar, Fernet, Maraschino and the like — working with these would seem to be a better, natural match to the hearty and rich, if pricey, Italian cooking. The wine list is extensive, with robust reds like the Terrabianca Campaccio Super Tuscan or the Elio Grasso “Gavarini “Nebbiolo standing out. It’s a good match for the vibe here.  

What he’s having

McKanas suggests the Santa Cristina Sangiovese ($10) for a more affordable wine-by-the-glass option. “It’s such a well-rounded wine, it’s great for people who come in as a group, as it will go with anyone’s palate. It’s a great party-starter wine.” 

Strega Waterfront
One Marina Park Drive, Boston, 617-345-3992 

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