The last stop on my Chef Schlow list is Alta Strada in Wellesley MA. I tried Radius for Restaurant Week a few years ago, Via Matta is one of my favorite (expensive) Italian spots, Tico is perfect for cocktails & small plates, and my recent trip to Happy’s wasn’t bad (although I think it needs work). Out of all of Schlow’s concepts I think Alta Strada fits me perfectly.
Bread: A think slice of bread that could have served at least four people was brought to our table as EVOO was poured into a shallow dish. It tasted fresh and I would have eaten the entire piece but we had quite a bit of food on the table already. Our Antipasti were served first and we were then asked if we wanted bread, which I thought was smart b/c not everyone wants that much food.
Menu: The Antipasti Table (where you can select 1 for $6, 3 for $15, or 5 for $24 – all served at room temperature) Primi, Salads, Pizza, Pasta, Secondi. I was having a hard time deciding; I wanted to try some Antipasti, but a few of the Primi selections looked amazing (Lobster & Watermelon with English Cucumber, Basil & Citrus), and the fact that they offered ½ portions of pasta didn’t help! Not to mention the Famous Chopped Salad with Matteo’s Secret Dressing also sounded excellent.
Roasted Cauliflower, Pine Nuts, Golden Raisins
I feel like people are quick to dismiss cauliflower, and sure it’s bland on its own, but it’s very rarely prepared that way. This Antipasto had a nutty flavor from the pine nuts and a sweet component from the golden raisins. Light & tasty. I’m looking forward to the leftovers 🙂
Homemade Ricotta with Crostini
A generous portion of ricotta was topped with red pepper flakes, black pepper & EVOO and served with 2 oil-brushed and toasted crostini. After the crostini was gone I spread the ricotta on the fresh bread which was even better! Really can’t go wrong with ricotta.
Spicy Green Beans with Prosciutto
I only had a few bites but these were as good as green beans can be. Nice and crispy, and plenty of small bits of prosciutto at the bottom.
Spicy Chitarra with Lobster, Shrimp, Tomato and Basil
It was between this ½ portion and the Famous Chopped Salad with its not-so-secret dressing of lemon and cayenne pepper, but I’m really glad I chose this dish. Chitarra pasta is typically cut with guitar-like chords creating long stringy pasta which held this thin spicy sauce well. This dish had a bit of a kick but wasn’t too spicy (perfect for me), and there were a few pieces each of the lobster and shrimp.
Bathroom: Both the men’s and women’s restroom were labeled with an “M” and “W” on a motorcycle headlight. I expected the inside to have more character but it was pretty plain with 2 stalls and one bold red wall.
Service: Gina was trying to decide between the Tagliatelle with Summer Corn, Mushrooms and Pancetta, and the Raviolis. She ordered the tagliatelle but the server also brought out a small portion of the Mushroom Filled Lune pasta dish for us to try! I’m generally not a mushroom fan but I can’t deny that some varieties have an amazing flavor. If you happen to like mushrooms you’d love this pasta dish.
Besides that lovely surprise, our server was really great. As we were 1st time diners he described the entire menu to us, explaining certain dishes and the names/types of the pasta offered. The manager checked in on us as well which you don’t always see.
Overall: So I’ve completed the Michael Schlow list and I can honestly now say that my overall favorite is Alta Strada! While Happy’s may be considered the most casual of the 5 restaurants, Alta Strada is the most comfortable, consistent, and the menu is right up my ally. The food is top notch with perfect portions, and the atmosphere is sophisticated casual and modern with an open dining room complete with brick walls, earth tones with pops of red and lime green, and chalk boards hung above a long bar. The typically 20 minute ride from Boston took me an hour with rush hour traffic but it was totally worth the drive.
And if you live/work in the area think about visiting the Alta Strada Market on the basement level which sells lunch items and to-go containers of almost everything they have on the menu!
The Perfect Bite: Chitarra pasta with a forkful of lobster meat.
For more photos & descriptions of what everyone in my party ate, visit my Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/ThePerfectBiteBoston