Cambridge: Amelia's Trattoria

Let's Eat by Kitty Kaufman

hood We blow in from Sidney Street for dinner at Amelia's Trattoria just beyond Kendall Square. It's a good thing someone made a reservation. At 6 we get the last table. It's a gift having a small, authentic place in your neighborhood. If you're sans reservation, the bar works; you'll see into the kitchen watching the chefs putting it all together.

bread Even before the waiter comes: homesick. It's a New York vibe with bikes hitched to the railing, the brick and retail windows that open, but not tonight. I can't tell you why exactly but it's a state of mind with dark and cozy. I can almost see into the kitchen from here but not quite. There are seven tables and six bar seats. You might almost expect a singing waiter. No, there isn't a speck of room on Saturday as the wait line reaches into the night but it would fit. Oh, good, a basket of focaccia with olive oil and a bean dip that's sweet and spicy with chili or cumin maybe.

calamari I opt for calamari coddled with rice. You think it's going to be the usual: a heap of squid in peanuts or hot peppers with a side of red sauce. No, it's coaxed into a circle of lemon risotto with horseradish aioli that needs horse. It's the only time an appetizer, of calamari no less, turns out to be appetizer sized. The risotto and calamari are nicely crunchy. Though less is more, this needs salt. Which I would if there were salt on the table. (I commented on this to a server somewhere else as in, where is the salt? And he said, all you have to do is ask.) Really? Why are chefs insulted if you want salt? Or ketchup, heaven forbid. Is it the decorator's idea?

amelia greens Arugula salad is right for sharing. There are pears, gorgonzola and pecans under a citrus vinaigrette. It sits well with a generous pour of 2013 Umberto Cesari Moma Sangiovese that's rich but not expensive. The wine list here leans Italian with a touch of West Coast and hints of French and German. Which makes me think back to afternoon wine tastings, I miss them, with handy spit buckets, making it easy for a chef or wine school to choose the right wines without having to guess. No mystery, it's how it's done.

short ribs Braised short rib Bolognese with fusilli and shaved grana padano, similar to reggiano but more subtle, is apparently a signature dish. (I saw owner Rebecca Susi talk about it on Phantom Gourmet. In her husband Delio's bio, it says: "Anything he makes with braised short ribs is worth ordering.") I agree. The pasta's made right here and the dish is as rich and filling as you expect. It's being paired with Blue Moon that goes down easy. It doesn't seem huge but then it wasn't meant to be shared. I read the menu online and there are no prices. This is trying. Before we went, I was annoyed to find no numbers. Anyway, of everything I made notes on, price was not one. It is moderately expensive.

deesert The last of the Blue Moon goes down with tiramisu that's custardy, with whipped cream, mascarpone and rum. It would be a shame to miss this. If I remember, you'll find more than one dessert. On the catering menu I see classic meatballs, crab cakes, stuffed mushrooms and an Italian wedge salad with bacon and blue cheese. We don't need a holiday to celebrate so it could be time for an office party. Have it at your place or have it here. Amelia's starts lunch at 11 and goes right through dinner; they are closed Sundays.

Amelia's Trattoria
111 Harvard St
Cambridge, MA 02139
617. 868. 7600
© February 9, 2016 - Kitty Kaufman lives to eat. Find more adventures at Corporate Edge and Twitter
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