Though they hadn’t thought to open a second restaurant quite so soon, the partners pounced on the opportunity.
“I thought, well, I can either compete with myself or with someone else,” Perniece said.
Discussing their options, the pair saw a huge hole in Canton Street’s stellar lineup restaurants and made a savvy decision to fill it. Both had experience with and a fondness for Italian food, specifically the genuine cuisine found in Italy itself.
Thus was born Osteria Mattone, offering a regional Italian menu with a focus on the dishes found in and around Rome.
Inside the remodeled 1970s vintage house guests will find two dining areas, one less formal than the other, and a warm, welcoming bar area. A bevy of windows, cream-colored walls and pin lighting contribute to an open, airy feel. Woods in the interior design include hickory, cherry and heart pine reclaimed from their renovation of the other house for Table & Main.
An enclosed wine room, with an impressive array of bottles lining the glass walls, offers a private dining experience. Perniece recruited his brother, Danny, a talented sommelier, to oversee OM’s wine list.
A Sicilian Nero d’Avola immediately caught my eye on a recent visit, because it is rarely available by the glass. It is one of 18 reds and whites that can be served that way. A more comprehensive selection of regional Italian vintages as well as some from Europe, Australia and the United States is for sale by the bottle.
Additionally, the full bar sports sherry, ports, Madeira and several varieties of amari, an Italian liqueur prized not only for its subtle herbal flavors, but also its reputation as a digestive aid.
Of course, it’s the food that we expect to be the star, and executive chef Lahey does not disappoint. One word of explanation: Osteria Mattone is not the typical Italian-American red sauce joint that most folks are familiar with. The dishes on this menu, from the salads all the way to desserts, are more indicative of what can be found on tables in Italy.
That’s not to say that pasta is a no-show. Indeed, the kitchen turns out eight versions, either with house made or imported Italian noodles. Some, like the luxuriously rich spaghetti carbonara, are fairly well known to American palates.
Others, such as my favorite bucatini all’Amatriciana, are more unusual. A type of thicker, hollow spaghetti, bucatini is well suited to a hearty sauce, and Lahey’s is a fine example. The component I believe is most responsible for its bold and addicting flavor, other than an Italian chili pepper, is guarniciale, an unsmoked form of bacon made from pork cheeks.
Don’t look for chicken or eggplant parmesan, as this is not that type of menu. Instead, try grilled sea bass finished with a wood smoke, or roasted pork shoulder with fennel and rosemary. If you really want to surprise your taste buds, opt for the house’s chicken dish, a deceptively simple herbed roasted chicken that will knock your socks off with its moist, intense flavors.
Any visit to Osteria Mattone would be incomplete without one of pastry chef Micki Kimberly’s delectable creations. Her polenta cake deeply infused with lemon and lime juices and grated rinds accented by a scoop of espresso gelato is amazingly good. All desserts, including the gelatos, are made in house.
Open just a month, the restaurant is not yet serving lunch, but plans are in the works to start that service in February.
1095 Canton St.