Breakfast: Mon - Fri, 7 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.
177 Tremont Street, Boston
Lunch: Mon - Fri, 12 - 4 p.m.
Dinner: Wed - Sat, 5:30 -10 p.m.
Wine and beer only
All major credit cards
Handicap access: street level
A culinary trip to central Italy, without the plane fare
by Charlotte Bruce Harvey
Abruzzi sits right smack in the center of Italy, about midway down the
back of the calf. It's a mountainous, forbidding region, famous for its
food: peppers, figs, chickpeas, cheeses, sausages, fish. The vibrant
flavors of the region have earned its cooks a reputation as some of the
finest in Italy. Opened in 1990 by two Abruzzese women, Galleria
Italiana serves some of the most authentic Italian cooking in Boston.
On the unlikely stretch of Tremont Street that lies opposite the
Common, the restaurant suffers a bit from the lack of foot traffic, but
don't let that discourage you. Chefs Marisa Iocco, from Orsogna, Italy,
and Barbara Lynch (from Boston; she's cooked at Michela's, Olives,
Rocco's, and Figs) are producing earthy Italian food that's as
inspiring as it is simple.
The front of the restaurant is a wine
bar, Miss Kitty's Salon, a great spot for a quick assortment of
antipasti en route to a play or concert. But those with stronger hunger
pangs and more time on their hands should head for the grotto-like back
of the house.
A meal at Galleria Italiana starts with a small bowl
of olives - fat green ones, tiny Niçoise, buttery Kalamatas - in fruity
green olive oil. Also a bread basket that might include a salty peasant
bread and a couple of mild sourdough rolls. Since service tends to be
leisurely, ordering an antipasto or two and a bottle of wine is wise.
Only beer and wine are served - all Italian, all easy drinking, and all
inexpensive enough to match the food well.
The antipasti della casa
($8) was ideal to share, without a single ingredient that seemed
ordinary. On a recent night, it featured two thin, crisp crostini, one
slathered with creamy gorgonzola and then topped with pickled beets,
another with salty, briny tuna spread and deep-fried capers. Pickled
onions and hot little cherry-bomb peppers were served agrodolci - spicy
and vinegary and fruity. Eggplant came two ways: in a smooth, balanced,
sweet-sour caponata, and in luscious, satiny slices with crispy skin,
layered with fresh thyme, garlic, and olive oil.
Italy's interpretation of crêpes, and Galleria Italiana folded them
around a fresh corn-and-potato filling, then topped them with a warm
salad of grilled Silver Queen corn kernels and a rich white-truffle
sauce ($8) - pure comfort food. Spiedini di calamari ($7.50) were
tender and sweet brochettes of squid and roasted red onions, served in
a copper pan filled with garden peas, plum tomatoes, and big, crisp
crostini to soak up the sauce. Super-fresh tuna ($8.50) was seared rare
and coated with a black-olive paste, then sliced thin and paired with
two salads: frisée tossed with an olive vinaigrette, and a
Ligurian-style potato salad of red potatoes in a creamy aioli-like
Dining room staff recommended the riccioli ($12.50),
homemade macaroni made by wrapping squares of dough around a wooden
spoon handle. Although the pasta was fresh and light and the roasted
artichokes with it were meaty and full of flavor, the cream sauce
bordered on bland. More satisfying were the cappellacci, traditionally
ravioli stuffed with pumpkin. Galleria Italiana served a generous
plateful of oversized tortellini, filled to bursting with a savory
pumpkin purée, on a nutty sauce of browned butter and fresh sage.
Among the main courses, the brodetto Abruzzesi ($18.50) stood out: half
a lobster, cherrystone clams, and mussels in a rich, spicy broth of
tomatoes and seafood. In the center of the soup was a crispy deep-fried
Red snapper, too, juxtaposed the tastes and
textures of a deep-fried batter with a spicy lobster broth. Only this
time the fish (perfectly fried, delicate and sweet inside) came on a
mound of puréed parsnips, in a pool of broth with shrimp. ($18).
single veal shank ($17.50) was braised to a silky consistency in a
heavy ragú, intensely flavored with slow-cooked tomatoes and
caramelized carrots and onions and herbs. It came with a generous plate
of potato gnocchi, which made for a very dense, if delicious meal.
Roast lamb ($18) was incredibly flavorful, served well-done but still
moist and tender. Slices of the lamb towered on a pile of amazingly
crunchy roasted potatoes with wilted arugula.
Salads are perfection
at Galleria Italiana. The insalata mista ($4.75) contained tender, lacy
frisée and paper-thin shavings of fennel, tossed in a light balsamic
vinaigrette. Heavier, almost a cheese course with salad, was the
insalata quattro formaggi ($6) in which greens and thin slices of
celery were tossed in a lemon vinaigrette and topped with four cheeses
arranged like a pinwheel: dollops of custardy fresh ricotta and creamy
gorgonzola, and wedges of salty pecorino and taleggio.
Italiana offers two desserts. A single pear poached in barolo wine
($6.25) came in spicy currant-like wine syrup with a scoop of buttery
chocolate-hazelnut gelato and a drizzle of dark chocolate sauce - an
The Dolce Indulgio - sweet indulgence -
($6.25) had a man two tables down from us methodically scraping up the
sauce on his plate. We thought he was odd until we tasted it: a
flourless cake made with bittersweet chocolate and coffee, topped with
panna cotta. Translated "cooked cream," it's ambrosial stuff at
Galleria Italiana, the texture of sour cream, with a deep, barely sweet
flavor. The dessert comes with two sauces, dark chocolate and a light
Coffee, espresso and cappuccino were all excellent,
strong and dark and served in thick white coffee bowls. A request for
tea mystified a waiter and brought not-so-hot water and a Constant
Comment bag. But then, tea's not the rage in the Abruzzi.
atmosphere at Galleria Italiana is informal, jeans and ties in equal
numbers. The walls and floor are tiled with stone, so the sound level
can be high, but warm, sienna-toned photographs of Abruzzi and bright
splashes of color make the room inviting. Service was slow, though
friendly and helpful. Co-owner Rita D'Angelo McAlear, who manages the
front of the house, makes guests feel like she's welcoming them into
Parking is available in the lot behind the building,
accessible from both Boylston and Tremont streets.
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