The Boston Phoenix
January 21 - 28, 1999

[Food Reviews]

| by restaurant | by cuisine | by location | hot links | food home |
| dining out archive | on the cheap archive | noshing & sipping archive | uncorked archive |

Osteria Rustico

Braving the lunch crowd near North Station

On the Cheap by Rob McKeown

Finding a half-decent downtown lunch spot is about as hard as finding a bikini on the E! channel. But finding somewhere with atmosphere -- well, that's a bit tougher. Enter Osteria Rustico, a bona fide restaurant by night (read: Italian wine list, $15 entrées, tabletop candles) and a madhouse -- a high-value madhouse -- by day.

With two dozen seats maximum, the battle for a table in these intensely orange-toned digs can be vicious, which makes snaring a window seat that much more satisfying. The unlucky, however, can still take solace in the dandy people-watching from every corner of the room.

Osteria's helpings of Italian-American classics are as heavy as they are heaping. Gnocchi ($8.50) are hearty and numerous, swimming in a brightly flavored tomato sauce and sealed off with mozzarella. Penne Boscaiola ($8.50), in a sauce so artery-cloggingly creamy you'd think it came from the '80s, is touched up with prosciutto and studded with wild mushrooms. Caesar salad ($4.50), though not the best in its class, is crunchy, fresh, and well-seasoned, while caprese ($4.50) is an admirable presentation of semi-beefy tomatoes and agreeably salty mozzarella. Oddly, Osteria fails what should be the yardstick of all Italian-American eateries: the Chicken Parm Sub Test. Their version, the Pollo ($5.50), is dry, skimpy, and worst of all, almost cheeseless. Even a window seat can't make up for that.

Osteria Rustico, located at 85 Canal Street, Boston, is open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and for dinner Thursday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Call (617) 742-8770 for information and free delivery.

The On the Cheap archive