Scene Magazine: SRV Review

We are seated at a marble topped table in the rustic-contemporary dining room of SRV, the South End’s newest offering, located at 569 Columbus Avenue. Fresh from the Pitti Immagine Uomo exhibit in Florence, my husband, Andrew, and our guest for the evening, Joey Glazer, pause before opening the menu to soak in the ambiance. Joey, a fashion consultant for the Italian design-house Castangia, explains the Italian penchant for combining the old with the new in everything from fashion to dining. SRV is no exception; here traditional Venetian fare is updated with a modern twist, blending flawlessly with the rustic-meets-contemporary decor.

    A sucker for blended design, I eagerly survey the room. Soft, recessed lighting illuminates a rustic rope wine rack filled with alluring vintages suspended above a plush high-backed bench running along the exposed brick wall. The industrial open ceilings, fresh neutral walls and dark reclaimed-wood floors viewed through wide, black-framed, floor to ceiling windows draw the attention of the neighborhood’s eclectic passerby as they walk down Columbus. Joey remarks on how the turning heads make SRV feel both exclusive and accessible--and I couldn’t agree more. The music permeating the dining room is an ideal compliment to the restaurant's hip, relaxed atmosphere with smooth, contemporary jazz tracks like Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie” mixing with classics like Etta James’s “At Last.”   

    After placing an order off the Cicchetti menu, our meal begins with a toast--Aperol Spritz of course--to my companions’ successful trip to Florence. Pitti Immagine Uomo (Men’s Fashion Collections) is a renowned exhibition dedicated to promoting the men’s fashion industry worldwide. This year marked my husband’s first Pitti, an experience he describes as exhilarating, exhausting, and inspiring. Joey jokes that he is a “Pitti Pro,” causing Andrew to name his Italian heritage an unfair advantage.

Their good-natured banter is interrupted by the arrival of our first course. We assemble our plates with selections from each dish, commenting on the artful presentation. I take a bite of the polpette--a perfectly sized meatball blended with pork and beef--that melts in my mouth. My husband and Joey are similarly enjoying the baccala mantecato and scallop crudo, praising the quality and freshness of the ingredients.

Our conversation turns to discussing Italy itself, a subject I have not yet personally experienced. Both Joey and my husband agree that while many Italian cities have adapted to modern times, they take care to retain their traditional integrity. The same can be said of SRV; though opened a mere three weeks ago, the space feels timeless. Unsurprisingly, co-owners and co-executive chefs Kevin O'Donnell and Michael Lombardi have trained in kitchens across Italy, allowing them to imbue their food with passion, tradition, and modernity.

As if on cue, our orders off the Piatti menu are delivered: vongole alla pescatora, duck breast, and dry aged beef. While each are delicious, I particularly enjoy the duck breast; tender, buttery, and cooked to a perfect medium rare, the duck rests on top a bed of expertly seasoned cavolo sofegao, salsify, and black garlic. Andrew--a steak aficionado--favors the dry aged beef presented atop roasted cipollini, brassicas, and bagna cauda. Not to be outdone, Joey demonstrates his satisfaction with the vongole alla pescatora by clearing his plate in record time.

I am feeling quite full when my interest is sparked by the arrival of our choices off the Grani menu, which include: a traditional gnocchi made with tender lamb neck, kalette, and a creamy yogurt, a unique casunziei filled with beet and ricotta puree, and a surprisingly black dish aptly named “squid ink” risotto. Despite my dislike of beets, I nibble on the casunziei and find that it is absolutely delicious and my favorite dish of the night. Joey, a true Northern Italian, is similarly enthralled with the rustic flavors of the lamb gnocchi. Andrew bravely tries the squid ink risotto, describing how the color and flavor combine to make up a truly unique and tasty dish.  

After dinner is cleared away we are left with a difficult question; gelato or tiramisu? The answer is both, always both. SRV makes their gelato in-house--offering creamy, rich flavors such as chocolate amaretto, stracciatella, and mascarpone fig. The tiramisu is equally indulgent with layers of custard topped with a dusting of fine cocoa. Contentment and awe my foremost emotions, I lay down my spoon and neatly fold my napkin, placing it next to my clean plate.

It is barely 7:00 on a Monday evening and the dining room is filled with hungry patrons eager to partake in the modern Italian fare. We are about to leave when I run into a server--short auburn hair, exuberant personality, instantly likeable--recognizing her as a former classmate, I am struck by the small-town feeling of Boston yet again. The industrious clink of cutlery punctuating the conversations of families and friends follow us out the door--already SRV has become a familiar gathering place.

Emily Oman