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first visit to Umbria

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first visit to Umbria

MC Slim JB | Nov 3, 2004 11:29 PM

I tend to share a previous poster's misgivings about nightclub/restaurants, but Umbria's kitchen is run by Marissa Iocco, one of my favorite Boston chefs ever, who also chefs at Bricco, my current favorite North End place. (She allegedly zips between kitchens on a Vespa, but I did not see her tonight.) My first impressions are: not so nice room, very nice food.

The restaurant shares the first floor with a bar that takes up maybe half the space. A second-floor dining room is apparently reserved for private functions or very busy nights. Floors 3 through 5 are the lounge and nightclub, which I did not visit.

Portions are big: two of us ordered an app, two pastas, an entree, and a contorno, and it was about twice as much food as we needed.

Quite liked the "veal bites" app on balls of polenta, loved the fusilli loaded with a truffle-heavy mushroom mix, adored the roasted rabbit. The wild-boar Bolognese was spectacular, but oddly served not on the advertised linguine but on inch-wide noodles of green (presumably spinach) and white pasta. Chocolate cake with a couple of sauces was good but not memorable.

Plenty of reasonable wines on the list (we found a nice Tuscan number for about $45). They're doing the NYC bottle-club thing here: you can buy a whole bottle of Absolut for $200, or one of Absolut Raspberri for $225. Go figure.

Very attentive, heavily Italian-accented service on a slowish night.

The crowd is an odd mix of business types and 20-somethings who look like they just came from The Palace for a drunken dinner: about what Bricco looks like at 11pm on Fridays.

I like the idea of a pure Umbrian menu, and there are many dishes here I'd like to try on subsequent visits: Umbrian charcuterie by the pound, a spicy shrimp app, fresh-water fish Umbrian style, a giant Umrian-style beefsteak, a farro salad resembling risotto, many of the pastas (like a canneloni with Kobe short ribs).

But it's not cheap. Apps run $8-12, salads in the $10 range, and most entrees pushing upwards of $30. At this price point, I would prefer nicer atmosphere, or at least something that feels like a real dining room, instead of the table seating area of a bar.

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