Recently got a look at the new digs of the Trattoria a Scalinatella crew. Comfy lounge and wine bar downstairs, no liquor, which they seem proud of, but you can get amari. Dining room upstairs is much more comfy, roomier than Scalinatella's cramped L-shaped space, with a fireplace adding a nice glow. It's mercifully lacking in odious celeb photos ("Oooh, Steven Tyler ate here, it must be good!").
I appreciate some early touches, like the reservationist on the phone reminding you that "athletic clothing is not appropriate in the dining room", and the host asking you to turn off your mobile phone before seating you. The owner has polished his act a bit since my earlier visits to Scalinatella; he's more charming, less overbearing.
We opt for a couple of pastas as primi: a malfatte in prosciutto broth with fresh favas, and a rigatoni with braised eggplant and tomatoes. The staff inform us that since we're getting entrees, they will make these half-orders on our behalf, which is good. They are generous halfs: full orders would have been ridiculous as primi. These dishes are very nice, but not extraordinary; we can't help thinking about what the pasta chef might be doing next door at Bricco.
Our entrees are the veal tenderloin with truffled mashed, and a stuffed rabbit leg, the chef's specialty. Both are lovely, but again, not quite extraordinary. We have found a nice Tuscan red in the middle of the list's price range that we are very happy with, which helps.
Service is solicitous, including multiple visits from the owner, who has figured out that a few well-timed, brief homilies are more welcome than long visits. But there's a really long pause between primi and secondi, easily 45 minutes, on a night when the dining room isn't packed. Bad pacing.
This quite good, but not great, experience runs to about $190 with tax and tip: that's two half-orders of pasta, two entrees, one bottle of wine: no water, no aperitifs, no dessert, no coffee. We've enjoyed this meal, but in the cab home, we both agree: especially at this price-point, this doesn't make our short list of great North End restaurants.