Amelia's Trattoria

Gnocchin’ on Heaven’s Door

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A review of Amelia’s Trattoria.

The reason so many of us love Italian food is probably its reliability – whether you are heading to an official dinner meeting or out on the ever-so-important first date, dine-in Mediterranean food will not let you down.

Alas, the line between boring and reliable is elusive at best, and the limited selection of restaurants around Harvard Square makes the situation even worse.  If mentioning the pizza at Grafton Street doesn’t make your date yawn, he probably doesn’t go to Harvard after all. All this in mind (and with Toscano’s out of space), I recently decided to look for more exciting a venue somewhere else. Amelia’s Trattoria is what I found.

The distance, of course, is all relative. Amelia’s is located on Harvard Street, right around the corner from The Garment District, so the drive from the River Houses does not take more than ten minutes. Once we reached it, I couldn’t help but smile at how adorable the place looked. Amelia’s is a tiny corner restaurant in the midst of a few residential buildings. With its brightly lit windows and a handful of outside tables full of wine, pizza, and cheerfully chatting Bostonians, it looked like an oasis of light and happiness in the middle of the surrounding nighttime Portland Street.

From the inside, the best word to describe Amelia’s Trattoria is probably ‘intimate’. The space is exactly as small as it looks from the outside, with only a small number of tables and an official maximum capacity of 40 guests. The interior combines wood floors, brick walls, and dim lighting to create a romantic ambience. On the night of our visit, the tables were filled with couples and small groups of customers mainly in their 30s, with the very stereotypical look of young urban professionals. The background noise was just enough to keep our conversations private but not enough to approach uncomfortable.

The waiters had, however, somehow failed to match our table reservation with a normal face-to-face dinner table. Rather, we were pointed to a slightly difficult-to-access corner table where the only seats were located on two adjacent, not opposite, sides. The arrangement was somewhat awkward: in order to converse with my dinner companion, I spent most of the night turned towards the left and we would accidentally kick our knees together on regular intervals.

Seating aside, the dinner experience soon got off to a great start. My date ordered a lemonade and after the first sip surprised me by describing it as ‘extremely strong’. Perhaps due to a cultural difference, the only two types of drinks I had ever heard described as ‘extremely strong’ were coffee and alcoholic beverages, so this one really intrigued me. But indeed, the drink turned out to be the strongest lemonades I have ever had. Imagine the sensation of tasting fresh lemonade, multiply its intensity by a factor of three, and you have a pretty clear idea of what the Amelia’s version was like. The complementary bread with olive oil was less unique, but it did keep us entertained until the main courses arrived.

Amelia’s Trattoria is a family establishment, one named after the founder’s mother, and its webpage claims the chef is especially well known for his hand-made pasta. We both decided to put the claim to a test, I with the house-made gnocchi and she with the ravioli of the night. Neither one of us came to feel disappointed.

The gnocchi was deeply satisfying. Served with sage, butter, and butternut squash, the portion tasted almost indistinguishable from the gnocchi I remember having during a summer holiday in Rome in my early teens. Whether my teen memories actually have maintained an accurate grasp of the taste of Italian gnocchi, the dish was further confirmed to be excellent by my date’s less historically burdened taste assessment.

She did, however, also conclude that the Ravioli of the Night did come to beat my gnocchi. After having a bite of it, I could not disagree. I would warmly recommend either dish, but our experience does seem to hint that at Amelia’s Trattoria the chef can be trusted with his creativity – the changing Ravioli of the Night does not pale in comparison to the permanent dishes.

By the end of the night, we left Amelia’s with full stomachs and smiling faces. The place would hardly make for a routine dinner option for the average college student: making through a night for less than $25 per person would be a challenge. But for romantic dates, significant celebrations, and cravings for high-quality Italian food, Amelia’s Trattoria is an excellent option. It’s neither quite as expensive nor nearly as far as its competitors in North End – and most definitely much less boring than anything you can find at the Square.

Buon appetito!

Elias Tuomaala ’19 ([email protected]) has made reservations at Amelia’s for the coming weekend as well, and would welcome good company!