What does “coastal Italian” imply, anyway? At Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette’s Faccia Brutta, it means numerous issues—most of them very, superb.
At Boston, we do stars, however in my dream job, we’d dimension up eating places utilizing solely Randy Jackson–isms, which I’ve admired since American Idol’s heyday for his or her sneaky precision and sweep. Bistro with shaky recipes? “Somewhat pitchy for me, dawg.” Half-baked Scampo rip-off? “If you happen to sing Lydia, you gotta carry Lydia.” In the meantime, you’d hold a hedgy “You might sing the cellphone ebook!” helpful for a spot like Faccia Brutta, Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette’s thrumming patioed brownstone on Newbury. 5 meals in, I’m nonetheless not sure the shore-hugging barge of tips they’ve obtained floating in below the “coastal Italian” ensign is my favourite showcase for this duo’s singular culinary stylings. But when it yields this a lot showstopping bounty, why quibble over materials? You observe the nice meals the place the nice meals goes.
Faccia Brutta (Italian for “ugly face”) is definitely Boston’s second coastal-Italian spot. When Bar Mezzana opened in 2016 with that very same tagline, most of us glossed over the “coastal” half, taking it as some breezy declaration of atmospherical intent—come for the pasta, keep for these candy coast-of-Italy vibes. Now that Faccia Brutta has arrived, doing a equally sprawling Italian-ish menu with much more Mediterranean aptitude (harissa, saffron, and many others.), it’s all making extra sense. Oringer and Bissonnette, with government chef Brian Rae, bounce across the boot with ecumenical abandon, deftly weaving in pantry staples and dishes culled alongside the 4,700-mile stretch of shoreline from Croatia to Naples to the French Riviera, plus the islands nearer to Tunis than Rome—with detours to Phuket and Jalisco—plus a subset of snacky dishes of even murkier provenance. There’s a large-format tossed salad you should buy into for $16 an individual dressed with what I can solely assume is genuine “creamy Italian”…it’s tasty! There’s a $38 crudité platter that might make Mehmet Oz blanch. There’s numerous numerous issues.
Fortunately, when Faccia Brutta nails it, which is often, the meals is terrific—not simply the execution however the polish of the recipes. There’s rarely a false observe or extraneous flourish: not simple to drag off if you’re masking this a lot comestible floor. Your finest opening transfer is to order a drink—the Negroni and spritz menus are significantly robust—plus just a few grazeable snacks to tide you over when you hammer out a sport plan. Maybe sizzling, crispy Castelvetrano olives ($12) full of pork sausage, anchovy, and crimson bell pepper, coated with gluten-free breadcrumbs, and dropped onto a cooling shmear of sundried-pepper aioli? Or possibly handkerchief-thin swaths of mortadella ($12), the colour of pink-and-white marble, tricked out with toasted pistachios and a splat of gleamy-green basil pesto? The one objects I’d skip are lukewarm fried mozzarella sticks ($24) topped with a blob of Ossetra caviar however robbed of their stretchy raison d’être, and potato chips ($22) with a inexperienced goddess dressing that just about obliterated the caviar that topped it, and, anyway…this concludes my TED Discuss on first-world issues.
I don’t know who you want for crudo lately, and Boston has loads of worthy exemplars, however my fantasy league just a few years going has been Lynch (Bar Mezzana), Serpa (Choose), Maslow (wherever he’s taking part in), and Oringer/Bissonnette (equally good at Little Donkey, Coppa, and Toro). Faccia Brutta gamely upholds the duo’s raw-ficionado cred. My favourite was the ruby crimson prawns ($24): Dressed with minimalist aptitude—a drizzle of licoricey Thai basil oil, a scattering of diced pickled rhubarb—they’d a luxuriously supple texture and a quivering freshness shrimp-head heads will thrill to. That’s known as ruthless ingredient administration, of us, and I’m right here for it. The richness and velvety texture of reside native scallop ($23) paired gorgeously with shaved black truffle and endive, and black bass crudo wearing tomato-water aguachile ($18) was a balanced blast of fiery freshness from the shores of…someplace scrumptious.
Likewise, I don’t know the place on Italy’s wind-swept coast they’ve a convention of slathering fistfuls of rust-orange “crab butter,” produced from pulverized roasted crab innards, onto half-shell razor clams ($22) and hitting them arduous on a sizzling grill till burnished and scorching like they do at Faccia Brutta. But when I determine it out, I’m hopping on a airplane. It was terribly good. The sludgy butter kicked up the bivalves’ ocean depth, whereas beefy child morels took the tune an octave decrease. A tangle of spring onion rode the sizzle to the desk, including crisp inexperienced crunch. Talking of butter, one other winner is the grilled Scituate lobster ($56), which will get a pleasant kick of warmth due to a fiery splat of house-made chili-garlic crunch that spikes the butter-mounted lobster brodo coating the accompanying steamed clams and fregola pasta in a scrumptious manner.
The cooks’ finesse with fish cookery is much more evident within the excellent brochette of native swordfish spiedini ($15), which will get painted with bright-green salsa verde, then faraway from the grill at simply the fitting second. Pulled aside with the tines of your fork, it collapses into tender, still-moist swaths—not the chalky denseness you get if you go even seconds previous. Laced with fennel pollen and fiery harissa, smoky grilled bluefin tuna ($39) was like North African shawarma in a pescatarian key, with an interesting charry crust that sometimes requires sacrificing a centimeter-plus of overcooked-ness proper close to the floor. This one was flawless.
The pastas I attempted have been hit-or-miss. On the hit aspect have been sensational Gulf-shrimp-and-crab paccheri ($34), tossed in a brilliant however complexly layered tomato sauce with bouillabaisse-strength depth, and orecchiette ($33) in a wealthy, tomatoey beef sugo punched up with spicy ’nduja sausage. The remaining struck me as slightly fundamental, or possibly simply crowd-pleasing—both of which might be a departure from the cooks’ JK Meals Group model. I most likely ought to test my omnivore privilege, however I’ve all the time admired the eff-your-feelings ruthlessness of the dietary-hang-up-agnostic menu at Little Donkey, which comes off as “director’s minimize” in an exhilarating manner. A minimize I wouldn’t anticipate to incorporate a yawner like Faccia Brutta’s rigatoni cacio e pepe ($27—there have been some peas!) or pansotti ($29), a ravioli-like specialty from the Ligurian coast that began off good however ended up slumping down right into a low-note walnut-brown-butter-ricotta haze. For me, it was simply all proper.
I can’t inform if the kitchen’s been so mired in tweaking the suite of expertly made gluten-free pastas (accessible retail) that they want extra time to excellent these recipes, or in the event that they merely haven’t had the guts to ship dwelling any contestants but. However it might appear that one massive benefit of creating up a style as you go alongside is not being compelled to supply seven pasta decisions. Perhaps “coastal Italian” has, I dunno, 4.
Service total was clean as a balmy Elban breeze, and each staffer I interacted with knew their stuff—although I’ve by no means speed-ordered as quick because the night time a server gave our desk a three-minute warning earlier than the kitchen’s 10 p.m. shut: intel you need to most likely disclose proper if you seat a 9:15 pm desk, particularly in the event that they’re lollygagging over drinks with menus nonetheless in laps.
Talking of which, it was a pleasant shock to see the superbly curated vino choices—a grape geek’s playground the place quirky pure wines intermingle with cru-level splurges and never a bottle reads like a grudging space-filler. Particularly for a block of Newbury the place a trendy patio restaurant like Faccia Brutta might simply cellphone it in and, you recognize, sing the Rhône ebook (sorry…), it looks like an in-it-to-win-it flex, certainly. Seacoast, out.
278 Newbury St., Boston, 857-991-1080, facciabruttaboston.com.
Ruby crimson prawn crudo ($24), razor clams with crab butter ($22), fennel-crusted bluefin tuna ($39)
★★★★ Extraordinary | ★★★ Usually Glorious | ★★ Good | ★ Honest | (No Stars) Poor