The Grotto, Cozy Italian Food in Boston

By Todd Barron @

My wife and I are walking around downtown Boston, looking for a place to eat dinner at on Sunday, and  it is drizzling.  It is also somewhat cold out, especially for May, and it is getting dark.

Up ahead I notice a local bar, but before we get to it I also see a small restaurant on the left.  It is called Grotto, and sits below street level.  A Zagat sign on the window catches my eye and a food rating of 26 catches it even more.  If you are not familiar with Zagat ratings, their highest is a 30 and that is reserved for very few restaurants, none of which are in Boston.

Gnocchi with Short Ribs

Crouching down to read the sign, I also see that they open around 5pm.  We decide to visit the local bar and have a pint while we wait for dinner time to come around.  The bar is welcome and cozy, and full of locals who are enjoying an end of their workday with beer and food.  I order a beer, my wife does the same, and we hang out for about 45 minutes.

It is times like this that make me want to live in a city like Boston.  I could easily see walking down to the corner pub after work, chatting with friends, eating some food, and having a good time for an hour or so before dinner.  I also would weigh 50 more pounds and be in worse health, but I can see it at least.

We head back up the street, past a questionable person, and walk down into the restaurant.  This time they are open, and although the place smells like a basement, it is cozy with red walls and black tables and chairs.  They have a mirror under the street window to give a larger feel, and there are racks of wine on the far wall.  I count about 14 tables but the small space helps create a romantic feel.  Once the hostess notices us we are seated under the street window.

The menu looks great, with items ranging from beef tenderloin fondue, to short rib gnocchi, to bread pudding.  The short rib gnocchi looks good to me, as does the calamari and the fondue.  My wife eyes the butter poached lobster and the mussels in white wine sauce.  The waitress comes back after taking our drink order and lets us know they have a prix fixe option for $35 per person which includes an appetizer, an entree, and a dessert.  We decide against it, given we are not hungry enough for dessert.

Mussels in White Wine Sauce

I order the Beef Tenderloin Fondue ($10) and the Short Rib Gnocchi ($21).  My wife orders the Mussels in White Wine ($10) and the Butter Poached Lobster ($21) with pasta.  After a short while, bread comes out which is warm and is soon followed by our appetizers.

The mussels are fresh and have just the right amount of salt and spice to them.  The sauce which accompanies the mussels is thin and aromatic and tastes great when the bread is dipped into it.  Overall the mussels are a hit and are something I would order again.

My fondue tasted good as well, with the tenderloin being cooked just right, and the cheese having the a good amount of tartness.  The mushrooms were the star of the show though and were highlighted well by aged balsamic.  Once again, a dish I would order again if given the chance.

Lobster with Pasta

Some time passed after we enjoyed our appetizers but the bottle of wine helped.  When our dinner arrived I was not disappointed.  My gnocchi looked amazing and tasted even better.  The gnocchi was clearly homemade and had a velvety texture to it with perfectly tender morsels of short rib dispersed throughout the dish.

The Parmesan cheese shredded over the top was a nice touch and the Gorgonzola cheese in the sauce was flavorful but not overpowering.  If I lived in Boston, this is a dish I could eat weekly.

My wife’s butter poached lobster was good but not quite as flavorful as my dish.  The pasta was homemade and the lobster was poached perfectly.  The sauce, although a bit on the thin side, had a good tomato flavor and just the right amount of salt.

We finished dinner very satisfied and were too full to enjoy dessert.  The food was fantastic, the waitress was friendly, and the romantic setting was very welcoming.  If you visit Boston you have to give Grotto a try.  I personally cannot wait to go back.

37 Bowdoin Street, Boston, MA 02114
Monday – Friday    11:30am till 3:00pm
Seven Days    5:00pm till 10:00pm

Grotto on Urbanspoon

2 Responses to “The Grotto, Cozy Italian Food in Boston”

  1. Frederick says:

    Wonderful review of one of my favorite restaurants. It was interesting to read about it from a visitor’s perspective, and I’m glad you made that comment about the butter-poached lobster because it is one of their new dishes that I haven’t tried yet. If you ever get back in the winter, you must try the thick garlic soup with black truffle breadcrumbs.

    Also for what its worth, if you did live in the city you not have to worry about your weight at all! Boston is a walking city so its like living at the gym with a million treadmills and stairmasters. The only overweight people that you saw here were visitors, I guarantee it.

  2. Todd Barron says:

    Thank you Frederick for the nice comments.

    I really enjoyed Grotto and hope to revisit sometime in the future. I did end up walking quite a bit while visiting, despite the weather, and can understand what you mean about being a walking city. 🙂

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