IN THE KITCHEN: Managing partner Nick Harron learned the business from his father, a longtime restaurateur and co-owner of Burtons Grill. After college, Harron worked his way up from dishwasher to sous chef. Opening a restaurant like Evviva Cucina in Westford was a natural next step.
The restaurant’s name means “cheers to the kitchen,” and as Harron put it, “Every good party ends up in the kitchen.” At Evviva, an open kitchen is the centerpiece of the cavernous layout, and the atmosphere is contemporary and informal.
Chef Anthony De Palma’s credentials include stints in the kitchens of local luminaries Gordon Hamersley and Jody Adams. Early last year, he attracted national attention by winning an episode of the Food Network’s “Chef Wanted With Anne Burrell.”
His early interest in food began with his Italian immigrant family and their tradition of cooking simple, wholesome meals from scratch. Over his career, he apprenticed in Italy and explored Indian and Asian cuisines. The menu at Evviva returns De Palma to his roots, while also offering “a slight modern twist on classic food that appeals to a wide variety of people.”
Five jumbo TV screens hang over the bar, and on one wall, a large chalkboard lists the foods that Evviva sources locally and the farms that provide them. With prices ranging from $6 to $22, Harron said he wants to serve high-quality dishes that are affordable enough for people to visit often.
ON THE MENU: Harron wants the dining experience to be enhanced by an upbeat staff. Our server, Victoria, fit that bill, with friendly and knowledgable answers to our questions.
The menu includes gourmet pizzas, antipasti, salads, sandwiches, pasta, main dishes and sides, with gluten-free and vegetarian options. For drinks, the bar boasts 16 draft beers and two dozen wines by the glass.
We ordered arancini ($11) for an appetizer, and splitting open the lime-sized balls revealed mozzarella strings that Italians call “telephone wires.” The panko crumbs formed a springy crust around the creamy interior of rice and mozzarella, and the spicy sauce and pesto played off the mild arancini.
The prosciutto pizza (10 inches for $14; 14 inches for $19) was made with fig jam, house-made burrata (mozzarella with a creamy interior), extra virgin olive oil, prosciutto, arugula, shaved Parmigiano, truffle salt, grilled lemon, and pickled shallots. The flavor was delicate and fruity, with the crust lightly crackling at every bite.
We also ordered risotto with North Atlantic lobster, shrimp, shallots, spinach, corn, oven-dried tomatoes, and oregano ($15 for half size; $22 for full size). The shrimp and lobster meat were artfully arranged on a bed of perfectly done creamy rice, and tasted of the sea, with the right touch of saltiness. De Palma said the dish was inspired by a meal he ate on the Amalfi Coast.
The peasant-inspired side dish — sautéed Swiss chard ($6) with toasted pine nuts, lemon, garlic, and rosemary — was simple, but hit all the right notes.
We topped the meal off with a generous bowl of coffee gelato ($6) and a slice of ricotta pie ($9), two desserts that provided a truly Italian ending to our evening.
In keeping with its mission of sourcing locally, Evviva Cucina will change some items for its winter menu, so our next visit promises new and enticing dishes.
Evviva Cucina; 7 Cornerstone Square, Westford; 978-692-9050; www.evvivacucina.com.Diane Severin can be reached at email@example.com.