WHO’S IN CHARGE Ten years ago, chef-owner Jamie Mammano and his restaurant group braved the ‘burbs to open L’Andana, a 240-seat upscale Italian restaurant in Burlington, at a time when chefs were downsizing in favor of cozy quarters and small, less pricy plates.
It was a challenge the first year. “Recession hit shortly after and there was a challenge getting the base up there to understand what we were doing,” said Mark D’Alessandro, director of operations for the Boston-based Columbus Hospitality Group, which also runs Boston hotspots Mistral, Sorellina, Teatro, Mooo, and Ostra.
Here was a swanky, Italian Tuscan steak house specializing in wood-fire grilled meats and seafood in chicken-Parm territory. Now? Good luck getting a table for two on a Tuesday night.
“It’s worked out great,” said Mammano. While he’s the culinary power behind the restaurant group, Nick Panagos is L’Andana’s talented executive chef.
THE LOCALE L’Andana is located in a stand-alone building with parking and el fresco dining in warm weather. The dining room has a dramatic elegance with high ceilings, draperies, rustic chandeliers, and topiaries. The banquette seating is made more comfortable with soft pillows. White linens were added two years ago to add to the dining experience, and they do. Votive candles invite romance.
It’s a place for anniversaries, birthdays, friends, and first (and fourth) dates as well as cocktails and dinner in the lounge.
Our server, Edison, described the specials with such detail my companion called it a “PhD delivery.” He’s right, in a good way. We are so entranced by Edison’s description of the Piedmontese beef — “the bodybuilder cut of the cow”— we wanted in.
We settle in with a glass of Nebbiolo (for him, $13) and Chianti (for her, $13) and crusty, warm, toasted bread with a tomato puree.
ON THE MENU Panagos, who once worked for the restaurant group’s Sorellina, is deft with the grill and sauces. You can pay anywhere from $36 to $69 for a steak. From our experience, it’s worth it. The three-course Tuscan Country Supper (for $50) is offered Sundays and Mondays and from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.
We start with a classic Caesar salad ($14) with crunchy croutons. It’s bright with fresh lemon and a hint of anchovies in the dressing. The polpo (grilled octopus) appetizer ($21) is tender (just how it should be when grilled) and slightly charred with its own lemony vinaigrette, capers, and onion.
The lobster has a striking freshness and is plentiful in the house-made gnocchi ($24, entrée is $48) in a beautiful sauce Américaine with Vermont butter.
The 10-ounce Piedmontese flat iron beef ($39) is a perfect medium rare encrusted in peppercorns and balanced with swaths of smoked sweet potato crema, charred cipollini onions, and a spot-on au poivre sauce.
We make room for the cioccolato ($13), a chocolate cake with a warm, molten center cooled by the vanilla gelato. No wonder it’s been on the menu since the beginning.
L’Andana, 86 Cambridge St., Burlington. 781-270-0100; lanadanagrill.com.Naomi Kooker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.