Where to: Bianca at the Street Chestnut Hill.
Why: For pizza, sushi, sushi tacos, fried chicken, and lots more, from Tim and Nancy Cushman. You know them from stellar city spots like O Ya, Boston’s highest-end sushi restaurant, and Hojoko, a vibey Japanese diner inside the Verb Hotel. Tim Cushman won a James Beard award as Best Chef: Northeast in 2012.
The back story: Bianca was originally slated to open in March 2020, but the pandemic had other plans.
“It’s risky whatever environment you open a restaurant into — but we were all set up, ready to go, four days away from opening, when the lockdown happened in March. So we just had to hunker down and figure out what to do and put a plan in place,” Tim says.
So the Cushmans instead first rolled out a mini-restaurant inside Bianca, Mr. Roni Cups, which focuses on Roman-style pizza: 48-hour fermented dough; light, square slices. Bianca is a proper sit-down restaurant with an expansive menu and broader appeal.
It’s currently open with 60 seats (someday it’ll be more) and an evolving menu. Staffers take each guest’s temperature upon arrival (“We haven’t had to turn anyone away yet,” says Nancy); cautious diners can also opt for curbside takeout.
Inside, there’s what Tim describes as a “West Coast, Palm Springs feel,” with mossy green booths, lots of plants, lemon-yellow chairs, and high ceilings. If not for the food, you could almost imagine doing yoga here.
What to eat: The Cushmans wanted to offer something for everyone. “We want to meet people where they are,” says Nancy. So that means you can get seared hamachi (Tim’s favorite) if you want fish ($16); a cheesy mushroom French dip with melted Gruyere (Nancy’s favorite) if you want a juicy sandwich ($19); or soy-marinated fried chicken ($11); house-made pastas ($18 and up); sushi “tacos” folded into crispy nori ($11 and up); sushi rolls ($12 and up); spaghetti and meatballs ($9, on a kids’ menu); or those doughy, slightly sweet Roman pizza squares ($5 and up per slice).
“It’s fun to see what people order. People start with sushi or a salad, then get meatballs as a snack,” says Nancy. “What’s really been interesting to me is to see what the kids are ordering. They order a half chicken regularly.”
Not everything on the menu is available. Some wood-grilled main dishes aren’t ready yet, for instance. And a Reuben, with house-made rye, is in development.
What to drink: Craft beer, wine, sake (Nancy is an advanced sake professional), and California-ish cocktails, like the Manhattan Beach, made with scotch, bourbon, vermouth, and orange ($14).
The takeaway: In ordinary times, this place would be packed. In pandemic ones, it’s still busy — and a delicious glimmer of hopeful normalcy to come.
47 Boylston St., Chestnut Hill, 857-576-8300, www.biancachestnuthill.com