Where to Sogno, on the Winchester-Woburn line. From a distance, the restaurant looks a tiny bit like a car dealership. Don’t be deterred.
Why For celebratory Italian food in suburbia, with big-city pedigree: Jason Maynard was the executive chef at Mistral, Sorrelina, and Mooo.
The backstory Owner Ron Martignetti, a real estate developer and attorney, grew up in a large Italian family and always wanted to own a restaurant. (His cousins run a well-known liquor, wine, and grocery business with origins in the North End.)
General Manager Tim Conlon comes from the Bancroft, a Burlington scene for steak, and this place has the same quotidian elegance. There’s lots of crimson leather, mood lighting, mirrors, gold edges, and Bancroftian second-martini energy that wouldn’t be out of place in a 1980s Michael Douglas thriller. Niemitz Design Group designed both restaurants.
What to eat “I’m trying to elevate Italian cuisine,” says Maynard. “I’m trying to take what I learned at Mistral and Sorrelina and bring it here. It doesn’t have to be candlesticks and red sauce, but we also have a great pizza oven. I can make a chicken parmesan if someone wants it,” he says.
There’s something for everyone here, much of it portioned to share, and it’s all very good: Start with Neapolitan-style pizza made by a dedicated pizzaiolo, baked for 90 seconds in a 740-degree oven in an open kitchen. It’s foldable and charred, nicely bubbly. There’s a glossy lamb osso bucco on a creamy bed of polenta with warm tomatoes and olives, served in a cast-iron skillet. It’s the ideal wintertime shareable dish. Burrata ravioli — suggested by our server — is big as a baby, bathed in a very rich, very creamy truffle sauce. It’s made by Lilly’s Fresh Pasta in Everett.
Arancini arrive on a pond of light tomato sauce, flecked with tiny orbs of mushroom. Fritto misto is lightly fried and easy to nibble mindlessly, until you realize that there’s more than just calamari here; there are also some veggies peppered in. Instead of the standard-issue marinara, they come with a tub of chili aioli. Even the Caesar salad has a little twist: It’s dusted with clumps of pepperoni breadcrumbs.
Service is a bit young: You might encounter someone who looks startled when you ask for a to-go box or is reluctant to clear plates. Wine glasses might fall to the floor in your midst. But the noise level — and the happiness level — is such that nobody will notice.
What to drink Limoncello flights, strawberry-infused rum, lavender vodka, generous pours from a largely Italian and West Coast wine list: You’ll drink well here, and it seems many do. The bar was three-deep on a weeknight during a recent visit.
The Takeaway A sleeper hit in the suburbs. Bought a new house, somehow? Head to the bar. Have a baby sitter and don’t want to drive downtown? Parking is easy. Meeting your parents and need something special yet familiar? This is your spot. Just one note, for the COVID-conscious and fresh-air fiends: There’s covered outdoor seating, but staffing appears to be variable. Upon arrival, I asked for a patio table — it wasn’t cold out — and a hostess told me that they couldn’t swing it. If this is important to you, call ahead.
Sogno, 304 Cambridge St., Woburn, 781-625-1300, www.sognoitalian.com