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An Italian Renaissance at Seaport’s M.C. Spiedo

Kayana Szymczak for The Boston Globe

Where to M.C. Spiedo, the latest incarnation of the restaurant inside the Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel. It is a project of chefs Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier, best known for the acclaimed Arrows, in Ogunquit, Maine, which they ran for 25 years.

What for The restaurant is inspired by the Italian Renaissance, and “spiedo” means “spit.” Eat here if you love history, pasta, and meat cooked on a 40-inch steel skewer.

Continue reading below

The scene Couples, friends, and groups of out-of-town guests sit at the bar or ensconced in plush booths, hidden behind crimson drapery. The room is swathed in red velvet curtains, punctuated by gold columns. From the ceiling hang oversize chandeliers, the shades emblazoned with scenes resembling Renaissance paintings. At a white marble bar, a couple gossips about money and family while sipping water from black glasses etched with clear scrolling patterns. A woman in a floral top with a bun in a scrunchy orders decaf tea. On a freezing night, a man in a T-shirt is drinking red wine, sitting next to a man with a snow-white mustache and a crisp, spotless white shirt to match. Anthony Bourdain visits parts unknown on the TV over the bar.

What you’re eating Many of the dishes here are inspired by historical recipes and flavors that would have been found on Renaissance tables. Leonardo’s Notebook Salad, a pile of greens with fennel and herb vinaigrette, is based on a shopping list from one of the artist’s notebooks. M.C. Tagliatelle features guinea hen, oranges, onions, almonds, and kale. Poached farm egg with roasted vegetables and grilled bread? Well, this is still New England.

Care for a drink? The 14th Century Manhattan is made with bourbon, vermouth, house cherry-husk bitters, and amaretto for a nutty sweetness.

Kayana Szymczak for The Boston Globe

The lounge.

Overheard People talking about who is Greek, vacations in Sicily, breadsticks, and electronic cigarettes. “Ask him someday. It was his mother. She has more money!” a woman says to her quiet husband. A man arrives, looks around, and exclaims: “We’ve lost Susan!” “Most people don’t look good in expensive clothes,” a fellow tells his date. “You do.” Someone is talking about neighbor drama: “They fight at 3 in the morning, and neither of them are sexy. Anyone who stops yelling before 11:30, I don’t care.” There is much brandishing of complimentary breadsticks at the bar. “Now I want to try to look like a magician with a wand,” a man says. His lady friend makes a face: “You do look like one. Voldemort.” The bartender is explaining his musical style to some guests: “It’s kind of a little John Mayer-esque but not as bluesy.” Meanwhile, the restaurant’s concept is getting lost in translation. “It’s Italian Renaissance food,” a staffer tells some foreign guests, who look blank-faced. “It’s Italian comfort food. There’s pizza.”

Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel, 606 Congress St., Seaport District, Boston. 617-476-5606.
www.mcspiedoboston.com.

Devra First can be reached at dfirst@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @devrafirst.
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