Italian hits the spot at Ink Block
Where to Bar Mezzana, an Italian restaurant in the South End’s Ink Block development.
What for Beautifully pared-back dishes with a serious pedigree. The partners all previously worked with chef Barbara Lynch — chef Colin Lynch (no relation) as executive chef of Barbara Lynch Gruppo; Heather Lynch, his wife, as general manager of Sportello; and Jefferson Macklin as president and COO of the restaurant group.
The scene Minimal decor. Blue upholstery. Midcentury chairs and lighting. A spacious bar and a gleaming white open kitchen where chefs chug water from plastic quart containers. The crowd is neighborhood-y — gay couples, straight couples, skinny tattooed guys in caps, young blondes in green cardigans, businessmen in suits. The atmosphere is neighborhood-y, too. Strangers strike up conversations and discover they live on the same block; staffers joke with patrons at the bar.
What you’re eating There’s a daily crudo list, almost a dozen different kinds of raw seafood paired with a few flavors: live scallop, yellowtail with grapefruit oil and chile, mackerel with radish and ginger vinaigrette. Prosciutto comes on a platter with a ball of creamy white house-made mozzarella. Crostini are topped with fava beans and pecorino; radish, butter, and anchovy; bone marrow and olive. There are a few salads and a few main courses — halibut, fried rabbit. But the star might be the pasta, from spaghetti with crab, sea urchin, and chile to sweetbread cappellacci.
Care for a drink? Spritz cocktails make you feel like you're in Venice. Mostly local beer is on tap; bottles are from all over, with intriguing options like sour red ale Panil Barriquée and the amber Azienda Agricola Fré Ambrata, both from Italy. Wine is Italian, and the list of bottles comes categorized as “sorta like a pinot grigio,” “reminiscent of cabernet,” “nothing like anything,” and more.
Overheard Talk of emergency dentistry, Italian spelling, and South End doings. A glass of water spills and two men fall out laughing: “At the dog fountain today, a dog jumped in and splashed him,” one tells a bartender. “Today's just his day for getting wet!” A woman describes an acquaintance sotto voce: “She's Catholic. She has big hair and a double chin.” “This is kind of fine dining, even though it doesn’t look like it,” a staffer explains to a newcomer. “Not to sounds like a [jerk]," someone says, “but I kind of feel like one of those models who just gets handed things.” “I’m dairy-free,” a woman explains. “I do a lot of smoothies and dates.” A gentleman turns next to the diner next to him, who is having trouble deciding what to order. “Not to butt in, but the pasta is really good. The agnolotti special! It bursts in your mouth!”
360 Harrison Ave., South End, Boston, 617-530-1770, www.barmezzana.com