Food & dining

Quick Bite

An early look at Pammy’s, Cambridge’s new Italian(ish) trattoria

Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Where to Pammy’s, an Italian-inspired restaurant between Central and Harvard squares.

What for Neighborhood bonhomie and elegantly simple fare from chef Christopher Willis, who has cooked at Rialto, Clio, and New York spots such as ABC Cocina. (The restaurant is named for wife Pam, with whom he is co-owner.)

The scene On a strangely chilly night, there is warmth within. A fire crackles in the white-tiled fireplace; the general manager envelops a visitor in a bear hug. Behind the bar, a statue of the harvest goddess Demeter presides. Potted plants grow beside curved leather banquettes, and the room is reflected back in an ornate, gilt-framed mirror that extends nearly to the ceiling. Ceramic jugs filled with pink peonies parade down the middle of a long, communal table, where friends run into one another and immediately begin trading notes about what to eat.

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What you’re eating For starters, composed salads and clever bites: beets paired with cherries, topped with crunchy, tempura-esque bits and shavings of goat’s milk cheese; artichokes over lemon puree, dolloped with ricotta and draped with anchovies; foie gras torchon with figs. Willis mills his own flour for bread and pasta dishes such as lumache with Korean chile paste-spiked Bolognese and fusilli with clams and shishito peppers. Main dishes include Arctic char with farro and dried strawberries, celery, and walnuts and a pan-seared boneless half-chicken with endive and olives. Pastry chef Mareena McKenzie (Ribelle, Shepard) serves up cocoa-nib cake with caramel budino and a flaky, buttery fruit crostata with honey ice cream.

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Care for a drink? Cocktails include Negronis on draft and the mind-messing In Other Words, which brings together gin, Yellow Chartreuse, and black olives. The wine list emphasizes natural, biodynamic selections, and the beer roster is largely local. There’s a fine selection of dessert wines and digestivi to end the meal.

Overheard Talk of summer escapes, pasta-related pleasures, and parking-related traumas. “Hey, I know you!,” a new arrival says to the people sitting beside her dinner date. “We live right over there,” one of them tells her. “You could have used our parking permit!” “Both kids are going to summer camp this year,” one woman tells another. “I might get to read a book!” “The fusilli kind of reminds me of ramen,” someone says, slurping up noodles. A staffer chimes in: “I could drink that clam broth all day long it’s so good.”

928 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-945-1761, www.pammyscambridge.com

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