IN THE KITCHEN Nappi’s in Medford began decades ago as a butcher shop and Italian market and slowly transformed into a sandwich shop. About six years ago, it became a full-service restaurant, featuring traditional Italian entrees and appetizers. Joe and Anna Nappi both do the cooking and run the business with help from family members. “I’m very proud of what we do,” Anna said. “Whatever we make, we make with our hearts. No matter what we put out, people rave about it.” Nappi’s is known for its nightly specials, which Anna prepares in the morning. What will she make tonight, she’s asked. “I have no idea yet,” she answers with a hearty laugh and the confidence that no matter what she pulls together, her loyal customer base will enjoy it. There’s no formal dinner menu (though there’s a printed lunch menu). Instead, helpful waitresses recite what’s up for the evening and customers can pick and choose from among pastas, meats, fish, sauces, and vegetables. The no-menu rule is a point of pride for the Nappis; customers like the idea they can get dishes to order, Anna said.
THE LOCALE Nappi’s is situated in a modest storefront on Salem Street. The décor is likewise modest, a TV in a corner here, a world map on the wall there. A large photo of Joe and Anna dressed as Bonnie and Clyde, snapped on their first anniversary, keeps an eye on the action. On the night we visited, a steady stream of customers came in, glad to get out of the cold and happily bearing wine bottles; Nappi’s does not serve liquor but customers can bring their own. Because the restaurant is small (it seats 50 at most), there are plenty of friendly, cross-table conversations.
ON THE MENU Our waitress patiently recited the night’s menu several times; appetizers included arancini, fried artichokes, stuffed calamari, stuffed mushrooms, bruschetta, and more. We settled on the arancini ($12), fried rice balls with either spinach or cheese; we tried some of each and they were warm and savory. That night, Nappi’s main dishes included chicken piccata and Marsala, pork chops with vinegar peppers and potatoes, chicken saltimbocca, eggplant parmigiana, mussels and clams with pasta, and more. We opted for the chicken Marsala served over angel hair pasta with mushrooms ($18); the Marsala sauce was sweet but not cloying and the chicken extremely moist and flavorful. Wanting to get our fill of seafood, we also ordered what our waitress called “pasta ai frutti di mare” and what the restaurant also calls cioppino. We took as the option for our pasta the homemade fusilli pasta, which is $2 extra, so the total was $27. The dish came loaded with mussels, clams, and calamari, bathed in a tangy sauce. The thick, chewy fusilli was nice but the angel hair would have been just as good. Everything was hearty; the generous portions and the leisurely service just gave us a chance to chat with our neighbors.
Reservations are recommended and be aware that Nappi’s is cash only.
Nappi’s, 370 Salem St., Medford, 781-391-7900, www.nappirestaurant.com