Comfort foods headline new gastropub in Westborough
IN THE KITCHEN Owner Tom Oliveri credits executive chef Rick Araujo with developing a comfort-food-focused, farm-to-fork menu suited to his newest venture: Civic Kitchen & Drink. The Westborough gastropub aims to bring the community together around locally sourced food and beverages. When local ingredients are not available, “even if they’re not from New England, we serve small-batch stuff that gives the feeling of farm to fork,” said Oliveri, who lives in Shrewsbury and owns several restaurants west of Boston, including Peppercorn’s Grille & Tavern in Worcester and Prezo Grille & Bar in Milford.
THE LOCALE Civic Kitchen & Drink opened this spring on West Main Street adjacent to the Westborough Country Club. The restaurant rents the historic space from the town, but it is a separate entity from the club and is open to the public year round. The bright dining room has 100 seats, a fireplace and seating area, and is decorated with old, nostalgia-inducing photographs of local sites such as the old Westborough Speedway. The bar adds another 15 seats and three high-top tables. A deck overlooking the golf course is massive, allowing seating for up to 70 guests.
ON THE MENU Oliveri acknowledges that Civic Kitchen & Drink’s menu isn’t particularly large. There’s a good reason for that: “We’re trying to provide top-quality ingredients and dishes, but given the size of our kitchen — it’s the size of two closets, and that’s being generous — we have to be very particular in what we serve,” he said with a laugh.
Our meal begins with the rich Polpette di Maiale ($7), four generously sized meatballs made from pork raised nearby at Spring Ridge Farm in Boylston, bathed in a chunky, slightly spicy Pomodoro sauce and shaved cheese. From there, we dive into the Rhode Island-style calamari ($10), which batters and fries buttermilk-coated squid to a light, satisfying crunch, and tosses it with fresh banana peppers, grape tomatoes, black olives and scallions.
Our entrée selections started with the Civic burger ($14), one of the restaurant’s top-selling items, according to Oliveri. Eight ounces of juicy grass-fed beef from Lilac Hedge Farm in Berlin is topped with a slice of smoked gouda cheese, a bed of arugula and bright pink pickled onions, and whole grain mustard aioli spread onto a springy brioche bun. Thin, seasoned French fries are a nice accompaniment.
In our short ribs dinner ($22), the tender meat is glazed in a ponzu sauce complemented by wisps of grilled bok choy and a mound of rice cooked pleasantly crispy around the edges. The evening’s steak special ($27) featured sliced sirloin served with a roasted heirloom tomato and Lyonnaise potatoes tossed with a decadent mix of bacon and onions caramelized to a delicious consistency.
Oliveri also points to the sizable slow-smoked pork chop ($21) from Maine Family Farms with greens served over whole grain pilaf with rhubarb and a honey glaze; and the Be Hoppy fish and chips ($18), featuring New England haddock battered and fried in Wormtown Be Hoppy IPA.
Oliveri is a founder and part-owner of the Wormtown Brewery in Worcester, so that Be Hoppy IPA also appears on the beverage menu, which offers multiple craft beers in the can and on tap. There are also nearly a dozen red and white wines available by the glass and a cocktail menu with such fun entries as The Civic Smash, blending rye whiskey, muddled lemon and mint, and simple syrup. Although we neglected to order dessert, the chocolate-bottomed raspberry pie, sourced from Nourse Farm in Westborough, sounds fresh, comforting, local, and positively dreamy.
Civic Kitchen & Drink is at 121 West Main St. in Westborough; 508-329-5179, www.civickitchenanddrink.com. Monday through Thursday, 4 to 9 p.m., Friday, 4 to 10 p.m., Saturday, 12 to 10 p.m., Sunday, 12 to 8 p.m.