Aragosta opened this past spring, and the restaurant’s beautiful waterfront patio was packed all summer long. But as the cool weather approaches, and the outdoor heaters migrate closer to the tables, Aragosta is really hitting its stride. Savor the restaurant’s warm, crisp, chewy bread and seasoned olives, along with a glass of wine from the carefully edited list (dominated by Italian favorites), as you peruse the menu and watch the boats go by.
On our first visit we started with the salumi platter, an artistic arrangement of meats and crostini with caponata and peppers, delicately piled and presented. While nibbling on mortadella and sipping a pomegranate and cucumber mojito, I studied the rest of the menu. Chef David Daniels offers an array of sharable plates. In addition to the salumi platter, Daniels’ menu features crisp flatbread pizzas. Among them is the intriguing tuna pizza, with thin sliced ahi tuna, tomatoes, arugula and mayonnaise. I just had to try the truffle rigatoni – rich and cheesy, studded with an intense tomato fondue that enlivens this grown-up mac and cheese. We also sampled a wonderfully fresh salad of soft and creamy burrata cheese with heirloom tomatoes and paper-thin prosciutto.
As we moved on to our entrees, Chef Daniels’ creativity shined. The bolognese, my hands-down favorite dish of the night, is as much a deconstructed lasagna as a traditional bolognese. A veal-cheek and oxtail ragu lines the bottom of the bowl, and is topped with a twirled tower of fresh pasta layered and rolled with cheese.
Eating the architectural masterpiece would be a shame if it weren’t so delicious. By separating the pasta from the sauce, Chef Daniels makes this dish as much about the pasta itself as it is about the sauce. If you’re in the mood for something a bit lighter, the halibut is a good choice. The fish is topped with the crispiest lemon-scented crumbs, and rests on a bed of cream-laced fregula, a Sardinian pasta similar to Israeli couscous.
For dessert, you could certainly order a refreshing trio of sorbets, served with biscotti, or a wonderfully warm and luscious chocolate bread pudding. I suggest the s’mores. Yes, you read that right! Go from the upscale dining room to the relaxed terrace fire pits and cook your own gooey, melt-in-your-mouth dessert.
Although the cozy couches surrounding the fire pits are a great place to relax with friends, Aragosta is just as much fun if you’re dining alone. Away from the hustle and bustle of the North End’s more cramped restaurants, Aragosta offers calm and comfort, along with the infamous Fairmont service. When I headed back to the Fairmont for a second trip, I settled myself at the chef’s counter. I love the energy of watching chefs in action, their precision, speed and commitment. And I love the interaction. Chef Daniels and his crew will happily create a tasting menu for you, or you can order a la carte. But either way, you’re in good hands.
I gobbled up a rustic yet sophisticated fois gras crostini, a special that includes big, juicy chunks of fresh fig. Sweet, savory, lush and crunchy, the crostini are messy but worth the drips on the chin! I continued to indulge myself in rich, warm, comforting food and ordered the braised short ribs. Slow cooked and served with an elevated succotash of butter beans and roasted corn, this is the definition of a hearty fall meal. It’s a fragrant, mouthwatering helping of extremely tender meat, tinged with a hint of heat that leaves you satisfied. For dessert I tucked into a cozy slice of olive oil cake. Along the lines of an Italian pound cake, it’s served with toasted cashews and a vanilla bean gelato. Rich and lemony on top and crumbly on the bottom, this is the kind of simple cake I dream about, a homey treat that is the perfect ending to a cozy meal.