Friday, July 19, 2024

Lobster ravioli at Amelia’s Trattoria in Cambridge. (Photo: Tom Meek)

Back in the day – and I do mean the day – you could go to Amelia’s Kitchen in Somerville’s Teele Square and get homestyle Italian with hearty, no-frills house wine atop red-and-white-checkered vinyl tablecloths. You felt like you were in nana’s kitchen with chunky red sauce, savory meatballs  and cheesy garlic bread in plastic boats. You left with a full belly, a need for a nap and barely a dent in your wallet. That awesome dining experience checked out around 2013 – though the name (after chef-owner Delio Susi’s mom) lives on as Amelia’s Trattoria in the Kendall Square area. Opened shortly after the Kitchen closed, the Trattoria is a more fine-dining experience with a bump in the bottom line of the bill, though it does keep some of the homestyle touches.

You have to admire the Trattoria for taking up residence at a time the high-tech boom was in its infancy, and long before the biotech explosion. It’s a classic European-styled trattoria, inviting, intimate and homey. The open window into the kitchen is framed by old-world tiling, and the bar feels like a dark and cozy nook even though it’s at the center of server activity. The menu hasn’t changed a lot over the years, and much of what you are eating, namely the pasta, is made from scratch every day. Staples include the family meatballs, calamari and arancini, plus other tidbits that entice, such as grilled octopus with white beans. There’s plenty of pasta and classic clams linguini, and Susi prides himself on his gnocchi.

On the mains, the chicken piccata is a customer favorite, zesty and tender, along with the classic brick-style chicken; veal saltimbocca; and a steak frites that can come surf-and-turf style with lobster. My last visit I arrived with those two chicken dishes on my mind, but the special of the day was lobster ravioli. Lobster always calls to me; throw in cream and cheese and I draw back a step, because lobster meat is best on its sweet, succulent own. But I ventured forth and was plenty happy I did. These were puffy, perfectly cooked, just-north-of-al-dente raviolis loaded with lobster and ricotta, but not too much, and smothered in an Italian pink sauce – tomato and cream, with touches of egg and generous chunks of lobster galore. As you can imagine, it was a rich comfort feed, but it held up the lux of the lobster pleasingly and didn’t fill me up as much as my eyes had estimated it would. An Italian sangria was a nice accent to the meal, fittingly more pink than red and quite refreshing for these summer months.

The folks behind Amelia’s have two more eateries within a couple of blocks on Main Street: the haute taco bar Mex and the more postwork nosh spot Sulmona, more Italian fine dining with clean, cosmopolitan lines. Amelia’s remains the secret, special spot. Given a recent trend of fine Italian (Giulia, Bar Enzo, Pammy’s and Gufo among the many) you’d have to tag Amelia’s Trattoria as the OG. It’s open for lunch as well (and has a chick Parm sandwich that begs a try) and if you get the zuppa di pesce – a spicy tomato and lobster broth with assorted fish and shellfish, you can ask the kitchen to toss in octopus. The add-ons at Amelia’s are limitless and tantalizing.

Amelia’s Trattoria, 111 Harvard St., The Port near Kendall Square, Cambridge 

Tom Meek is a writer living in Cambridge. His reviews, essays, short stories and articles have appeared in the WBUR ARTery, The Boston Phoenix, The Boston Globe, The Rumpus, The Charleston City Paper and SLAB literary journal. Tom is also a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics and rides his bike everywhere.