(No stars) Poor
BELLA LUNA The Brewery, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain. 617-524-3740. The JP stalwart has moved, and Hyde Square’s loss is the Brookside neighborhood’s gain. Bella Luna still serves up great pizzas and salads, plus the rare veggie burger that’s a viable stand-in for the beef version. And it still draws all kinds of people for a fun night out. Sadly, the new location lacks the bowling lanes of the old, but that may be about to change: Bella Luna just got a Wii.
STEPHI’S ON TREMONT 571 Tremont St., Boston. 617-236-2063. When this little sister to Stephanie’s on Newbury opened, there were doubters. The South End doesn’t have the kind of tourists and shoppers who come to see and be seen on the patio at Stephanie’s, they said. To their surprise, Stephi’s on Tremont looks like a pretty big hit. It’s more of a neighborhood hangout than Stephanie’s, with a patio of its own. The food is a mixed bag but the bar scene is lively. You still come here to see and be seen.
IL CASALE 50 Leonard St., Belmont. 617-209-4942. Chef Dante de Magistris has turned a former firehouse into a lovely restaurant, a large yet warm (and loud) space of brick walls, exposed beams, and high ceilings. The food is lovely, too, much of it made from family recipes. It is a snapshot of how tastes have changed. Rustic and simple are the new elegant. Dishes such as pork meatballs in a sauce made from pig’s head and wood-grilled trout stuffed with lemon and orange slices show how modern Nonna’s cooking can taste.
TORY ROW 3 Brattle St., Cambridge. 617-876-8769. The duo behind Miracle of Science, Audubon Circle, Cambridge 1, and Middlesex Lounge, Matthew Curtis and Chris Lutes, have mastered the art of the upscale-casual restaurant-hangout. Though their new Tory Row shares the pleasingly pared-back aesthetic of the others, it lacks their sense of purpose. The menu is neither here nor there - flatbreads, raclette, Spanish black bean soup, pot pie, veggie burgers - when a cheeky name like Tory Row practically begs for a menu of cheeky riffs on British cuisine. The flatbreads and duck salad are tasty, and the view out the glass front is fine, but you won’t find anything revolutionary here.
THE HYDE 5 Fairmount Ave., Hyde Park. 617-364-9814. By day, it’s a mild-mannered diner, serving eggs and coffee and BLTs. But at night, this space of humble little tables and chrome-and-vinyl stools fills with the smells of crab cakes, pan-roasted salmon with sushi rice, and thick-cut organic pork chops. In the lexicon of diner slang, there are no terms for these dishes. Chef Brian Roskow’s food is honest and reasonably priced.
HOUSE OF BLUES 15 Lansdowne St., Boston. 888-693-2583. When the main draw is music, how good can the food be? At the House of Blues restaurant on Lansdowne Street, the answer is: better than required for a place many will visit for convenience’s sake. The menu merges comfort food with New England and Louisiana fare. Creole and Cajun dishes don’t offer the to-die-for deliciousness of the versions you’ll find in situ, and that probably goes without saying. But the knockoffs evoke the originals pleasantly enough.