In March, Tim and Nancy Cushman’s long-awaited Chestnut Hill restaurant, Bianca, was gearing up for its debut. The staff had been hired. The wood-fired grill was cranked up. They were five days away from opening — and then the pandemic hit.
“We put in all that time and energy and planning and everything,” Tim shared with Boston.com. “We were ready and raring to go, and then it all shut down.”
On Thursday, Bianca will finally open at The Street Chestnut Hill after an eight-month delay — and some reshuffling of plans. The Cushmans’ side project, Mr. Roni Cups, opened within Bianca in mid-August, and became a sort-of test ground for Bianca’s upcoming menu: In addition to offering Roman-style pizza sold by the cut, the pizza joint’s takeout menu also included wood-fired rotisserie, sushi and sashimi, and the crispy nori sushi tacos made popular at Gogo Ya, the Cushman’s creative sushi stall that formerly operated at Time Out Market.
“Bianca was intended to be full-service, the main restaurant, with Mr. Roni Cups being the side branch version,” Nancy said. “And we ended up, because of COVID, almost having to reverse engineer this opening.”
When Bianca opens, it’ll debut with what Nancy calls “a very focused menu”: pared down, but still offering an eclectic lineup for dine-in, takeout, and delivery. In addition to the pizza, rotisserie items, sushi, and crispy nori tacos, there will be three pastas on the menu, including a Ligurian handkerchief mandili, handmade egg pasta tossed with basil-almond pesto, ricotta, and San Marzano sugo. A “masa” ball soup sporting heirloom corn “matzoh” balls will be much-welcomed on cold nights, and will be available alongside salads, wood-grilled fish, steak, and burgers. Tim said he’s particularly excited about a mushroom French dip sandwich.
“It has sautéed mushrooms with herbs and cheese, and it’s on a great, crusty ciabatta bun,” he said “And then we make this umami mushroom broth au jus. You dip and dunk [the sandwich] into the broth, and it’s that crunchy, soggy beautifulness you get with a French dip.”
At the roomy bar, which will seat 10 to allow for socially distanced spacing, guests can order from a menu of classic cocktails, beer, wine, and sake, which can be sipped while watching sports on the bar’s mounted TVs.
“We really designed that bar to be so big and communal,” Nancy said. “That’s another thing I think people really missed, being able just to go and grab a quick bite or something and hang out and talk to the bartender for a few minutes. You can sense the longing from the community to just be back in a normal kind of setting — a COVID-friendly normal setting.”
Despite the COVID-19 precautions that will be in place — all guests will receive temperature checks upon arrival, and walk-in guests will be asked to provide their contact information — the Cushmans said they’re also hoping that Bianca will serve as an escape for diners, something which the restaurant’s Palm Springs-esque design seems to encourage. Light floods into the spacious dining room from a skylight above, highlighting a retro color scheme of greens and yellows, and vintage artwork hanging on the walls. While Bianca will open with indoor dining, the restaurant will still offer outdoor dining on its Bolyston Street-side patio, which will be outfitted with umbrellas and heaters. (A second patio on the other side of the building will be available for guests enjoying takeout from Mr. Roni Cups.)
The Cushmans’ other restaurants are coming back to life as well. Japanese izakaya Hojoko reopened in September, while O Ya, a modern Japanese restaurant in the Leather District, reopened Tuesday to the public with limited seating. Gogo Ya will continue to operate pop-ups at O Ya as well as offer delivery. And while Bianca will initially open with just dinner, it plans to expand with weekend brunch in the near future.
“The support has been amazing, because I think the whole community — especially the people that frequent The Street for shopping — they saw us building for a year, and they were all waiting for us to open,” Nancy said. “It’s a huge challenge right now to be doing this in COVID times, but the reception has been really heartfelt and really warm.”
Bianca; 47 Boylston St., Chestnut Hill; Wednesdays—Saturdays from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., Sundays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.; biancachestnuthill.com
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