Restaurants

Award-winning chef Mark Ladner debuts Bar Enza in Cambridge this weekend

The Italian restaurant opens at the Charles Hotel on Oct. 2.

Arancini at Bar Enza
Arancini at Bar Enza Maria DeNapoli

Chef Mark Ladner has spent the last 25 years in New York City, where he helped open culinary giants like Babbo, Lupa, and Otto while working with Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich, and Lidia Bastianich’s restaurant group. He garnered critical acclaim for his role as chef de cuisine at Del Posto, earning the restaurant a coveted Michelin star.

But the James Beard Award winner and Belmont native is now opening a project a little closer to home. On Oct. 2, Ladner will open Bar Enza, an Italian restaurant serving handmade pastas and seasonal dishes within Harvard Square’s Charles Hotel. The restaurant quietly opened for one day last weekend, and will host friends and family dinners throughout the week before it officially debuts on Saturday.

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This isn’t Ladner’s first stint in Cambridge. He began his career at Café Fiorello in Harvard Square before gaining a culinary education at Johnson & Wales, then went on to work at Todd English’s Olives in Charlestown, cooking with local all-stars like Barbara Lynch and Marc Ofaly.

Bar Enza
Bar Enza – Courtesy Bar Enza

At Bar Enza, which Ladner is opening in partnership with Boston’s Lyons Group, elevated Italian fare is the central theme. Ladner’s famed 100-layer lasagna that he developed while working at the now-shuttered Del Posto will make an appearance, as will crudo, steak, bar snacks, cocktails, and various antipasti. There is a giant meatball, made with a medley of pork, beef, and veal and held together with mashed potatoes, as well as baked and stuffed olives, garlic zeppole, and saffron suppli stuffed with crispy arborio rice and cheese. Diners can select from plates of marinated vegetables, imported Italian cheeses, and domestic cured meats like Wagyu red wine beef salami. In addition to that lasagna, heftier entrées include a chicken parm panino, smothered in spicy tomato marmellata, provolone, and basil on a sesame seed semolina roll.

Bar Enza in Cambridge
Bar Enza in Cambridge. – Maria DeNapoli

At the lengthy bar just beyond the restaurant’s entrance, guests can sip on Italian red, white, or sparkling wines, or cocktails like the Basilico Smash (vodka, Thai basil, lemon), White Negroni (gin, Cochi Americano, Salers), and the Ramazzoti Spritz (Ramazzoti, Prosecco, Fabbri cherries).

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Inside Bar Enza, a burnt orange and dusty pink color palette decorates the dining room, which is filled with plush banquettes and cozy corner booths. An ivy-covered patio offers outdoor seating in the courtyard.

When the restaurant opens this weekend, it will fill the space previously held by two beloved Italian restaurants: Benedetto, which announced its abrupt closure in April, and Jody Adams’s Rialto, which closed in 2016 after more than two decades.

Bar Enza; 1 Bennett St, Cambridge; Wednesdays—Sundays from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.; bar-enza.com

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