Review: Tasting Italy at Orta Restaurant in Pembroke, MA
May 1, 2014
I was reminded recently – from two people – that I eat enough for any two people, so I should be sharing my experiences more. I’m working on that, but as many of you realize, I also cover technology, cycling and a few more topics, so my blogs haven’t been overflowing with restaurant visits recently.
That’s changed with a recent trip to Orta in Pembroke, the Italian eatery that’s the vision of chef-owner Brett Williams and his wife Cara. Truth be told, going to Orta was a little trip to Italy without leaving the South Shore.
Romantically lit and with good acoustics, the first thing I noticed when I walked into Orta was the table spacing and the comfy seats. While there’s room for plenty of diners, you’re actually not sitting on top of each other as in many trendy North End restaurants.
Next up was the gentle sound of conversation and the brick oven with flickering yellow flames. It’s encouraging that you can actually carry on a conversation in the room unlike so many ‘trendy’ places that jam the tables together and have hard surfaces everywhere.
If it stopped there, Orta would have gotten solid marks for doing it right, but then came the food and my scores went higher. From the tuna tartare to the salads and pasta, everything was spiced and seasoned correctly and portions were generous.
My favorite light dish was the carpaccio with lemon aioli drizzle, though the mussels were not far behind with a savory broth that was perfect for dunking your bread. Then came the brick-oven pizzas with cranberries and duck on one, Madeira-soaked crimini, shiitake and oyster mushrooms on another. Delightfully crisp and enough for a meal if you were going to eat light.
But the night continued with some wine and the primary courses. By this time I was practically full and had to only take tasting bites, but the food remained consistently good. The pastas were all done well and sauced with a little panache. The main dishes – veal meatloaf, Maine salmon and my grass-fed sirloin were plentiful and expertly prepared.
By the time dessert was served, I was too full. Next visit to Orta I’ll plan better. Overall a fun, eye-opening experience. I didn’t know we had such Italian expertise this far south of Boston. I also was pleased to find another restaurant to put on my rotating list of local dinner places.
If you haven’t been, Orta’s easy to get to at the junction of 139 and 53 in Pembroke. Dishes are moderately priced, though you can get fed quite well by ordering an appetizer and a pizza. And the wine list is extensive.
See some more shots I took the other night, below. And if you go, let me know what you sample and what you think.