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Feast Your Eyes on Giulia

[Photos: Rachel Leah Blumenthal]

Giulia opened earlier this month in Cambridge, boasting an upscale Italian menu (including house-made pasta, of course) by chef-owner Michael Pagliarini, formerly executive chef of Via Matta in the Back Bay. Located in the completely gutted and renovated space of the defunct Rafiki's Bistro, Giulia features ample exposed brick; on the non-bar side, the team had to rip through about six inches of wall to reach the brick. It appears to have been worth the effort. Newly installed light fixtures (originally held up in New Jersey by Hurricane Sandy) cast rounded lines of light from the front windows, which look out onto the busy stretch of Massachusetts Ave. between Porter Square and Harvard Square. A large chalkboard on the wall features drawings of vegetables and an Italian phrase that, according to co-owner Pam Ralston, translates to "What doesn't kill you makes you fat," similar in meaning (but adorably more food-related) to the similar English phrase about being stronger. A smaller chalkboard by the bar shows a map of Italy.

The long, narrow space is comprised of a bar on one side and a raised dining area on the other, along with a few seats by the windows in the front and a large table in the back, near the open kitchen. The back table - a sturdy, custom-built piece of furniture made from reclaimed white oak - serves as a preparation area during the day for the fresh pasta that appears on the menu. Current offerings include bucatini, orecchiette, and a spelt fusilli. At night, large parties can dine at the table. Eventually, Pagliarini and Ralston plan on offering a special tasting menu at the back table.

The first two sections of the menu, sfitzi and antipasti, include snacks and small plates such as warm semolina cakes with lardo, assorted salumi, and burrata di Puglia (with charred peppers, golden raisins, and pine nuts). Pasta dishes, which range from $14 to $22, include bucatini all'amatriciana (house-cured pancetta, tomato, onion, pecorino), lobster agnolotti (Umbrian truffles, chives, and lobster brodetto), and pappardelle with wild boar (black trumpet, juniper, and aged parmigiano). The "meat & fish" entrees ($18-$32) include grilled branzino (with roasted anise, potato, and sea urchin), house-made lamb sausage (with broccoli rabe, pepperonata, and gigante beans), and skate wing on the bone (with chioggia beets, capers, and green olives).

Giulia is currently serving dinner only, opening at 5:30 PM six days a week (closed Sundays). The restaurant is open until 10 PM Mondays through Thursdays and 11 PM on Fridays and Saturdays. Lunch is possibly in the cards for the future, and Ralston says that people are already asking about it, but for now they're just working on perfecting dinner.

· All coverage of Giulia on Eater [~EBOS~]

Via Matta

79 Park Plaza, Boston, MA 02116 617 422 0008 Visit Website

Giulia (Cambridge)

1682 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138 (617) 441-2800 Visit Website