In a pronouncement from Gov. Charlie Baker that now feels like ancient history, all Massachusetts restaurants were ordered closed for three weeks — except for takeout and delivery — on March 17, 2020. (Three weeks ended up stretching to nearly three months, with outdoor dining resuming June 8 and indoor dining June 22.) It was bad news for everyone, but there was a bit of an extra sting for Tim and Nancy Cushman, who were set to open their new Chestnut Hill restaurant, Bianca, just days later on March 19. Now, eight months later, the doors are finally open.
The Cushmans are probably best known for their high-end sushi destination in Boston’s Leather District, O Ya; they’re also behind the Japanese izakaya-inspired Fenway spot Hojoko, and they operated two restaurants at Boston’s Time Out Market food hall when it first opened, not to mention a trio of restaurants in a now-closed New York hotel and a recently opened Mexico City location of O Ya.
The influence of Japanese cuisine on most of their restaurants continues only in part at Bianca, now open at the Street Chestnut Hill (47 Boylston St., Chestnut Hill): There are some sushi rolls on the menu, as well as some “crispy nori sushi tacos” that were the hallmark of Gogo Ya, one of the Cushmans’ Time Out Market Boston restaurants. But Bianca is all over the map, a self-described “family-friendly restaurant ... ready to transport you to far off places.” The name — Italian for “white” — is meant to evoke a clean slate with endless possibilities.
When Eater spoke with the Cushmans back in March, days before the originally planned opening date, Tim Cushman described the restaurant as “cosmic continental,” a way to group a variety of foods under one roof to make it easy for families and groups to dine together at a comfortable neighborhood spot. Sushi? Sure. Roman pizza? Yep. Rotisserie chicken, house-made pastas, burgers? They’ve got all that, too.
It’s a little nod to old-school continental cuisine, a hodgepodge of dishes from different cuisines, and the “cosmic” aspect comes into play with the decor. “We wanted it to feel like a little bit of a throwback but also otherworldly in a sense,” Nancy Cushman told Eater in March. “I think what we try to do with all of our concepts is transport people, make it feel like you’re leaving the world behind and you’re in a timeless, weird dimension that you don’t know where you are but you’re going to have fun.”
“It’s like the Jetsons landed in Monaco by way of California,” said Tim Cushman.
The Cushmans worked on the design and buildout with Portland, Maine-based firm Kaplan Thompson Architects, Whitlock Design Group from Waltham, and Boston’s Cafco Construction.
The opening menu — see below — is a bit shorter than planned, although wood-fired pizza, more sandwiches, and other dishes will be added later. This is a time for restaurants to be flexible, streamlining service and honing in on dishes that perform well for takeout and delivery, which Bianca is offering alongside indoor and outdoor dining.
Indeed, a casual restaurant inside Bianca, Mr. Roni Cups, actually opened three months back, optimized for takeout with a focus on Roman-style pizza, rotisserie chicken, salads, and a few other options. The pizza is available on the Bianca menu, and Mr. Roni Cups continues to operate as a takeout counter in the back of Bianca.
The Bianca team includes a lot of familiar faces for longtime fans of the Cushmans’ restaurants: Hojoko alums Rob Wong and Victor Mazariegos are Cushman Concepts Group executive chef and Bianca chef de cuisine respectively, while O Ya alum Nik Mastelerz is overseeing breads and desserts at Bianca. (Those who want second dessert should note that boozy ice scream shop OddFellows, which landed in Chestnut Hill in 2019 by way of New York, is steps from Bianca’s back door.)
The restaurant is currently offering full-service seating indoors — following COVID-related distancing and sanitization guidelines — and outdoors, with heaters and umbrellas on the patio on the Boylston Street side of the building. The back patio has space for those picking up Mr. Roni Cups takeout. Bianca also has a private room for events capped at 10 people. The restaurant is currently serving dinner Wednesday through Sunday, with weekend brunch slated to begin later this year.
Find links for reservations and online ordering on the Bianca website.