“I want you to spend your whole day with me at the Lexington.” That’s the message Puritan & Co.’s Will Gilson has for potential diners at his forthcoming trio of new restaurants. Later this year, Gilson and his team will open three new dining spots under — and on — one roof, with Gilson describing it as “a hotel with no rooms.” Get ready to meet the Lexington, which refers both to the overall project and specifically to its rooftop bar, as well as a cafe, Café Beatrice, and an Italian restaurant, Geppetto. There will also be private dining space.
The Lexington is slated to begin opening around mid-June 2020 (the cafe and rooftop will debut first, with Geppetto following after July 4) at the Cambridge Crossing development near the Lechmere MBTA station in East Cambridge. While Cambridge Crossing will ultimately span 43 acres, including a variety of retail, residential, and science and technology space, the Lexington will be inside a standalone building called the Shed, sharing it with Luminati Spirits x Lamplighter, a forthcoming distillery and brewery from Cambridge’s Lamplighter Brewing team.
When planning the project for the new development, Gilson wanted to create an “anchor” to which people could keep returning. “We always said, ‘If you go to a new city, what’s the anchor for you?’ It’s usually the hotel you’re staying in — and in there, there’s a place where you could meet somebody for coffee in the morning, later drinks, and then dinner, so that’s what we wanted,” says Gilson. The Lexington is meant to fill those needs, minus the actual hotel.
Continuing on the hotel analogy, though, the Lexington will have a main lobby with one central reservation desk, so whether diners are coming in for the cafe, restaurant, or rooftop bar, they’ll be directed from one central location.
Read on for a rundown on each portion of the Lexington.
The Lexington’s counter-service cafe, Café Beatrice, won’t be entirely unfamiliar to longtime fans of the Puritan & Co. crew: The original incarnation of Café Beatrice, named for Gilson’s young daughter, popped up for six months in Allston last year as part of Harvard’s Zone 3 Project on Western Avenue.
Café Beatrice 2.0 will showcase baked goods by acclaimed pastry chef Brian Mercury, who joined the Puritan team in summer 2019. His treats, both sweet and savory, will be playing an integral role in all of the Lexington’s menus. In January 2020, he previewed some potential Café Beatrice items at a couple of pop-up events at Puritan, including an Italian grinder croissant.
“It’s been really awesome to get to the point where Brian and I have the chance to work together,” says Gilson. “We’ve been friends for so many years, and we wanted to try to find the right way that we could link up. This seemed like the perfect opportunity: I don’t think he really wants to just be running a bakery all the time. We’ve found a way that in one building, he can be just as creative as he is at Puritan as well as have other outlets for grabbing different audiences throughout the course of the day.
Coffee (and the aforementioned baked goods) will be the focus of Café Beatrice in the morning, with sandwiches, salads, and the like coming into play for lunchtime. From afternoon into night, it’ll be a casual spot for a bottled cocktail or a glass of wine or beer.
The cafe will seat about 35 inside and 40 on a patio outside, and there will be wifi, an important piece of the puzzle thanks to the Lexington’s proximity to several gigantic companies, such as health technology company Philips, which has moved its North American headquarters — and 2,000 employees — to Cambridge Crossing.
“Before we got to this point in the construction and before Philips moved into its headquarters, we met with Philips employees, and the number one thing that they were asking was, ‘Can I work from your space?’” says Gilson. “There’ll be a balance between how to keep a restaurant busy with people who are wanting to occupy seats for food and people who want to occupy seats for workspace, but with the space as big as it is, we imagine that there will be times when some of this can be filled with folks who are spending their day with us.”
The Lexington’s ground-floor Italian restaurant will be called Geppetto, but don’t expect an homage to Pinocchio — it’s just meant to be a name the public will feel comfortable knowing, and it evokes an “Italian-ish” vibe. The restaurant won’t be “red-sauce” Italian-American, either.
“It’s the type of food we do at Puritan, focusing on seasonal ingredients,” says Gilson. “Very produce-driven; really high-quality meats and fish; utilizing the amazing seafood out of local waters. I think we want to have a great selection of raw fish dishes on the Geppetto menu.”
Also in the plans: a grass-fed ribeye steak topped with a liquid croquette of bagna cauda (a Piedmontese garlic and anchovy dip); panzanella (Tuscan bread salad) made with a traditional New England molasses bread called anadama; and smoked beet cavatelli with corned beef.
“We’re not trying to harp too much on New-England-meets-Italy,” says Gilson, “but I think that there’s going to be some carryover from the style of food that we have at Puritan. We really want to be able to serve unique dishes that people will feel comfortable knowing are Italian but not necessarily what a tourist would be expecting to find in the North End.”
Geppetto won’t really zero in on any particular regional Italian cuisine, but Gilson’s experience is influenced by the north. “When I first started cooking in Boston, I worked for Chuck Draghi at Marcuccio’s in the North End around 1999,” says Gilson. “Obviously food has changed a lot since then, but Chuck’s style was always northern Italian, big flavors where you’re utilizing things like mushrooms and herbs more than using heavy tomato sauces. So by default, I tend to lean more to northern Italy; that, and the food we serve here at Puritan, are where my strengths lie.”
Ambiance-wise, Geppetto is meant to “embrace a kind of Italy-meets-older-New-England feel,” says Gilson. “The ceiling will be covered in picture frames that will have fun illustrations inside of them,” and there will be black marble, warm wood, brass, and teal accents. The dining room will seat about 65.
While the team is calling the overall project the Lexington, the name also refers more specifically to the upstairs space, including the rooftop bar — essentially everything that’s not Geppetto or Café Beatrice.
The bar will be open for lunch and dinner daily (although probably just dinner for its first week), featuring food like “a really great burger, steak frites, big salads, great chicken wings — you know, fun bar food,” says Gilson.
The menu is still very much a work in progress, and due to the heavy focus on seasonality, the team wants to wait a bit to make sure the opening timeline actually lines up with dishes they’ve been thinking about, but Gilson shares a couple other possibilities: saltine-crusted fried oysters and a twin lobster roll lunch. The aforementioned wings could have a maple jalapeno glaze, while the burger might feature American gruyere, Backyard Farms tomatoes, and a side of bacon lardons or truffle au jus.
“The roof deck is really going to be the gem,” he continues. It’ll join only a handful of other roof decks in Cambridge: Harvard Square has a few (Daedalus, the Sinclair, Felipe’s), and Central Square is getting one soon, Blue Owl.
Not including the private dining room, which is also on the upper level, the bar will seat 75 inside and about 40 outside, with the outdoor section open from approximately late May through October, as the Massachusetts climate allows.
“The dining styles of the public have changed drastically, and I don’t know if it’s because the market dictates that, or whether people’s demand dictates that, but it’s so different from when we opened Puritan,” says Gilson.
“At Puritan, we have a guest for 90 minutes to two hours (if it’s brunch, maybe 45 minutes to an hour), but now there’s so much of the public that is like, ‘I want my food, and I want it now.’ So with this development — which we feel is going to be growing over the course of probably the next five years, when the new Lechmere station opens and when all these under-construction buildings open — we need to be able to adapt to what the public’s demands are going to be. The Lexington feels like a way for us to give a different experience to the same person so that they might be able to come back once a week, a few days a week. Come in on Monday and grab their coffee and a pastry or breakfast sandwich; meet with colleagues for after-work drinks on the roof deck on Wednesday; come by Saturday for an amazing bowl of pasta and some of Brian’s focaccia.”
“For me and for our team,” Gilson continues, “we’re excited for the chance to create something new and unique that doesn’t really exist. We’re not a food hall; we’re not a massive sports bar. We’re opening up concepts that feel true to us and are fun, and we’re excited to be the connection among Cambridge, Boston, Charlestown, and Somerville in a space that you used to drive by and be like, ‘What’s that gravel pit over there?’ I’m excited to be able to show people an area of the city that they might not even know exists.”
Stay tuned for updates as the openings approach, with the first parts of the Lexington hopefully debuting around the final days of spring and Geppetto following soon after. Each portion of the project has staked out an Instagram page (The Lexington, Café Beatrice, Geppetto), so keep an eye out for menu sneak peeks and more as spring and summer 2020 get closer.
• Puritan & Co. Team Plans New Restaurant With Rooftop Terrace Cocktail Bar [EBOS]
• The Lexington [Official Site]