A hotel restaurant space that has previously been home to two well-regarded Italian restaurants will welcome another: A restaurant tentatively called Bar Enza is set to open at the Charles Hotel in Cambridge’s Harvard Square in September, taking over the former Benedetto and Rialto space.
At the helm is acclaimed chef Mark Ladner, a name that may be familiar to those who’ve explored New York’s dining scene in the earlier 2000s — he worked in Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich, and Lidia Bastianich’s restaurant empire from 1998 to 2017, most notably as executive chef at Del Posto. There, he led the restaurant to earn four stars from The New York Times, not to mention a Michelin star. Nearly a year prior to Batali’s very public downfall, Ladner ended his long career with the restaurant group to open fast-casual restaurant Pasta Flyer.
The forthcoming Cambridge restaurant, as Boston magazine reports, will serve pasta, steak, and Italian snacks; Ladner told the magazine that it will be an “Italian version of a brasserie.” It’s a partnership with the Lyons Group, behind Back Bay French brasserie Rochambeau and quite a few other local venues.
While Boston’s putting up with a lot of New York restaurants coming into town lately — see Major Food Group; Blue Ribbon Group — Ladner is as much a Bostonian as he is a New Yorker, if not more so. The Belmont, Massachusetts, native got his culinary start right in Harvard Square as a teenager at a pizzeria, later working at Todd English’s Olives, a formative restaurant experience for so many big-name Boston chefs, including restaurateur Barbara Lynch. Harvard Square also got a quick taste of his fast-casual Pasta Flyer in a pop-up back in 2014, a few years before the restaurant opened (and closed) in New York.
At Del Posto, Ladner was known in particular for his epic 100-layer lasagna, a Princess and the Pea-inspired creation that melds Italian lasagna (béchamel, no tomatoes, no ricotta) with the Italian-American version (plenty of tomato and plenty of ricotta) by combining a traditional Bolognese sauce with light marinara and béchamel.
At the restaurant tentatively called Bar Enza, the lasagna will reportedly make an appearance, alongside antipasti; other pastas; bar snacks and cocktails; steak featuring Massachusetts-raised, grass-fed beef; and more.
The future Bar Enza space at the Charles Hotel has Italian food in its veins: Jody Adams’s Rialto closed there in 2016 after over two decades. Then, chef Michael Pagliarini and his team from excellent Italian restaurant Giulia, also in Cambridge, opened Benedetto at the end of 2016. Benedetto was cut short by the pandemic, closing in 2021, but it earned rave reviews during its five-year span.
Stay tuned for updates as Mark Ladner’s Bar Enza approaches an opening date, potentially as soon as September.