Chefs and restaurateurs Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette — the duo behind ultra-popular South End spots Toro and Coppa and their younger Cambridge sibling, Little Donkey — are heading to Boston’s Newbury Street next. Faccia Brutta, Italian for “ugly face,” is in the works, according to February job postings and a nascent Instagram account, as well as reports from earlier this year before a restaurant name had been revealed. Representatives for the restaurant group weren’t immediately available for comment.
A new general manager job posting promises an “elevated neighborhood restaurant” serving coastal Italian cuisine. The lower level of the space will be a natural wine bar, Bar Pallino, with a wine list by beverage director and partner Jodie Battles, who has been working with Oringer and Bissonnette for close to a decade.
Battles and the chefs have long been enthusiastic about natural wines. In a 2018 post on the restaurant group’s blog, Battles noted that natural wines are “food friendly no matter what ... the approach of being hands-off and as minimal intervention as possible aims to make wines that are fun to play with alongside a menu.”
In January 2022, the team presented the proposed restaurant, at that time unnamed, to the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay Licensing and Building Use Committee. Located at 276-278 Newbury St., Boston, between Fairfield and Gloucester streets, the restaurant is set to have a full liquor license (being transferred from the former Uno on Boylston Street) and will have about 100 indoor seats, plus 25 at the bar and 40 outdoors on two patios.
“Coastal Italian” typically covers a broad swath of Italian cuisines, but one can almost always count on an emphasis on seafood; if that’s the case with Faccia Brutta, the restaurant will be in good company. That section of Newbury and adjacent cross streets feature several other seafood-focused spots, including Select Oyster Bar and Puro Ceviche Bar, but the Italian focus at Faccia Brutta will differentiate it.
Oringer and Bissonnette are very familiar faces in the Boston restaurant scene. The James Beard Award winners opened Spanish tapas bar Toro in Boston’s South End in 2005, and it continues to be a local favorite, serving up dishes like paella and maíz asado con alioli y queso cotija. Next came Coppa, an intimate neighborhood enoteca, which has been operating for a dozen years; Little Donkey, serving global small plates and elaborate seafood towers, arrived in Cambridge’s Central Square in 2016. (They’ve also operated Toro offshoots in New York, Dubai, and Bangkok; the Bangkok restaurant remains open but has since transformed into Little Donkey.)
While Coppa serves Italian, it seems likely that Faccia Brutta will highlight different regions, given the coastal emphasis mentioned in job postings. Coppa is meant to be more like a tiny spot on a dead-end street in Rome, making pasta in-house and cooking pizza in a wood-burning oven, as the duo told Eater in a 2020 interview celebrating Coppa’s 10th anniversary.
But there’s one thing all of their restaurants have in common, Oringer said at the time: “Deep at heart, they’re neighborhood restaurants, and as much as the city changes, we just settle into our little spots and have regulars nice enough to support us on a regular basis.”
Stay tuned for updates on Faccia Brutta.