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Interior of a nice restaurant, brightly lit, with white walls and light wooden accents.

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Seafood Takes Center Stage at Faccia Brutta on Boston’s Newbury Street

Here’s a closer look at the opening menu for the Back Bay newcomer, a coastal Italian sibling to local favorites Toro, Coppa, and Little Donkey

Faccia Brutta in Boston’s Back Bay.

The name means “ugly face,” but Faccia Brutta, the Newbury Street restaurant from Jamie Bissonnette and Ken Oringer’s JK Food Group, draws inspiration from attractive locales: sun-soaked coastal Italian destinations like Sicily and Sardinia.

The sibling to the ever-popular Toro, Coppa, and Little Donkey debuted in late May 2022, along with Bar Pallino, its natural wine bar offshoot downstairs, but the venues have been in the works since before the pandemic. The project included a gut renovation of a Back Bay space that previously housed a couple of salons; the result is a spacious, attractive restaurant on the ground level, a front patio sure to be a hit all summer, and a dark, intimate bar below.

A restaurant interior features white brick walls, wooden tables, and chairs with mustard yellow seats. A blue velour banquette is by a bay window.
One of the dining areas at Faccia Brutta, looking out onto Newbury Street.
More dining space in the back, with views of the kitchen.
A restaurant exterior in a brick townhouse. A patio out front features wooden tables and chairs, bright orange umbrellas, and a trellis with the restaurant name, Faccia Brutta.
Faccia Brutta’s front patio offers classic Newbury Street people-watching.

While the group has done Italian before — Coppa’s been a South End mainstay for a dozen years — Faccia Brutta targets different regions and brings new opportunities to longtime team members. Coppa is a wood-fired pizza and pasta joint that’s supposed to feel like a place you’d find on a dead-end Roman street; Faccia Brutta features seafood in various coastal Italian traditions. It’s a place to let the “super talented” chef Brian Rae spread his wings, says Oringer, after over five years in Coppa’s tiny kitchen. Rae’s resume also includes substantial seafood experience cooking under Rick Moonen — known for sustainable seafood advocacy — in Las Vegas.

Downstairs, Bar Pallino gives JK Food Group’s longtime beverage director Jodie Battles, a partner in both new venues, a playground to “reach deeper into Italy and find all these tiny [natural wine] producers she has relationships with,” says Oringer, noting that Little Donkey has highlighted natural wines since day one.

Interior view of a dark, classy-looking bar with four long shelves lit up and displaying album covers.
A wall of records leads the way into natural wine bar Bar Pallino, Faccia Brutta’s downstairs sibling and neighbor.
Interior shot of a dark bar, featuring rows of wine bottles and shelves of album covers.
Bar Pallino serves a concise menu of Italian-inspired snacks to accompany its natural wines.
Geometric art in neon colors is painted onto a door in a white hallway. The words “Newbury” and “Bar Pallino” are visible within the design.
Bar Pallino’s doorways feature art by Joe Taveras.
An abstract image of a woman holding a wine glass is painted onto the white wall next to a black door in a basement hallway.

Here’s a closer look at some of the dishes on Faccia Brutta’s opening menu.

Crudo

Overhead view of a crudo topped with bright red sliced chiles, small purple leaves, and dots of olive oil. It sits on an off-white speckled plate on a dark blue velour background.
Faccia Brutta serves half a dozen crudos, including this black bass crudo with tomato water aguachile, Fresno chiles, shaved red onions, mustard oil, chive flowers, lime zest, and sea salt.

“We wanted to have a large crudo section on the menu, substantial enough to stay interesting,” says Oringer. “We wanted to show respect for the Italian tradition but also wanted to put a little bit of a spin on some dishes. Especially having [Oringer’s sushi-focused restaurant] Uni all these years, it’s hard to just serve sliced fish with olive oil and salt, so we came up with some Italian-esque variations on things.”

Vegetable antipasti

Cherry tomatoes, radishes, sugar snap peas, and other raw veggies are arranged on a white plate over ice, with several dips served alongside.
Faccia Brutta’s vegetable antipasti complements a variety of raw vegetables with tonnato, caponata, roasted peppers with feta, and more.

A nod to the Copley Square Farmers Market a few blocks away, the vegetable antipasti showcases a variety of produce. “When you’re on the coast in Italy, so many people are eating raw vegetables; it’s the way a lot of people start dinner,” says Oringer. “We wanted it to be some funky things and some delicious things that would be great in dips” — dips like caponata. “I’ve traveled around Sicily and love a good caponata,” says Oringer. We put plenty of celery and cocoa powder in it so it has an unpredictable finish.” It’s not all about Italy: The roasted peppers get some Turkish inspiration with Urfa pepper and feta.

Burrata

Juicy caramelized apricot slices sit next to a sizable hunk of cheese, garnished with crushed nuts and greens.
Faccia Brutta’s burrata is served with sweet and sour apricots, candied walnuts, oregano vinaigrette, Sicilian olive oil, arugula, and arugula flowers.

Burrata is one of Faccia Brutta’s small plates, a selection that includes dishes such as mozzarella sticks with caviar; Roman-style fried artichokes; and whipped ricotta with Sardinian honey and sugar snaps. “Everybody in the world loves burrata,” says Oringer, noting that the restaurant uses a buffalo milk burrata that is “so delicious as is” that the team wanted to keep the preparation simple. The dish features apricots that are roasted, caramelized, and chilled to become a sweet and sour condiment that’s “not quite a mostarda.”

Pasta

Overhead view of a bowl of green filled pasta tossed with fiddleheads, served in a thick pool of a brown butter sauce.
Faccia Brutta’s pansotti is filled with ricotta made in-house, braised Swiss chard, and fiddleheads (while the season lasts), topped in a “fairly traditional” brown butter, says Oringer.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Faccia Brutta’s pasta selection includes some less common shapes, such as pansotti, a traditional Ligurian filled pasta, and trottole, tight curls, made here with squid ink.

House-made gluten-free pasta — made in a separate kitchen — is also available, which Oringer is “super psyched” about; it can be substituted into any pasta dish. “My daughter has celiac disease, and the pandemic allowed me to really have the time to play around with [gluten-free] pastas,” says Oringer, and fortunately the restaurant’s layout allows for a dedicated space.

Grilled Scituate lobster

Overhead view of a half lobster sitting in a small pool of reddish broth and topped with small, round dots of pasta, herbs, and small clams.
Faccia Brutta’s grilled, chile-basted half lobster is served with baby clams and fregola in a fisherman’s stew-style preparation, finished with some lobster stock. It’s topped with sea beans and a chile crisp-like glaze of Calabrian chiles and fried garlic.

Faccia Brutta’s meat and seafood entrees include a grilled half lobster basted in Calabrian chile butter. “It’s funny that we live in Boston, but you don’t see lobster on that many menus,” says Oringer. “It’s so expensive. I think one of the luxuries of being on Newbury Street is that it allows us to be able to have some of these items that would be harder sells in the South End or Central Square.”

Baked Sorrentina

A scoop of white gelato is topped with peaks of torched meringue, a yellow drizzle of curd, and cookie crumbs, served in a small stoneware bowl.
Faccia Brutta’s baked Sorrentina dessert includes vanilla gelato, lemon curd, torched meringue, and a bit of cookie crumble.

“The lemons in Italy are so fragrant, so phenomenal,” says Oringer, so the team knew they needed a lemon dessert and landed on a play on a baked Alaska. The vanilla gelato is made in-house, and the lemon curd is a combination of Meyer lemons and yuzu, the latter adding “some punch.” Other desserts on the menu include a Sicilian-style ice cream sandwich with hazelnut gelato on brioche; a chilled fruit and sorbet plate; and baci di dama, Italian cookies with Nutella.

Cocktails

Two pinkish cocktails, one with a foamy top, sit on a wooden table in front of a rustic white brick background.
Two Faccia Brutta cocktails: Spa Day (left) is made of Brovo vodka, lemon verbena, and raspberry shrub; the Orangie fizz is made of Aperol, Italicus (an Italian bergamot liqueur), Meyer lemon, aquafaba, and sparking water.

While Bar Pallino focuses on natural wines, cocktails take the starring role upstairs at Faccia Brutta. “We’re keeping it in the classic vein of what Italian cocktails are,” says bar manager Jan Brown, including variations on Negronis and spritzes. The refreshing Spa Day, for example, “is basically a riff on the old-style spritz, a modern variation tailored to the Back Bay area where we have so many spas and gyms.” The Orangie Fizz, meanwhile, is Brown’s take on a blend between a classic silver fizz cocktail and an Aperol spritz. Aquafaba — the dehydrated chickpea powder that gives a frothiness to cocktails — replaces the egg whites that would be present in a typical silver fizz.

Faccia Brutta and Bar Pallino, located at 278 Newbury Street, Boston, open at 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Faccia Brutta reservations are available via Resy.

Faccia a Faccia and Bar Pallino

276-278 Newbury St., Boston, MA 02116 Visit Website
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