The South End has an interesting dining scene. There are the sought after spots cooking up some of the best bites you will ever put in your mouth. There are the delicious, unfussy, neighborhood spots for regulars and visitors alike. There are the less chef-driven kitchens that just put out good, popular dishes, that are easy to enjoy and easier on the wallet too. La Motta is relatively new to the South End. La Motta has a little bit of all these characteristics. It is a sweet little spot on Washington Street. You can pop in for Sunday brunch before shopping at the SoWa market or meeting friends for dinner followed by a stroll through the neighborhood. I was recently invited to stop by to try dinner at La Motta so I could share my experience.
LaMotta had my kind of menu. It was not so little that you’re afraid to invite friends out to dinner in case they can’t find anything they like on the menu, but not so extensive that you feel like the menu needs chapters. I started off my meal with a cocktail, as one does, and after having a disappointing cocktail recently at a swanky spot, I was a little unsure of what to expect.
I was at an Italian restaurant after all, so I felt like I would be safe ordering wine, but I wanted a cocktail. I am so glad I ordered one. I started with the Americo, which is made with gin, vodka, lemon, grapefruit liqueur, and ginger beer.
Ordering dinner was a little tricky because there were many dishes that caught my eye. The special was a pounded pork chop with some delectable sounding sides. It is not uncommon for me to be drawn towards the sides (maybe that’s why the tapas and small plates trend is so popular) and La Motta’s sides were definitely my favourite. After concluding that we realistically couldn’t order one of everything, Debbie and I finally chose what to order.
Meatballs are those seemingly simple dishes that can go terribly wrong. I’m happy to say that not only are La Motta’s meatballs delicious, but they’re also served in an interesting way. There is a choice of classic, spicy or a unique meatball made with raisins and mint. I’m not a huge raisin fan and I prefer mint in my cocktails or salads so we chose the classic and the spicy. I love that the meatballs are served on polenta with a Sicilian ragù it is way more sexy to get a meatball that way than just sitting all alone on a plate (way tastier too).
This was my most crave-worthy dish. The skillet roasted Brussels sprouts were served over a creamy lemony sauce and topped with a truffled Pecorino and sesame seeds. I will probably order these every time I dine here so I hope they stay on the menu.
The burrata was very good and was also served in a unique way. I love a good clean burrata typically served with some toast or crackers and drizzled with some olive oil and herbs, but La Motta goes a little beyond that. Their burrata is served over an eggplant caponata and is topped with a little smoked sea salt. The smoky, umami of the caponata goes so well with the clean, rich freshness of the buratta.
I have to preface this part, with a little caveat. I’m very picky when it comes to pasta because most of the time I’d rather eat anything that isn’t pasta. For whatever reason, I decided to go for a gnocchi dish (I think I was swayed by the confit duck on top) and of course a classic Bolognese is always a good test of an Italian restaurant. The gnocchi were good but the duck was too crunchy, and I would have liked a little more flavour in the sauce. If you want just creamy and comforting, then the gnocchi would be a great choice. The Bolognese sauce was very tasty, not too rich nor too spicy. I wasn’t a huge fan of the pasta for the Bolognese not sure if it was the shape or the flavour. It was cooked perfectly so maybe it’s just my pasta pickiness kicking in here.
For dessert, we tried the skillet cookie and the panna cotta.
The skillet cookie was not a classic but it was delicious and nutty. The cookie itself is a hazelnut cookie and it has a nice earthy crunchiness to it. It is served topped with caramel sauce and bruléed marshmallow fluff. I love the flavours for the panna cotta. It was a vanilla custard with cherries and pistachios. The flavour combination was so good, but the cherries were a bit too sweet, and tasted like they came straight from the jar (albeit a very good jar of cherries- Luxardo perhaps). I would have loved to have the cherries doctored up a bit- a little tartness added in just to bring the dish up a notch.
All in all dinner at La Motta was very good and there was so much more on the menu that I wanted to try. I will definitely have to try the lasagna (that I saw on Instagram) because it looks delicious, and I will have to check out some of the other Secondi like the chicken picatta. I found the staff extremely knowledgeable, so if you have questions about the menu or can’t decide what to order, just ask.
For those of you carbo loading for the marathon, La Motta’s chef de cuisine Justin Winters has three classics on the menu with the marathon in mind. There will be Linguine Olio & Meatballs with toasted garlic, chili, parsley and hot crumbs ($16 w/o meatballs, $22 w/ meatballs), Mafaldine with Luganica sausage, charred broccoli rabe, toasted garlic and pecorino ($23), or Cinghiale Bolognese with rigatoni, wild boar sugo and parmesan ($25). on Friday, April 15th through Sunday, April 17th during dinner service.