Small Bite: Just Like Old Napoli

| Boston Magazine |

As world travelers know well, “rustic” is one of those words that hints at both what you’ll get (charm and authenticity) and what you won’t (mod cons)—whether it’s an 18th-century rental villa on the Via Roma or, in our case, a promising new Italian restaurant in Davis Square.


As world travelers know well, “rustic” is one of those words that hints at both what you’ll get (charm and authenticity) and what you won’t (mod cons)—whether it’s an 18th-century rental villa on the Via Roma or, in our case, a promising new Italian restaurant in Davis Square. Cozied away behind the Rosebud Diner, La Spina looks sophisticated enough, with espresso-colored wood, crimson booths, and deco-style porthole lighting. Yet it’s an Old World joint at heart: Chef and co-owner Rita Grasso Burton may pull up a chair to tell you about the specials, or her childhood in Napoli.

The cuisine is billed as upscale fare, but the experience comes across as hearty, honest…and, at times, a bit uneven. Our gnocchi della nonna, bathed in a superior marinara, was heavy and doughy; a shrimp pasta special came in a pedestrian white wine–garlic sauce; and the kitchen was out of the chicken-eggplant Parm combo we wanted. Likewise, two desserts we fancied weren’t available (though the stand-in, a hazelnut semifreddo, was divine). Nothing unforgivable, to be sure—but a sign that La Spina needs some professional polish to compete in modern times. —J. L. Johnson

381 Summer St., Somerville, 617-440-6284