The 50 Best Restaurants
Il Casale’s broken lasagna
Like any good Italian grandson, chef Dante de Magistris gives all the credit to his nonna. But while many of the dishes at his Belmont restaurant come from her kitchen, only de Magistris could make them somehow elegant and unfussy, rich and restrained. Salty-crisp guanciale and impossibly soft eggs elevate a carbonara; grilled whole trout is dressed with just enough bright citrus to enhance the fish’s flavor. >> Order This: Broken lasagna; any of the other homemade pastas. >> Great For: Group gathering.
50 Leonard St., Belmont, 617-209-4942, ilcasalebelmont.com.
Island Creek Oyster Bar
Duxbury’s Island Creek Oysters are so ubiquitous locally, we’ve come to consider them the gold standard. (Sorry, Wellfleets.) So the opening of the farm’s eponymous restaurant last year was long past due, and already we can’t imagine Boston without it. In addition to bivalves, chef Jeremy Sewall offers his takes on chowder and the lobster roll, not to mention entrées such as grilled Faroe Island salmon with fennel. >> Order This: Oysters, of course; lobster-roe noodles; Mrs. Bennett’s seafood casserole. >> Great For: Business engagement, group gathering, creative cocktails, standout wine list.
500 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, 617-532-5300, islandcreekoysterbar.com.
When a grease fire shuttered this Brookline gem in March, we feared a never-ending Olives-style closure. Would we ever again see chef Josh Ziskin’s Tuscan meatballs with porcini mushrooms? Thankfully, it was only two months until La Morra was cranking out tagliatelle anew. Start with a handful of cicchetti, such as fried olives, before tucking into entrées like rabbit-and-polenta lasagna. >> Order This: Any of the pastas; the fried eggplant entrée, when it’s in season. >> Great For: Date night.
48 Boylston St., Brookline, 617-739-0007, lamorra.com.
Getting out of the city can do wonders for clearing the mind — and, in the case of L’Andana, filling the belly. At his Burlington restaurant, chef Jamie Mammano (Mistral, Sorellina, Teatro, Mooo) wisely presents a menu that’s light on fuss and heavy on flavor. This is office-park country, after all, and Mammano doesn’t bother with precious, tiny-food-on-a-big-plate cooking. Here you’ll find rich Marsala-glazed veal meatballs; thick, savory wild mushroom soup; and a runny four-cheese fonduta. Even the tuna tartare, infused with citrus, is unapologetically bold, and the wood-grilled steaks are pure, elemental pleasure. >> Order This: Wood-grilled meats; carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. >> Great For: Business engagement, group gathering, standout wine list.
86 Cambridge St., Burlington, 781-270-0100, landanagrill.com.
Our testers are constantly on the lookout for signs they’ve been noticed — too many “gifts” from the chef; a suspiciously good table on a crowded night. At L’Espalier, though, we can never tell; everyone is getting lavished with attention. And every plate is photo-worthy, be it the veal tenderloin braised in hay-infused milk, or the butter-poached lobster with vanilla-scented squash. >> Order This: The chef’s “Seasonal Degustation” menu. >> Great For: Date night, business engagement, vegetarian dining, creative cocktails, standout wine list.
774 Boylston St., Boston, 617-262-3023, lespalier.com.