First Bite: Alma Nove
CHEF PAUL WAHLBERG’S new restaurant in the Hingham Shipyard development opened last summer with a Hollywood-boosted bang. Paul is, after all, a Wahlberg Wahlberg, with a face so similar to that of brothers Mark and Donnie, you may well mistake his rounds of the dining room for a celebrity sighting. But he comes by his trade honestly, having worked as executive chef at Bridgeman’s, a popular restaurant in Hull.
The concept here is mostly Italian with steakhouse accents, which seems practically market-tested for the South Shore’s yuppie majority. Add a harborside location and a seasonal patio and you’ve got a crowd-pleaser, as evidenced by one recent visit late into a very rainy evening. The dining room, a bright, atriumlike space, was nearly full; couples tucked into steaks and pasta, and a crowd of moms with matching blond highlights did cocktails and apps at the bar.
One starter you shouldn’t miss: the braised pork meatballs. Fluffy yet meaty, moist yet light, they’re served on a pool of creamy polenta and seasoned with smoked paprika and coriander. A larger portion would make a perfect dinner.
Less successful was a calamari appetizer with arugula, oven-dried tomatoes, and lemon-caper vinaigrette. The concept is solid, and the calamari were nicely grilled; someone just forgot to add salt.
Petite Australian lamb chops tasted pleasantly gamey and more intense than the beeflike lamb served at many restaurants. The accompanying risotto had just the right loose and creamy consistency, but the shreds of slow-roasted lamb in it were too large and fatty to properly blend in. The handmade gnocchi, though rich with wild-mushroom flavor, were too mushy to hold their shape. Meanwhile, a slightly overcooked halibut entrée was bland, accompanied by a decent cauliflower purée but not enough carrot-cumin vinaigrette to jazz it up.
Yet while the execution falters, the menu is too interesting to write off, and the staff shows talent. Perhaps the celebrity parties that got everyone’s attention early on were a distraction. Give the kitchen time to hone its routines, and let’s see this big brother make good.
22 Shipyard Dr., Hingham, 781-749-3353, almanovehingham.com.