First Bite: Olivadi (Which May Be Worth a Trip to Norwood)

Upscale dining in Norwood that’s actually worth it—who knew? Located just steps away from the Norwood Central commuter rail stop, is Olivadi, an upscale casual restaurant with a menu of family comfort food specialties from the Calabria region of Italy.

Set in a Tuscan-inspired dining room, the space is flanked by an open-concept kitchen that showcases the heart of the restaurant—the brick oven, a sophisticated bar, and art gallery-worthy walls.

The restaurant opened in October with renowned restaurateur Bruno Marini at the helm, who was previously general manager at the Federalist XV Beacon (before it was Mooo), and who also worked closely with Lydia Shire at the gone, but not forgotten, Biba and Pignoli. Chef Daniele Baliani also came to Norwood from Shire’s Pignoli.

Moments after we were seated, a basket of warm bread and brioche crackers appeared with a cannelloni bean and olive spread. We devoured every morsel before the first course arrived. Fried calamari ($10) was sweet and tender, moistened by a choice of marinara or creamy white sauce. The grilled cheese bruschetta ($9), on the other hand, was somewhat disappointing: two small slices of bread, one topped with goat cheese, the other with (out of-season) tomato, atop a bed of flavorless greens. (In a moment of buyer’s remorse, we wished we’d selected the butternut squash and mushroom risotto instead.) But the entrees more than made up for it.

The pan-roasted duck ($26) arrived steaming with a thin layer of crispy, expertly rendered skin with lean and tender meat underneath. Mashed sweet potatoes were topped with crunchy fried chips, and the kale stir-fry was a welcome addition to the meat-and-potato-heavy plate.

The sirloin “Pepe Nero” ($32) was also terrific, grilled with a brush of gorgonzola, and served with a spinach side and yummy polenta fries stacked like a log cabin (I stole several bites from my husband, who politely shooed my fork away). The handmade tagliatelle alla Bolognese ($22) and pistachio-crusted salmon ($20) also came highly recommended by our genuine and attentive server.

For dessert, there’s made-to-order cannoli (still brittle and warm from the oven) as well as berry soup, which included seasonal berries topped with lemon sorbet and bathed in an addictive sambuca syrup.

All in all, the quality and service were so refined, even avowed urbanites might consider the occasional reverse-commute.