A North End Restaurant Debuts with Family-Style Feasts in January

Table by Jen Royle will host Italian suppers at limited nightly seatings.

Table by Jen Royle opens on Jan. 22 in the North End. / Photo provided

Pass the… everything. When Table by Jen Royle debuts in the North End on Jan. 22, the Italian restaurant will gather about 40 guests at a time at just two communal tables for fixed, five-course menus served family-style. Yes, the format is a nod to the kind of gregarious gatherings Royle knew growing up with Italian family. [Insert: bellows of, “mangia!“] But it’s also a clever way for the sports reporter-turned-chef to break in to the brick-and-mortar restaurant world.

“I’ve been a private chef for the past five years, but I’ve really only done a handful of small dinner parties or plated meals,” Royle says. “Most of my jobs have been for parties in the 30 to 50 guest range. So I really wanted to stick to what I have been successful at, which is feeding the masses.”

“Plus, when I go to dinner with my friends or family, we share. I love meeting new people so I figured, hey, why not combine all of the above and open something different in the neighborhood?”

Royle, who spent years covering sports for WEEI and the Boston Herald, will kick off by offering just two nightly seatings: 6 PM and 8:15 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. She plans to eventually expand to three seatings Thursday through Saturday, and will add Sunday brunch service soon.

Lemon chicken at Table by Jen Royle. / Photo provided

The space at 445 Hanover St. will be filled with “rustic-chic accents,” Royle says. (“Almost everything is handmade, from the clipboards to the tables.”) On the monthly-changing menus, you can expect to start with focaccia bread accompanied by white-bean dip, roasted garlic and pesto, then move on to notions like lemon chicken, pasta-less shrimp scampi, short rib Bolognese, and Nutella-filled ricotta zeppole. There will be a few a la carte sides, too.

Royle also plans to use the space for “fun invitation-only private events,” charity-related events, and corporate and private functions.

Caveat: no alcohol, at least not for now. Royle says she is on the wait list for a license from the city, but wants to open doors anyway. When approved, she plans to pour all-Italian beers and wines.

At least she can bank on some strong early attention. Royle, then an ambitious amateur, kicked off her cooking career by competing against established pros on the ABC show The Taste; she made it to the finals, and later stepped into the ring on Food Network’s Beat Bobby Flay. So it’s appropriate that opening night at Table will be filmed by a “major television network,” according to Royle. She can’t say more than that. (So early diners, prepare to get a release form at the host stand.)

It’s not on the menu, but the spirited chef-owner’s TV-friendly personality probably won’t hurt. Though she originally planned to open without using OpenTable, relying solely on phone and email reservations to fill her 40-ish seats, Royle says the early demand has forced her to add online booking after all.

“From the UPS driver to the locals who pop in to say hello, there’s been an overwhelming positive response to the space I created,” Royle says. “In fact, most of the servers I hired immediately said, ‘I have to work here.’ Let’s hope in a month they aren’t saying, ‘I have to get out of here!'”

Table by Jen Royle opens on Jan. 22 at 445 Hanover St., Boston, 857-250-4286, tableboston.com.