A highly anticipated new restaurant has sauntered onto the scene with glamour, gin, and garlic bread: Orfano officially opens tonight, bringing a fresh take on Italian-American cuisine to the Fenway, via the talented team behind Tiffani Faison’s Big Heart Hospitality Group.
Orfano is the fourth concept for chef Faison and her wife and business partner, Kelly Walsh, who also run Fool’s Errand, Tiger Mama, and Sweet Cheeks Q. With respect for tradition but a clear sense of humor, Orfano is the group’s fanciest restaurant yet. Its high-touch details range from ice-cold gin martinis shaken tableside by bow-tied, tuxedoed waitstaff; to glittering gold chandeliers casting warm light across a pearly-topped bar and lush, eggplant-colored booths.
Located on the same block at Faison’s other restaurants, Orfano is on the ground floor of the new Pierce building at the corner of Boylston Street and Park Drive. The restaurant seats just under 100 people across its dining room, bar, and attached café. The well-appointed, whimsical space is decorated with oversize prints of female icons, such as Anna Pellegrino, the matriarch of New York City Italian-dining legend, Rao’s; Golden Age dame Sophia Loren; and Lady Gaga, pictured slurping up a noodle of spaghetti.
But celebrating strong women isn’t just a design choice. Faison, who rose to fame as a Top Chef finalist and is now a regular guest judge on Chopped, has used her high profile to promote the talent around her. (An announcement that accompanied the opening states that providing “ample opportunity for female leadership” is part of Faison and Walsh’s mission to “change the industry’s standards.”) At Orfano, her team includes creative culinary director Michele Carter, who joins Big Heart Hospitality from the Barbara Lynch Gruppo; Best of Boston pastry chef Dee Steffen Chinn, now flexing her skills with sugar-dusted almond cannoli and extra boozy tiramisu; and Nicole Valva as general manager. Orfano looks to break away from the traditions and expectations of classic Italian-American dining—like “if the women were gangsters, not just the nonnas all the time,” Faison previously told Boston.
That approach to the menu yields freshly invented classics, like “Nonna’s garlic bread,” baked in-house and cheekily served House of Pizza-style in a paper bag; “pig Parmesan,” which riffs on the breaded-and-fried classic with a juicy tonkatsu pork cutlet; and cacio e pepe ravioli. The menu features prime steaks and chops, plus weekends-only smoked and roasted prime rib; and seasonal specials, like a classy martini glass of tuna carpaccio with sliced gordal olives; and clams Orfano with peperonata, garlic and herbs, and buttery toasted breadcrumbs. Check out the opening menu below.
Big Heart Hospitality beverage director Brian Callahan has honed in on gin martinis for his latest cocktail program, offering a lineup of specialty “martinis a la cart” from a roving martini cart. The restaurant group has also nabbed wine director Charlie Gaeta, who previously won a Best of Boston award for his bottle list at Branch Line. At Orfano, Gaeta is focused on domestic and Italian wines “with nuance and heft,” per today’s announcement.
Orfano welcomes walk-ins at its 16-seat bar and 20-seat café, while reservations are suggested for the dining room. They’re open now, and Orfano is open at 5 p.m. To start, it’s serving Sunday-Thursday from 5-10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday until 11 p.m.; lunch service will begin this fall.
1391 Boylston St., the Fenway, Boston, 617-916-9600, orfanoboston.com.
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