Pasta Returns to a Beloved Jamaica Plain Address as Tonino Opens This Week
Here’s your first look at the cozy dining room and debut menu, from chitarra and clams to sheets of tomato pie.
A long-standing neighborhood restaurant space in Jamaica Plain is returning to form: Tonino opens Thursday, October 20, at 669 Centre Street, serving up fresh pasta, pizza, and aperitivo-friendly snacks in a cozy space. It’s the restaurant ownership debut for locals Claire Makley and chef Luke Fetbroth, who are working in partnership with David Doyle and Mari Pérez-Alers, owners of the Jamaica Plain restaurant/record store Tres Gatos.
“It’s certainly Italian-inspired in both food and décor, but not strictly,” says Makley, an alum of O Ya, Hojoko, and the Koji Club, and a sake professional who’s curated a food-friendly lineup of drinks that includes Japan’s national beverage. “There are enough Italian restaurants doing the true, authentic way,” she says.
Tonino has been a dream of the business partners for years. Fetbroth, who began his career at age 15 at Stone Hearth Pizza, has broad culinary experience at Sarma, Giulia, Moody’s Delicatessen, and the growing convenience-store chain Alltown Fresh, as well as at award-winning restaurants in Los Angeles and New York City. He also consulted for several months in 2019 at Tres Gatos and Little Dipper, the most recent occupant of 669 Centre Street (which before that was home to the beloved Centre Street Café, which had a pasta-centric reinvention in 2015 when Doyle and Pérez-Alers took over and brought on Rialto alum Brian Rae as chef).
In 2019, Fetbroth and Makley traveled together to Naples, Italy—and since then, they haven’t stopped thinking about a meal they shared at a tiny, family-run spot called Osteria Da Tonino. “We had things like linguini with lupini, which is a very small clam that’s local to the area,” Fetbroth recalls. “Basic food, just three or four ingredients, but everything was outstanding.”
Adds Makley, “It felt like the neighborhood vibe that we really wanted to have in our own space.” The 28-seat restaurant on Centre Street is the ideal size for their vision, she says, which they named in honor of that Neapolitan memory.
The opening menu pays homage to that trip via a dish of chitarra and clams, made with an eggy, house-made spaghetti and local shellfish. Snail-shaped lumache tossed with roasted, wild mushrooms, crème fraîche, and garlic; rigatoni amatriciana; and Taleggio-cheese-filled cappelletti drizzled with aged balsamic are among the other pasta dishes.
But the influences go beyond Italy: Tomato pie and other pizzas take cues from the Mid-Atlantic. “I would crush half-sheet trays of [tomato pie] as a child, visiting family in Philly,” Fetbroth says, describing a thick style of pan pizza topped with just a sprinkling of cheese. His version is dusted with pecorino and has an airier crust, thanks to a three-day process for fermenting dough, with a thinner-than-traditional layer of tomato sauce. It’s still a hearty bite, he says.
The opening lineup also includes a few small plates, such as roasted squid with brown butter pickles, gigante beans, and frisée; mortadella with pecorino and pickles; and a fennel salad with aged provolone, house olives, and a citrus vinaigrette.
On November 10, Tonino will begin opening at 3 p.m. for “aperitivo hour,” with some new and reimagined bar bites and a focus on vermouth and spritzes, such as the house spritz of Cappelletti Amaro, Prosecco, sparkling water, and a splash of citrusy yuzu sake. Lunch will also begin in the coming weeks, centering on pizza, salads, and sandwiches (think: mortadella with garlic mayo, arugula, and pickled hots).
Makley and Fetbroth led renovations themselves, peeling back layers of paint to reveal pine banquettes and swapping diner-style sparkly black vinyl for red cushions on the benches. The biggest change, though, was the removal of a wall separating the dining room from the kitchen, creating a two-seat chef’s counter and letting in more natural light from an existing skylight. It’s a bright and welcoming new look for a space that’s long been a Jamaica Plain mainstay.
Tonino’s tagline is “a new place to meet your neighbors”—but the team is ready to welcome anybody who comes through the door of the newly renovated space. They are hoping that may someday include the family behind Osteria Da Tonino, the Naples restaurant that inspired them: Makley wrote them a letter inviting them, had it translated into Italian, and mailed it last week.
Tonino opens Thursday, October 20, at 5 p.m. and will be open Thursday through Monday each week. Reservations are encouraged and will be available via Tock. Stay informed about hours and menu expansions on Instagram.
669 Centre St., Jamaica Plain, 617-524-9217, toninojp.com.