La Padrona, a Luxurious Italian Restaurant, Debuts at Raffles Boston

Chef and restaurateur Jody Adams—with her A Street Hospitality partners—returns to the Italian-restaurant-in-a-hotel world she knows so well.


Photo by Brian Samuels

Italian restaurant La Padrona debuts at Back Bay’s luxurious Raffles Boston hotel on May 15, marking a full-circle, Italian-restaurant-in-a-hotel moment for acclaimed chef and restaurateur Jody Adams. She and her A Street Hospitality partners Eric Papachristos and Jon Mendez have enjoyed explosive success with their Mediterranean restaurant empire in Boston—often leaning Greek at Trade downtown and at fast-casual mini-chain Saloniki. But longtime Boston diners know Adams best from her work in a different Mediterranean cuisine—for over 20 years, she was at the helm of Rialto, the regional Italian restaurant at Cambridge’s Charles Hotel. Now, eight years after Rialto’s closure, she’s excited to be back in a similar landscape.

“I love being a part of a hotel,” says Adams. “There’s a whole world that goes on in front with all of the guests, but also behind the scenes, there’s a whole community of people making sure the machine runs properly and stays beautiful.”

Granted, La Padrona won’t be Rialto 2.0 (although you’ll see the old favorite breadsticks on the menu). This is a new era, location, and team—a team that learned a lot of lessons about what diners want from pulling their restaurants through the pandemic. Adams, Papachristos, and Mendez are building an Italian restaurant for 2024, one that feels equal parts modern and classic, aimed at catering to world travelers and locals alike. Whether you’re a Back Bay resident looking for casual bar snacks or an out-of-towner here on business with a splurge-y expense account, La Padrona wants to be there for you with a region-trotting menu, extensive wine list, plenty of Negronis, and beautiful space.

“We’re not trying to be avant-garde and do something nobody’s ever done before,” says Adams. “We don’t have magical equipment back there in the kitchen. We want to take the best of ingredients that we can get—whether it’s the food, the amaro, the wine—and tell a story.”

Photo by Brian Samuels

Adams, executive chef Amarilys Colon, and the team have created a menu that highlights a variety of Italian regions. Don’t think of it as a deep dive into any one area; it’s more a collage of inspirations picked up on travels over the years. For example, on a research trip that started in Piedmont in Italy’s northwest, the team had veal tonnato “too many times,” says Adams with a laugh. “Some were not so great, some were beautiful, and we really wanted to put a tonnato sauce on the menu, but vitello [veal] didn’t seem like it would appeal to our Boston audience.” Colon took the idea and ran with it, creating an antipasto starring charred little peppers with tonnato, capers, olives, and plenty of fresh herbs. “It’s super simple, but it’s a standout,” says Adams.

And from Abruzzo in the south, La Padrona will serve a dish inspired by the region’s burnt wheat pasta, with Colon and the team achieving that toasty flavor by charring vegetable trimmings and adding them to the flour. Local littleneck clams, braised tomatoes, and a broth with an umami kick from kombu (edible kelp) round out the dish. “[Colon] is doing things that are very traditional Italian but with some twists that actually make sense and don’t derail the dishes,” says Adams.

Also in the plans: two different styles of focaccia (a fairly thin Roman style and a cacio e pepe-flavored one that’s more pillowy); a light risotto with uni butter folded in and topped with lobster and uni; bucatini with tomato sauce and stracciatella cheese (“simple but extraordinary,” says Adams); a giant Florentine-style steak that could feed up to four; and lots more. Diners will want to save room for dessert, too, with a trio of Sicilian-inspired brioche and ice cream sliders likely appearing on the menu, as well as yet-to-be-finalized chocolate cake (Adams promises that it’ll be “over the top”) and a sweet-and-savory combo of ice cream with olive oil and balsamic beads and Parmesan tuille.

To drink, there’ll be a “pretty dynamic list,” says Papachristos, including around two dozen cocktails—with a whole Negroni section. “We want to pay homage to what our contemporaries across the world are doing with the Negroni. They’re having their moment, certainly.” A big wine list—in the realm of 400 or 500 labels—will be 80 to 90 percent Italian (representing all regions), with a few global selections. And there’ll be spirit-free options as well, including nonalcoholic cocktails and wines.

La Padrona’s design (by international firm AvroKo) matches the opulence of the hotel in which it resides, with distinct personalities on each of two floors and a grand staircase in between. The first floor is lighter in color and feel, aiming to draw in locals on a frequent basis for, say, casual bar snacks, says Papachristos. Reupholstered antique furniture keeps things classy while lending comfort to the space. Upstairs, the vibe is “darker and moodier,” he says, inspired by the old-school glamour of Torino’s golden age of cinema. A 22-seat bar adds energy to the sprawling dining room; the team wanted to create an ambiance that, like the first floor, invites diners for an everyday experience, but also caters to those looking for something “super special.” There’s also a private dining room that seats about 50.

It feels like quite an ambitious project as the city continues to pull itself out of its COVID-era slump, but the team is optimistic about joining forces with such an established global hotel brand. “I feel extremely bullish about what Raffles is doing here in Boston,” says Papachristos, noting that in his 30 years living here, he has seen an increasing stabilization of city life. Where once the crowds were distinctly based on the academic calendar, now there’s a year-round population of travelers and residents alike, thanks to increasingly Boston-based industries like biotech and finance.

“We’re thrilled to be here and we know that it’s going to mean connecting with a whole new community of people from beyond Boston,” says Adams. “World travelers are coming to this hotel, and we’re here to welcome them.”

Underneath the glitz and glamour, La Padrona’s roots lean a little more rustic. On research trips to Italy, the team “literally cooked at Michelin restaurants,” says Papachristos, which was “amazing.” But even better? Learning pasta-making from a grandmother. “Just bowls of pasta from a grandmother’s hands,” he says. “That left a really lasting impression. High-quality food, but with a lot of love.”

“That’s the last word,” says Adams. “Love.”

Opens May 15, 2024. 40 Trinity Pl. (Raffles Boston), Back Bay, Boston, 617-351-8888, raffles.com.