It's official, I have a new favorite Italian restaurant.
Meet Giulia, the warm and cozy dining oasis nestled between Berry Line, West Side Lounge and Temple Bar on Massachusetts Avenue between Harvard and Porter Square.
Though Giulia is in a great location, it's a spot where parking can be difficult. If you head there for dinner, pad in 10 extra minutes to circle for parking.
We arrived at 7:15pm on a Monday night and the place was absolutely packed. They had so many reservations that the only place you could sit was the bar and there was even a wait to sit there!
Despite the wait, Giulia has the most wonderful manager who was sure to take our name and phone number and who updated us each time it looked like one of the patrons was about ready to get up.
While we were waiting to be seated I had some time to explore the restaurant space. I am in love with this exposed brick wall. It reminds me of a similar wall at Garden at the Cellar.
Towards the front of the restaurant there are intimate booths beneath a large chalkboard.
There is one undisputed star table which is in the front right corner. It's the only one on that side of the restaurant and it sits right up against a floor to ceiling window that looks out on Mass Ave.
As I snapped pictures I couldn't help but notice the great music playing - all jazz and blues tunes. My parents would have been in heaven.
We did eventually get two seats at the bar and the most adorable bartender handed us menus.
We began with drinks, a glass of La Valentina Montepuliciano for both of us.
The bartender also brought us bread and olive oil. You can absolutely taste the difference between store bought olive oil and the real thing and this is as real as it gets. That Mediterranean flavor is intoxicating.
The bread is my absolute favorite kind - doughy center, substantial crust.
To start we ordered the marinated olives and almonds. They come warm and garnished with orange zest. The orange zest is what makes the whole dish.
Next we dug into the bruschetta. It was super messy! You needed a fork and a knife to eat it. Definitely not first date food.
For my entree I went with the fusili with tomatoes, basil and burrata. This was a very simple dish but it was executed so perfectly that I wanted to savor every bite as long as I could. I didn't know a pasta dish could taste this good.
My dinner date ordered the spaghetti with clams which looked so good that I considered giving up my vegetarianism to sample it.
She said, "The pasta was a bit al dente. The sauce was light with a lingering bite, which was delicious. Though the clams were small, they were super fresh and not overly fishy. I really loved the touch of fresh parsley."
Though we were already stuffed, we had seen several desserts delivered to the bar and we wanted in. We requested the affogato, a dessert I was first acquainted with at Upstairs on the Square. Giulia's version is hazelnut gelato topped with Oreos and peanuts, served with a mini pitcher of espresso to pour over the top.
We slowly drizzled the espresso to help it melt the gelato.
The finished product!
We got about half way through the bowl and had to take a break. During our pause the dessert turned into this soupy puddle:
It was at this moment that the manager stopped by and asked if we planned to order the olive oil cake. We said it didn't sound appealing to us, but she insisted we at least try it.
A few minutes later she presented us with the cake which was topped with mascarpone cheese, figs and a honey drizzle. I really didn't think I would like this at all, but I was shocked - it was excellent!
If you were able to get a bite with cake, mascarpone and figs, it was heavenly. The figs tasted like candy.
When the manager popped over for our reaction, we conceded. She was right.
We also asked her about the dishes we'd been served on all night. The dishes are an unusual shape and color. She informed us that when they took over the space from Rafiki Bistro, they also bought all their place settings. You'd never know it because every single Giulia dish fits perfectly into these vessels.
Before leaving I snuck back to the ladies room. I was thrilled to see they use Caldrea soap (the best) and a flavor I can't get enough of, Sea Salt Neroli. I have the Rosewater Driftwood scent at every sink in my house.
On the walk back to the bar I noticed a beautiful communal table at the back of the room, just before the open kitchen.
The manager explained it's the chef's table. It seats 12 and if you make a reservation for that table, the chef surprises you with round after round of dishes. How fun does that sound?
Overall, our experience at Giulia was a fantastic one. It's wonderful to have a place like this so close by. The staff is attentive, knowledgable and friendly, the restaurant is inviting and most importantly, the food is outstanding.
Now the only remaining question is, who wants to help me fill the other 11 seats at the chef's table for my next visit?