I have been wanting to dine at Juliet in Union Square since it opened in February of last year. The editor of Eater Boston, Rachel Blumenthal, lives close by and is always posting the most gorgeous, mouth-watering photos on Instagram, which are a constant reminder that I need to get myself there!
The catalyst for my eventual first visit was an article in Boston Magazine describing a new weekly dinner event called Romeo's at Juliet. On Sunday evenings from 4pm - 8pm the restaurant is open to walk-ins (they normally require reservations) and the menu is all Italian-inspired. Shall we head to fair Verona?
Juliet is located in the heart of Union Square in the space previously occupied by Sherman Cafe. It is co-owned by Chef Josh Lewin (former executive chef of Beacon Hill Bistro) and Katrina Jazayeri (former manager of Belly Wine Bar). The restaurant gets its name from Katrina's middle name.
Juliet can be easy to miss as you drive by because the signage is tiny (see the small black and white sign poking out from the wall?) and the larger sign sits down low in the front window.
The hours are posted on the door, including a special message about the new Romeo's at Juliet menu.
Inspired by the Sunday supper many Italian families share together each week, the Romeo's at Juliet menu is only available Sunday evenings.
Right when you step inside the door you are greeted by a collage of two quotes from Bon Appetit Magazine's review of Juliet.
The space seats 19 people and has a large open kitchen. Because of the open kitchen, I left with my clothes saturated with the smells of delicious Italian food. When I arrived back home, my dog tried to inhale my sweater.
I particularly love the counter and stools that face the front window. This is the perfect spot for people watching.
Juliet is beautifully designed and feels like you are eating in the kitchen or dining room of a friend with impeccable taste. I once had the pleasure of doing a photo shoot at the home of food stylist Catrine Kelty and the Juliet space reminds me of the warmth and charm of her house.
In a review for Zagat, Scott Kearnan wrote, "Jazayeri took the lead on designing the crisp white space, from personally upholstering the dining room chairs to mixing a custom walnut stain for the floors. Her Houston-based aunt Mary Aldrich, as well as local potter Michelle Barrett, created the handmade serviceware." The attention to detail and level of care really shows.
We arrived at 6:00pm and were seated immediately. We were greeted at the table by Chef Lewin, which was both a shock and a thrill! It's a rarity to be able to meet a restaurant's chef, let alone be welcomed by him and have the chance to chat and ask questions.
The Romeo's at Juliet menu follows the traditional Italian meal pacing - sfizi, antipasti, primi, pasta and a list of contorni (sides).
They had me at garlic knots.
After a few minutes of perusing and making our ordering game plan, Chef Lewin reappeared to ask if we'd made any decisions. I was still in total awe that we were giving our order directly to the chef!
We couldn't resist the garlic knots, so decided to start there. What arrived a few minutes later was a plate of three kiwi-sized knots.
Each knot was topped with parmesan cheese that had been crisped while baking. The texture reminded me of the way some chefs use baked parmesan instead of croutons.
For me, the garlic knots were a smidge dry. I wish they had come with a tomato sauce for dipping. I love the garlic knots at Area Four and these just couldn't compete.
Next we shared the kale Caesar salad with roasted cabbage, parsley, parmesan cheese, croutons and the house dressing.
Both my dinner date and I agreed that shredding the kale made the texture of this salad absolutely perfect. Sometimes kale can be tough to cut and eat daintily, but this was super enjoyable. The parsley added a bright freshness as well. We shared this dish, but selfishly I wish I had ordered my own bowl. I could have gobbled up this entire salad and still had room for pasta.
There are five choices in the pasta course and we picked two to sample. We ordered the appetizer portion of each, not knowing how large (or small) the portions would be.
My friend went with the ragu alla bolognese - beef and duck liver ragu served over tagliatelle and topped with parmesan cheese.
After a few forkfuls she shared, "This is really flavorful. It has a good amount of salt, which I love. The tagliatelle is the ideal noodle to soak up every last drop of ragu."
I selected the spaghetti aglio e olio, seasoned with Calabrian chili, garlic and bread crumbs.
How pretty is this pottery? Swoon!
This dish was a home run. The bread crumb topping offered a satisfying crunch with each bite and the chili added great heat. My only regret was that I didn't order the full size dinner portion. I wanted more!
Once we had made our pasta disappear (which happened in a matter of seconds), we were eager to see the menu again and order more. It was difficult for us to get anyone's attention and the minutes ticked by - first five, then ten, then fifteen. Eventually Katrina appeared at our side and apologized, "Thank you for bearing with us. This is only the second Sunday we have done this and we're still getting used to this service."
Excited to try more dishes, we ordered the baked tomatoes with bread crumbs and the parmesan and honey from the antipasti section of the menu. The parmesan arrived and I felt my eyes bug forward. This was such a generous portion!
Typically I eat parmesan cheese shaken or grated onto my pasta, not in block form. This felt so special and indulgent. I dunked each and every piece into the honey before nibbling.
While baked tomatoes may seem simple and a strange thing to order in a restaurant, this was actually one of my favorite dishes of the night. The warm tomatoes combined with the toasted bread crumbs was heavenly.
I couldn't help but think that the next time I make mac and cheese I should put a layer of thinly sliced tomatoes on top before coating it with bread crumbs.
At this point we had seen dessert delivered to a few neighboring tables and though we were intrigued, the service had significantly slowed and we just didn't have the patience.
We politely asked for the check and Katrina returned with two small pieces of cherry almond cake as a parting gift.
When you receive your check, Juliet also provides information on their "no gratuity" policy. They include a service charge with your bill, so there is no need to leave a tip when you sign.
I must admit, it felt strange not to leave a tip, as that is my usual way of rewarding an exceptional meal and stellar service, but it was great to know we were patrons of a restaurant that firmly believes in fair, living wages.
I had been looking forward to dining at Juliet for over a year. I was glad my first visit was during an evening when they were trying a new menu, as it felt extra special to be involved as they iterate on this Sunday supper series. I definitely plan to go back for breakfast and dinner on other days of the week.