If you think that Eataly Boston—which boasts three full restaurants, several specialty counters, and fresh produce—could not have anything else to offer customers, it might just be time to think again.
Ascend to the top level of Eataly, and be dazzled by the soft lights dangling from the ceiling. They give the restaurant a warm glow, and perfectly complement the sun streaming in from the skylight, and emitted by roaring fire in the center of the restaurant’s open kitchen. Soft touches of brass and mirrored glass glimmer throughout the space, and greenery drips from the walls, accompanied by decorations like antiqued gardening tools and chipped earthenware pots. The smoky smell of a fire burning away weaves through the room, the perfect final touch to the rustic escape. This escape is Terra.
On April 4, when Terra officially opens to the public, diners will finally have the chance to visit this much-anticipated Italian grill-themed restaurant. Drawing inspiration from the simplicity of wood-burning cooking, Terra will offer a menu that emphasizes the links between the earth, produce, and the meal that results.
Located on the third floor of the Prudential Center’s signature restaurant, Terra is set apart from the hustle and bustle of the ever-popular marketplace. Unlike Eataly Boston’s first three restaurants—La Piazza, La Pizza & La Pasta, and Il Pesce—Terra will offer diners a completely immersive experience, removing them from the hectic city world and relaxing them into a smoke-infused culinary adventure. As famed chef and Eataly partner Mario Batali explained on the Terra Press Preview on Friday while clad in bright orange Crocs and pink cargo shorts, this calm and grounded atmosphere is exactly point of the Terra restaurant. But this ethos is not only embodied in the layout and organization of Terra, eliminates stressful and “cacophonous noise” from the kitchen. It is also found in the centerpiece behind Terra: the roaring fire.
“As you’ll notice that opposed to the intense scenes behind the scenes of restaurant where you see chefs working furiously over sautée pans, the cooking over open fire is more of a gently laying down of something and then watch[ing] it,” Batali said. “There is no Iron Chef, there is no Gordon Ramsey, there are no judges, this is all about the simple food of fire, and it doesn’t involve a lot of movement. It’s put the food down, let it cook, turn it over, put it down, let it cook, pair it with condiments and sauces and vegetables. This is the maximum expression of simplicity.”
In an era where diners might judge a dish based solely upon its intricate presentation over its taste, straightforward has gained a bad reputation. But at Terra, that simplicity results in food that is mouthwatering and delicious.
Organized into sections such as Spiedini (things on skewers), Bruschetta (things on bread), Primi (things with pasta), and Secondi (things with meat), the Terra menu features seasonal dishes that highlight the ingredients in the dish over fanciful technique and preparation. This means that in the Funghi Trombetta trumpet mushroom skewers, the earthiness of the mushroom is paired with the sharpness of garlic and just a touch of salt. The grilled Gambertto Selcatico shrimp skewer features the perfect amount of char and just a touch of chili powder.
And while Terra’s fire is put to good use in the juicy meats and sausages on the menu, the smokiness also finds its way into more unexpected places, like the pasta section. The smoky flavor elevates ordinary dishes, like spaghetti al pomodoro, which features smoked tomatoes that lend the traditional tomato sauce another layer of complexity.
As Batali noted, each menu item at Terra is a “celebration of raw product” where the produce comes first in importance, the fire second, and the technique third. Batali underscored the special importance of the local producers, a value that Eataly Boston has espoused since its opening on Nov. 29, 2016, in the Terra ethos. For Batali, John Nagle and Island Creek Oysters, the local fisherman who provide the seafood found of Terra’s menu, and the many others that Eataly Boston works with are the “true heroes of the restaurant complex.”
Eataly partner Lidia Bastianich described the ethos behind Terra by pointing to the large square fire roaring in the center of the kitchen, and elaborating on the primal way of cooking that it embodied. Much like Bastianich’s own grandmother, who harnessed the versatility of cooking over a fire, the Terra chefs will have the culinary world at their fingertips through this one tool, as long as they have access to the prime ingredients that is. Bastianich then explained that this quality comforts the diners as well.
“I think that people today are very conscious about recognizing what they’re eating,” Bastianich said. “Industrial food, big food, has kind of been prepared for us, and we don’t know that’s in there. So this is kind of an assurance from your local artisans and farmers that that is pure and honest, the cooking, I think it gives a sense of comfort to people to eat, to enjoy, and a feeling that they’re nurturing themselves.”
But diners who visit Terra will not only leave Terra feeling nurtured, they will feel completely stuffed as well. As Batali noted, the siren call of these local and simply prepared items are impossible to resist.
”When you talk to an Italian about the most delicious thing, it is the thing that expresses the smell of the wind as it blows across wherever you happen to be born on a Thursday afternoon,” Batali said. “It’s about capturing the flavor of the sea, of this particular Yankee part of the world, it’s one of the greatest opportunities, something that we are not going to squander.”
Featured Image by Madeleine D’Angelo / Heights Editor