What makes a great Italian restaurant? For some it may be the antipasti, while for others it’s the quality of the wines and pastas that’s the sure-fire test. Holding up one dish is dangerous. Octopus? Lasagna? Cacio e pepe? Which one dish should be the barometer of a great Italian restaurant?
The steps we took to compile our most-recent ranking were as thorough and comprehensive as possible: we looked at restaurants that made it to our 101 Best Restaurants in America; we also recruited an illustrious panel of judges that included some of the country’s top food writers, critics, and bloggers to submit their suggestions, which we supplemented with our own choices, including previous years’ rankings as well as lauded newcomers. This list of hundreds of restaurants was then built into a survey that was sent out to more than 100 panelists, who voted for their favorites. The final ranking included a significant number of Italian restaurants, and to create this list we supplemented the Italian restaurants that made it into our final list of 101 with those that came in as runners-up and those that were featured on this year's list of the country's 50 best casual restaurants. Turns out there are many Italian restaurants worthy of renown in America, and one resides in Boston.
James Beard Award-winning chef Lydia Shire is one of Beantown’s most legendary chefs, and her restaurant, Scampo, is one of the best Italian restaurants you’ll ever dine in. While Italian at heart, Shire isn’t afraid to incorporate a tandoori oven or lamb sirloin souvlaki into the mix, and the menu is fun and playful. Handmade breads come in six varieties. There’s a full "mozzarella bar" with heirloom tomatoes and basil, prosciutto, and green papaya, beef carpaccio and garlic chips, king crab, and a warm burrata with leek custard in pastry (just opt for the mozzarella tasting, you know you want to). Spaghetti comes dressed with cracklings and hot pepper, and pizza is topped with robiola, peppadwes, white clam, black truffle, and lobster. Entrees include very crisp, slow-cooked half duck, sugarcane and spiced lamb sirloin, and spring's fresh-caught Canadian lobster with bourbon. It’s one of those everything-looks-delicious menus, but we’ll be waiting for Friday night, when the special is roast suckling pig.
Shire’s fare is so good, the restaurant scored the #23 spot on our compilation, and since it’s the only one from the city to make the list, according to our panel of experts, Scampo is the best Italian restaurant in Boston.