There was a TV show, or movie, or something several years ago where the main character looks at a friend who has just advised him not to "rest on his laurels" and states something along the lines of "well why not? why can't I rest on my laurels? They are my laurels to rest on!". I wish I could remember where the scene took place because whenever somebody says the same thing to me I always remember that line and laugh. The warning is a good one though- to never be content with past achievements as that can lead to future failures.
I had heard great things about Teatro, a touted "contemporary Italian" eatery located incredibly conveniently next to the Boston Common Theater on Tremont Street. We went last night after I had read the menu for two days, and I was really excited. We arrived just around the 7:30 dinner rush, but were seated promptly without a reservation. Definitely a plus there. The room definitely gives off a "trendy" vibe with its blue tones and minimal art work. Judging by the carpet on the floor, high ceilings and sound barriers on the walls you can tell, though, that acoustics are an issue here when the place is full. But no matter to us, it was a nice hum that filled the space and we were happy to be there.
The menu is divided between small plates and regular sized entrees, so we decided to have a meal comprised of a few of the small plates and one of their pizzas to share. We selected their garlicky white bean puree, their veal meatballs served in a sage Marsala sauce, and their Gulf shrimp bruschetta as our small plates. They arrived quickly and we set to work. I started with a meatball. At first bite I was pleased to find that it was very moist, if lacking just a bit in flavor. I had tried it though without the sauce. Assuming that the sauce would add that burst of flavor I made sure that I had a good amount of it for my second bite. Unfortunately, while it did add flavor, it was the wrong flavor. It appears that they had mixed reduced Marsala wine into tomato sauce, but hadn't countered the sweetness of the wine at all. The result was just incredibly sweet. I also couldn't detect any sage in the sauce at all, which seemed almost in spite of the leaf of sage that had been placed on top of the meatballs in the serving dish.
Slightly disappointed, I turned my attention to the bean dip. A healthy portion of the dip, was served with just three small crostini. The dip itself had been topped with non pureed beans, parsley and a drizzle of olive oil, and even with all of that, it some how just didn't have a lot of flavor. The garlic essence was minimal at best, and the only real prevalent flavor was the bean itself, which isn't a terrible thing, but slightly boring.
I turned my attention to the Gulf Shrimp bruschetta. Three plump shrimp sat a top a long piece of crostini that appeared to have been grilled and had lovely charred marks on it. The shrimp had a nice sprinkling of shaved garlic and crushed red pepper flakes over the top. This looked good. First bite was of a shrimp by itself. Nothing. No flavor at all. Shrimp-plain, ordinary shrimp. If you were lucky enough to get a flake of hot pepper then a second of heat would come through-otherwise no flavor. Ok. So I tried a piece of the bread....the weirdly soggy bread. I have no idea what they had doused this with after it was removed from the grill- but once lovely, crispy, charred bread had been absolutely flooded with some sort of liquid. However, on the plus side, the liquid had flavor! Paired together though, the shrimp and the bread, didn't quite do it. The shrimp still tasted just of shrimp, slightly over cooked, and the flavor from the bread just stood on its own. All in all- it was just odd.
We moved on to the pizza. We had elected to go clean and simple with the pizza topping and had asked for just mozzarella with tomato and oregano. The pizza came out on thin grilled crust, the type of pizza I have been obsessed with recently. The crust was great- crispy and well seasoned with olive oil, and the char of the grill. The sauce was delicious- delicate tomatoes, not over done with spices and seasonings, the perfect back drop to the delicious cheese and the fresh oregano that was liberally scattered over the top. The pizza was the absolute star of the evening. I would go back for this alone.
Riding on the success of the pizza, we chose to have one more small plate to see if it was any better than the first three. We selected the beef short rib arancini served with a truffled aioli. I really love a good arancini, and those that do them correctly-wow the are fantastic. Little balls of fried risotto heaven. These were not that. The serving was four arancini, which were fried to a beautiful golden brown, served with the aioli on top and garnished with fried parsley. The arancini themselves were lacking. They were actually lacking several things, the first being the short ribs. Inside the arancini I found maybe three strands of what had been a rib, but I suppose it could have been discolored rice. I have no idea as the other thing lacking was, again, flavor. The risotto was very flat tasting. The aioli tasted 100% like mayonnaise, no truffle detected. I hoped that the fried parsley may punch it up a bit- it did not.
I'll use another pop culture reference since my first was untraceable. Do you remember the episode of Seinfeld where Kramer loses his sense of taste? He ran into Jerry's apartment while it was being fumigated, killed his taste buds and even the most flavorful peach in the world had no flavor to him anymore. I searched my mind last night to remember if I had been in a fumigated apartment recently and had killed my taste buds. I have not.
Teatro is in a fantastic location, and has won praise in the past. My fear is that they are now resting on their laurels hoping that their praise from before, and their proximity to the movie theatre and the theatre district will keep them in business. I hope that that is not the case, and that maybe I hit an off night. Either way, if I return to Teatro it will be for nothing more than the pizza.