BOSTON – The parms, the pasta, the simple red sauce, all of that delicious Italian food you know and love. Now you can taste all of that goodness at La Motta’s. Located on Washington Street in Boston’s South End, La Motta’s is a new restaurant that pays homage to the Old Italian American eateries of the 50s and 60s.
“This is meant to be a Bronx family style Italian restaurant,” explained partner Jeffrey Gates. “Something in the days of old, when you went to the corner Italian American restaurant and you found your Chicken Parmesan and your Veal Marsala. That’s what you’re hopefully going to find here at La Motta.”
When Jeffrey and his team wanted a chef to recreate the food of yester-year, there was no better choice than Chef Justin Winters.
“You always want a chef that makes your job easy. And I know the food coming out of the kitchen is going to be perfect, because Justin has quite a bit of heritage based in the preparation of Italian food.”
“I come from an Italian American background. My mother is a chef, so that’s kind of how I got introduced to the whole cooking world,” Chef Justin said. “Every Sunday she’d be cooking the Sunday gravy. She showed me how to make it and that’s where my memory started, and that’s how I started cooking. The smell of tomato sauce cooking just always transplants you back.”
If the smells coming out the kitchen don’t take you back, the decor definitely will.
“We wanted the feel of home, and as soon as you walk in, you know, it is all wood paneling. We have antiques on the walls,” Justin described. “You see the antique paintings. We have a wall of antique cooking equipment. It kind of brings you back to your grandmother’s house. You feel comfortable as soon as you walk in the door.”
Nothing will make you feel more comfortable than the Italian comfort food coming out of the kitchen. There’s Arancini with a crispy golden exterior and a creamy, cheesy center; and mozzarella sticks that are way beyond the frozen stuff you’re used to.
“It is a stick; it is mozzarella; and it is fried; but we get the best Fior di Latte from Calabra. It will stretch out from your mouth to the tip of your finger,” Chef Justin boasted. “It’s fantastic.”
When it came down to La Motta’s meatballs, Justin had to make sure the recipe was perfect.
“You don’t have a good meatball, you have a problem,” he stated. “The meatball is kind of what the standard is. I mean everyone comes in, they grab a meatball. If it’s not good, they’re like, ‘ehhh.’”
The sensational spheres can be ordered individually or by the bowl full, and of course, they’re smothered in La Motta’s signature red sauce.
“The red sauce is essentially the life blood of an Italian American restaurant. We use onions, garlic and the highest quality San Marzano tomatoes we can buy,” Justin explained. “And we don’t cook it too long. This one goes for about an hour and that’s it.”
That sauce can be found slathered on all of La Motta’s thin crust pizzas, and on their plate tipping portion of Chicken Parm. While sauce is also an important part of the lasagna, the cheese is key.
“Every bite has a good amount of cheese to it, and that’s what we strive to do here. We layer a lot of cheese in there so you always have that super stringy cheesy quality to it,” Justin described.
Perhaps there’s no Italian dish more classic than the Fried Pork Chop with vinegar peppers.
“The pork chop and vinegar peppers is one of those dishes that brings me back,” the chef said. “It’s something my mother used to make. We take a Berkshire pork chop; we lightly pound it; we fry it off in a little olive oil and butter; and then we deglaze that with white wine chicken stock and our house vinegar peppers. Then once that’s done we mount it with a little butter, and fresh rosemary and sage. It’s to die for.”
The classics continue right through dessert with that quintessential Italian staple, Spumoni. Then there’s one you probably won’t find in your Nonna’s recipe book, La Motta’s Hazelnut Skillet Cookie with Fluff and Caramel.
“It’s kind of to die for,” Justin assured. “It’s hot. It’s gooey. We bake it to order, so it’s nice and soft. People always burn their mouths when they go to get it because they can’t wait for it.”
While you may be physically in a restaurant, emotionally you’ll feel at home. That’s just how Jeffrey and Justin want it.
You can find La Motta’s at 1357 Washington Street in the South End, and online at lamottaboston.com.
Watch Phantom Gourmet on Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30 and 11 a.m. on myTV38.