PLYMOUTH – Italian food – real Italian food – is all about simplicity. Take great ingredients, cook them simply, and let the natural flavors shine. That is the way Chef Taylor Naples approaches his cuisine at Terra, a beautifully understated, rustic Italian restaurant in Plymouth.

“We try to take the best of ingredients that are available to us locally and just do as little to it as possible, and hopefully cook it as best as we can.”

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Taylor grew up in an Italian family. He got his culinary degree at Johnson and Wales, worked as a chef in New York for a decade, and when he and his wife decided to move to the South Shore, Taylor knew this region was ready for a different kind of restaurant, focusing on seasonal ingredients and wood-fired cooking.

“We have a large seven-and-a-half-foot Rinado oven. There’s no gas, it’s simply all powered by wood. We usually start a fire at about 10 o’clock in the morning, allowing the oven to slowly reach the temperature between 700-800 degrees. It’s not as simple as turning on a knob and turning off a knob. You really have to build it up. You have to work with it, nurture it, breathe life into the fire.

“Everything that we cook in the oven is cooked in a cast iron pan which really allows to get a good crust or char on the outside.”

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22-day aged Ribeye at Terra (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

The marinated, wood-roasted half chicken comes out with crackly skin. There is a perfectly cooked pork chop sweetened up with pineapple chutney; a hugely delicious wood-roasted veal, beef, and pork meatball; swordfish with roasted fingerling potatoes and artichokes; even an exceptionally marbled, 22-day aged bone-in ribeye steak served with hen of the woods mushrooms and char-roasted shallots.

Terra’s starters are a study in simplicity. There is a fresh arugula salad dressed with Parmesan and lemon vinaigrette, creamy burrata cheese over eggplant caponata, and classic bruschetta served on thick-cut country toast.

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Broccoli Rabe Bruschetta at Terra (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

“We have one which is a broccoli rabe bruschetta. The broccoli rabe is blanched and then dressed in a lemon and oregano vinaigrette. The second one is a roasted red pepper and ricotta bruschetta. The peppers are roasted in the wood-fired oven, peeled, and then marinated with a little balsamic vinegar and some extra virgin olive oil. Served on top of local ricotta,” Taylor explained.

After that, a pasta course is definitely recommended, featuring an ever-changing lineup of handmade noodles, sauces, and toppings that range from the trendy to the traditional, like the Spaghetti Carbonara.

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Carbonara at Terra (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

“Our carbonara is done traditionally where we use egg yolks, parmesan cheese, pancetta in place on guaciale, little bit of cracked black pepper,” described Taylor. “You get a little saltiness from the pancetta. You get richness from the eggs and the cheese, and a little bit of heat from the black pepper.”

Perhaps the most visually stunning pasta is the Spinach Tagliatelle, with vibrant green noodles, preserved lemon, local blue crab meat, and a touch of mint. But in terms of sheer sensory bliss, the Bolognese might be even better.

“Our Bolognese is veal, beef, and pork, which is a traditional Italian style. Ours is rooted from the south where the food is a little bit lighter; we use white wine as opposed to red wine, which some recipes call for. We braise it on a stovetop in a large pot for seven hours,” Tylor described.

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Bolognese at Terra (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

For dessert you can get some creamy Italian gelato, or an even creamier panna cotta with aged balsamic on top. When you put this kind of food in such an historic setting, it is easy to see why customers think Terra is terrific.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to have a very great career in New York, and I’m here now because you can come right down to Plymouth and get something that you would see in Boston or New York City or Chicago or San Francisco.”

You can find Terra at 10 Cordage Park Circle in Plymouth, and online at terraplymouth.com.

Watch Phantom Gourmet on Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30 and 11 a.m. on myTV38.

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