photo credit: Natalie Schaefer
Log on to any social media site and, within five seconds, an “influencer” sipping wine in Santorini will tell you to live your best life. These people are general drains on society, but that idea - your best life - it sticks in your head. You live in an apartment so stylish that the furniture could have perfumed, four-figure price tags hanging off it. You get invited to private New Years Eve parties DJ’d by members of late-’90s hip hop collectives. Your job responsibilities consist solely of wearing a sport coat, carrying a messenger bag, and meeting people in coffee shops where you don’t ever have to do any actual work. It’s the impossible dream, and you can either become a social media influencer yourself and lie to the world about achieving it, or you can go to SRV in the South End - the restaurant version of your best life.
In addition to being one of the best Italian restaurants in the city, SRV looks and feels exactly the way you keep hoping your own apartment will someday. It has the type of design fixtures you see at expensive stores that feel like they have dress codes and a bar fully stocked with obscure ingredients, and it’s in a neighborhood you’re finally and reluctantly admitting you can’t afford. It’s a place that makes you want to host parties, even though yours always end up with a burning pizza box in the oven and 26 half-drunk glasses of wine and beer that you leave on the coffee table for two days.
The menu is on the smaller side and split up into three sections: small plates, really small plates, and pasta. The restaurant doesn’t mess around with pizza or protein entrees. It focuses on pasta, while providing enough variety that you can go from a light tortellini with huckleberries, to a hearty gnocchi, to a rich truffle bauletti and feel like you had a complete meal, even if you didn’t eat anything that wasn’t carbohydrate-based. If you want something other than pasta, the small plates section of the menu has enough green things, things that used to swim, and things that have been caked in salt and left in a cellar for a year to make you happy.
Like your best self floating seamlessly from work, to Happy Hour, and then to a family dinner while making situationally appropriate jokes during all of them, SRV succeeds in multiple contexts. If you need a last-minute place, it’s big enough that you can usually get a day-of reservation. If you want to sit outside on one of the six nights a year when that’s actually enjoyable, it has open sidewalk seating out front and a great courtyard out back. It’ll impress a date, keep a birthday party going, or excite a bored friend who thinks he’s already tried every pasta shape.
SRV isn’t a Mediterranean beach vacation paid for by a liquor company who wants you to use their brand name in a hashtag, but it is an excellent way to spend a couple of hours. You deserve that, even if your best self is only the version of you that remembers to change the sheets once a week.
They’re sweet, they’re covered in whipped butter, and if you closed your eyes, you wouldn’t know they’re Brussels sprouts. Makes you wonder if that ninja training thing where they blindfold you in order to heighten your senses is full of sht.
Carta di Musica
Smoked trout served on crispy flatbread, named after a sheet of music. It’s delicious, and it once again proves that we should let Italians name other things besides our food.
It’s a plate of potato chips, and it’s going to make you wish Lay’s sprinkled some dried mushrooms in their bags of sour cream and onion.
It tastes heavily of anchovy, so if seafood that pretends it’s another kind of seafood is your thing, knock yourself out.
With scallops and red kuri squash, this surprisingly sweet small plate might be the best dish on the menu. That’s a bigger upset than Prince Harry growing up to be better looking than William.
Pork Chop alla Venezia
This is thin, fatty, and breaded. We should have an entire genre of food dedicated to those characteristics.
Squid Ink Bigoli
We’re long past the point when seeing squid ink on the menu is new and different, but not yet at the point where we’re sick of it. Thank god, because otherwise we’d be too cynical to enjoy this pasta dish with calamari and a decent little spice kick.
It’s the requisite truffle dish and it’s a good one.
Gnocchi con Spezzatino
The braised beef is the star here and it knows it, but the gnocchi holds its own, too. We should encourage even more competition between ingredients if dishes like this are the result.
While most things on the menu are smaller plates you could easily eat by yourself, this is big enough to be an entree for two people. That’s too bad because you end up feeling slightly more ashamed when you hide it from everyone else and eat it under the table.