71 Elm Street, Watertown, MA 02472
While not quite a community with a treasure trove of restaurants like neighboring Waltham has, Watertown does have a fairly large number of good dining spots, many of which are situated around Mount Auburn Street in East Watertown as well as along the streets leading off of Watertown Square. But go down some of the lesser-traveled roads in this western suburb of Boston and you will find several more restaurants tucked away in various nooks and crannies, including an Italian place located in an improbable location on a bumpy, industrial road that admittedly looks a bit sinister after dark. But that (as well as the excellent food and nice atmosphere) is what makes Grappa your classic hidden gem, albeit one that people have slowly been discovering, mostly by word of mouth.
Because Elm Street is perhaps the last place you would expect a restaurant to be on, it can be easy to overlook the fact that this place is even here, but it is a bit less difficult to spot Grappa at night, as the lights strung up outside brighten up the spot a bit. The restaurant is small, with about 10 tables inside (including a few window seats), but during the warmer months, the outdoor patio increases the capacity somewhat. Inside is a simple but cute dining room with a shiny wooden floor, blue-striped walls, an attractive hanging light in the middle, and a tiny bar toward the back. Wine bottles and paintings along the walls add an authentic touch to the overall atmosphere.
Grappa has a fairly small but interesting menu, with everything on it cooked to order. Appetizers include an authentic and savory escarole soup and a tasty rolled eggplant that has a touch of garlic, as well as stuffed mushrooms, fried mozzarella, and an antipasto plate. As for the entrees, they range from a gooey baked ziti with zesty tomato sauce to a veal saltimbocca that includes some particularly tender veal. The pasta carbonara has a thick creamy sauce that makes this a filling (yet satisfying) dish, and the chicken saltimbocca is equal to the veal saltimbocca in taste and freshness. Other dishes on the menu include pork chops with aromatic vinegar peppers, sweet-tasting butternut squash ravioli, fettucini alfredo, and chicken sorrento. Desserts are something special at Grappa, with the wonderful limoncello tartufo leading the way--the combination of crusty crumbs on the outside, creamy lemon gelato in the middle, and warming lemon liqueur in the core is something diners won't soon forget. The tiramisu is another excellent dessert item here, as it is rich and velvety. Wine lovers have a number of options at Grappa, and the beer list is adequate as well.
Grappa is certainly one of the most "hidden" of all the hidden gems that we have featured on this site, at least as far as location is concerned. It should be stressed once again, however, that the place has developed a bit of a following, so reservations aren't such a bad idea, even on weeknights. If you want to find out what locals and those in the know love about Grappa, consider heading down the dusty, potholed Elm Street (which runs along the east side of the Watertown Mall) to see how good this bustling little spot is.
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