A good number of restaurants in the Boston area specialize in catering, but there are some that have such a successful catering operation that the restaurant end of their business often gets overlooked. A classic example of this is Via Lago, a combination Italian market/cafe/restaurant/catering spot in Lexington that is mostly well known to people from that town as well as Bedford, Winchester, and Arlington who have dined on their food at various events. But ask these folks about Via Lago's full-service restaurant and many of them will scratch their heads, unaware that Via Lago is also in the restaurant business. But indeed it is, and it actually is quite a nice dining spot.
Located toward the western end of Lexington Center, Via Lago sits within a rather plain-looking block of businesses that is just far enough away from the heart of the center to go unnoticed. The interior of the place has a bit of a split personality, with the front housing a modern and sleek bar with some seating for diners and a quieter and more private-feeling dining room back and to the right. Behind the bar and next to the dining room is a brightly lit Italian market/deli area where people can purchase items such as salads, pre-made meals, sauces, frozen pasta, and baked goods (including some truly remarkable breads, with the walnut-raisin being this writer's favorite).
The dining part of Via Lago has a bit of a split personality, as by day it is closer to a cafe, while at night, it becomes more of an upscale restaurant. The lunch menu includes popular (and reasonably priced) takeout dishes such as soups (tomato rice is very good, but not always available), salads (including a terrific Caesar), and sandwiches, as well as a few Mexican plates (burritos, tacos, etc.) and a handful of pasta dishes. Dinner is where Via Lago starts to get a bit more interesting, with such items as outstanding Peking duck rolls, tender calamari, oven-roasted chicken in a delicious gravy, penne bolognese with a hearty beef sauce, ravioli with a zesty red sauce, a savory duck breast and leg confit, and a lean steak dish with tomato romesco. Sandwiches are also offered at night, with the Cubano being an excellent choice--it is made with shredded marinated pork that is as tender as can be, and also includes Cuban relish and pickles mixed in. Desserts are a must, with the cookies and cream being a positively sinful dish that could be a meal in itself.
Lexington isn't typically considered a top dining destination (especially when compared to neighboring Arlington and Waltham), but this historic northwestern suburb of Boston does have some good restaurants, with Via Lago being near the top. Its main business may appear to be catering, but don't overlook the restaurant part of Via Lago, as it is indeed a very nice place to go, especially when the sun starts going down.
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