Soon after Delio Susi agreed to open Sulmona in Kendall Square, he trekked to Italy with his new partners in the hopes of educating them about the eponymous city in the Abruzzi region.
“I wanted them to see where my parents came from, how majestic it is,” Susi says. “Sulmona itself is a microcosm. It has mountains and the Adriatic Sea. The saying is that the great chefs in Italy come from there because it’s one of the only places that has the four seasons. They have wild boar, wild rabbit, and they also have the farming and agriculture. And then the ocean with langoustines and razor clams.”
Visitors to Sulmona, slated to open by the end of February, will see a similar range of fare. The dinner menu will be broken down into several sections: antipasti, pizza, street food, pasta, secondi and salumi. Street food will include arrosticini (leg of lamb skewers), fried artichokes and vegetarian arancini with fillings like porcini, Tuscan kale and fontina. Porchetta will be served in panini, on a pizza and as its own dish. A high-powered pizza oven, modeled after a mid-20th-century version, is on display in the corner of the space and will be used for pizzas as well as other dishes.
“It can hold a whole pig, so you can braise wild boar. We’ll use it to our advantage for sure,” Susi says. “We’re inspired in part by what the food trucks on the piazza in Sulmona serve.”
The cuisine isn’t the only inspiration from the city of Sulmona. Six replicas of the city’s aqueducts hang behind the bar, which stretches nearly the whole length of the 125-seat restaurant. A 1978 Vespa, which ran till the day it was put in the rafters, hangs from the ceiling, and a blown-up version of a sign in Sulmona’s piazza is painted on one wall. A 12-seat communal table stretches along one window, while a 10-seat chef’s table is located closer to the pizza oven. Six booths run along the front windows, with a long banquette and accompanying low-top tables providing a border between the dining area and the hightop tables near the bar, which will offer a beverage program with 63 bottles of mostly Italian wine as well as local beers and scratch cocktails.
While the restaurant’s name pays homage to the city where Susi’s mother grew up, and his other restaurant, Amelia’s Trattoria, is named after his mother, they don’t share too many other traits. The interior of Sulmona is a far cry from that cozy 39-seat spot that Susi and his wife have owned and operated for more than 17 years a couple of blocks away.
“It’s quite different than Amelia’s because of the festiveness of Sulmona. I’m not saying Amelia’s is not a festive place, but it’s more of a place you take your parents and a date. This is a place where you gather and you can come three to four times a week,” Susi says. “But we will take the same approach that quality cannot be compromised. Everything will be made by hand.”
Sulmona 608 Main St., Cambridge. sulmonacambridge.com