Douglass Williams learned a lot while cooking in Paris. But the biggest takeaway from his stint in the City of Light was that it’s time to open his own space. And so, the 32-year-old is set to open MIDA in the South End in November.
“When I was in Paris, I saw everybody around my age—27, 28, 29—they all had restaurants already. Established restaurants, a year or two in,” Williams says. “I thought, I need to get back to Boston, get with a partner, get with great people around me and start to create my vision.”
That vision is Italian, with food from all across the country, rather than sticking to one region. He says the menu will tilt toward Southern Italian in the warmer months and Northern Italian in the cooler months. Williams uses a bundle of adjectives to describe the cuisine: “Think spicy, charred, crunchy, crispy, saucy.” The menu will include bar snacks such as beef lardo toast or cod milt bacalao, as well as appetizers like charred ocean prawns and quince mostarda. Larger plates can be eaten as an entree, but will be served sliced or portioned to make sharing easier. The pasta section will have four to five housemade pastas that will change seasonally, with larger, heavier noodles in the winter and lighter, thinner ones in the summer.
“I said, ‘What do I like to do the most? Absolutely the most, out of anything?’ And I said, ‘Make pasta,’ ” he recalls. “We’ll be playing with all sorts of flours. And we’re trying to take the pastas all over the map.”
The wine list will be the focus of the beverage program, with 40 bottles that Williams says will be primarily Italian. “I want it so the glasses are clinking, bottles are moving and people are laughing and leaning over into each other’s ear.” Taking over the former home of Cluckit! and Estelle’s, the intimate 70-seat space will remain mostly the same as its previous incarnation, with a 12-seat bar and a mix of lowtop and hightop seating. The exterior has a fresh coat of paint, replacing the bright red with a rich black hue.
“It was like a fire truck with no wheels!” Williams exclaims. “It’s a SoHo-noir, if you will. It’s a shotgun-style restaurant, long and narrow with huge windows with lots of light. When you turn down the lights low, it glows, which I think emanates this wonderful projection of light onto the street. And the people who pass by, it just invites you in. That’s the feeling we want.”
MIDA 782 Tremont St., Boston. midaboston.com