Aquitaine Group founder Seth Woods has heard from a few doubters. Why did he close Union, a place that was still profitable, and that some considered to have the best food and service in his restaurant group? Why is he replacing it with an Italian American joint a block away from his group’s Italian trattoria?
Woods and his group have their reasons, including that the forthcoming La Motta’s, set to open in September, is vastly different from Cinquecento. But the decision doesn’t come down to reason for Woods and his group. It comes down to craving.
“This is like the best meal you had when you went to [visit] the family you know in Italy,” Woods says. “We want to do something fresh and exciting that the neighborhood is going to embrace. People come and eat to get their dishes.”
La Motta’s menu is your grandmother’s Italian, according to executive chef de cuisine Justin Winters, who will continue to oversee Cinquecento’s kitchen as well as La Motta’s. It’s dotted with homestyle favorites such as veal parmesan and spaghetti aglio e olio, but Winters hopes that refined techniques will help the familiar items stand out. Calamari is fried alongside thinly sliced lemons, while zucchini fritti uses a seedless version of the veggie that’s lightly breaded, fried al dente and served with lemon aioli. Paying homage to some red sauce staples, meatball varieties will include classic beef, lamb and spicy pork with veal, while Bronx-style thin-crust pizzas will be cooked in a triple-deck rotating oven. Likewise, the wine, beer and cocktail selections are expected to hew to Italian classics, like a Negroni. Dessert lovers can indulge in cannolis, fried dough with powdered sugar, housemade spumoni and Italian ice.
“It brings you back to when you were a child and what made you feel at home,” Winters says. “There are some things that you wouldn’t find back then, but there’s a lot of things you would.”
La Motta’s layout has changed a lot from its Union days. The entrance has been moved to the center of the space, opening to a 12-seat bar, which is now in the middle of the restaurant. There’s enough room at the rough-sawn oak tables to fit 70 diners, and the rear wall has been removed, allowing for a 30-seat, three-season raised patio in the back of the restaurant. With lights and a roof that covers nearly 80 percent of the patio, Woods hopes that the outside space will provide an advantage in the cutthroat summer months.
“The waterfront is taking so much business. Who doesn’t want to eat by the water?” Woods says. “But having a patio gives us something to help stay people’s favorite place [year-round].”
La Motta’s 1357 Washington St., Boston (617-338-5300)