Graduation season was in full swing and as a result every restaurant in the North End had exponential waiting time, with or without with reservations. Even Mike’s Pastry had a line out the door and down the corner. The longest line we have seen.
Our love of Panza’s appetizers is not a hidden love and was a great primer to Panza’s entrees and the full dinner experience. The last solid Italian dinner was at Erbaluce in the Theater District and we were really looking forward to another one. The evening of our visit we had an additional half hour wait with our reservation, but was happy to wait at Volle Nolle for wine and an appetizer across the street.
Panza’s cozy atmosphere had a fast pacer, louder buzz and harried nature. The hostess was noticeably busy and the restaurant had a completely different vibrancy than our previous dining experiences. Panza was fully packed.
The specials featured that evening included a homemade sangria, burrata and beef ravioli. Three of the four items, we had to try. The only dish we will have to come back for was the saffron fettuchini with lobster meat, baby spinach and grape tomatoes in a fresh herb, garlic white wine sauce for $23.
As we decided what we were going to eat, we enjoyed Panza’s complimentary crusty bread. Our friend who is an Italy expert mentioned the olive oil quality we were served was just okay. I would not have known the wiser and like a novice, sprinkled my bread with parmesean cheese.
The homemade red sangria special ($9) was lovely. The spice flavor and citrus notes were layered and reminded me of autumn.
We enjoyed a bottle of Tuscan chianti from Rocca delle Macie, which had a dark berry flavor, including a nice combination of cherries and plum.
We enjoyed the burrata special. The cream filled fresh mozzarella ball over sliced tomato with slivers of basil and extra virgin olive oil was rich and fresh ($10). Absolutely lovely. We are huge fans of Fiore Di Nonno burrata for at home buratta consumption.
We split our favorite, the grilled Italian Greens ($7). The escarole, radicchio, baby arugula, crispy polenta, gorgonzola sauce, balsamic drizzle flavors were perfect per usual. However, the polenta came out was piping hot as if it wasn’t rested to proper serving temperature and burned the roof of our mouths. Unfortunately, this small detail did impact the remainder of our ability to properly taste the meal.
The Butternut Squash tortelloni ($15) with roasted squash, brown butter sage sauce reminded me of fall. The squash sweetness was really highlighted with the butter sage sauce and the pasta was al dente.
We really enjoyed sampling the Linguine and Littleneck clams with white sauce for $15. It had a fragrant wine sauce, the clams and pasta were perfectly cooked and the robust flavor combinations made us want more. We would order this again.
The braised beef ravioli special with broccoli rabe in a plum tomato smoked mozzarella sauce was not one of our favorites ($16). Although we enjoyed the sweetness and smokiness of the red sauce, the beef ravioli was lacking seasoning and flavor.
We will have to return to Panza on a slower evening to try dinner again. Our meal had some highlights, but due to the overwhelming nature of the weekend, the restaurant was not its more relaxed, yet focused as we were accustomed to.