At the end of the month this place will be filled with reclaimed wood, up-cycled mirrors and custom rustic furniture—all pieces from a local artist on display for what they like to call “Studio Sunday.” But I’m not at a gallery; I’m at Tavern Road, a restaurant that has been blurring the lines between art and food from the start.
By Marissa Giambelluca — Photographed by Jazz Martin
Tavern Road, the high-energy, street-style restaurant located in Fort Point is co-owned by the DiBiccari brothers, Louis and Michael. And if that doesn’t drive home the desire to make this venture a family affair, keep in mind that their Uncle Adio DiBiccari, the sculptor whose work ranges from the statue of Athena atop the Athenaeum Press Building in East Cambridge to the Northeastern University mascot, had an art studio on Tavern Road by the Museum of Fine Arts…sound familiar?
The décor is breath taking; exposed pipes in the ceiling, wood and metal adornments on the windowsills, a large rusted tree saw leaning against the wall behind me, even a 30-foot mural encompassing the far wall (a piece that was commissioned by a collective of local artists called Project Super Friends). Additionally, the servers walk around in clean black shirts with the Tavern Road logo jumping out at you in white on the back. Yes, it’s all very nice to look at, but when my friends and I see our first course come out—that’s when the eyes really widen.
My charcuterie plate comes out on a long board that takes up a third of the table. All the elements are arranged in neat piles, bookmarked by splashes and smudges of dipping sauce. It is my first encounter with the DiBiccari brother’s interpretation of food as art, and it makes perfect sense. Not only does the meat, from the chicken rillettes and smoked ham to the duck prosciutto and coppa di testa, taste amazing, but it also truly looks like paint on a canvas. My one friend starts with the Califlower & Sunchoke Soup while the other gets the Fennel Cured Salmon. Both of these dishes are beautifully prepared as well (I’m just a little more prepared for it now). The soup has a nice deep flavor thanks to the smoked mussels, curry, and pine nut gremolata, and it has a creamy texture from the cauliflower. The salmon is a refreshing change; cured for three days and served cold atop fried Brussel leaves. It’s all a great start to the evening.
As we eat, well-dressed groups of 30-somethings come in the door in packs of 8 to 10. They’re obviously co-workers, making small talk about deadlines and fumbling with their jackets as they head straight for the bar. The bar is showcased in the side of the restaurant, sleek and industrial with two towering shelves to showcase the liquor. It isn’t long before the groups fill that area and all I see are the tops of the shelves poking out of a sea of heads. It’s obvious that the bar is the place to be come 5:01.
I look in the other direction and take a moment to appreciate the open kitchen with multiple cooks in clean white jackets weaving around each other. The kitchen is located next to a smaller space called TR Street Foods, which is Tavern Road’s casual lunch spot during the day and doubles once a month as the gallery space for Studio Sundays at night, allowing diners to not only sample some food and cocktails, but also appreciate local art.
Out of the kitchen comes Sous Chef, Ryan Rolfsen, who personally delivers our next course. My ribeye is nestled in a pile of turnips and cherry peppers on top of cauliflower purée. It is plump and juicy; with the discernibly rich taste only quality beef can yield. My friend watches me slice it and comments that, “You know it’s good when it cuts like butter in one swipe.” His sentence almost drops off as he sees his pasta being placed in front of him. The plate of tagliatelle, cherry tomatoes, broccoli rabe, and smoky meat sauce shines like two stars in his eyes. He takes a mouthful, sighs and tells me he would like this dish as his last meal. My other friend ordered the Pan Roasted Skate Wing, which has pumpkin agro dolce placed decoratively along the edges and apple relish splattered underneath for good measure. I watch as she scrapes the meat off the bone and takes a bite. No words—just a smile.
At this point in the night the place is at its peak. It’s as if everyone is buzzing; at the tables, diners eat their dishes and make varying noises of enjoyment, at the bar, people’s conversations get more animated with each drink, and in the kitchen, the cooks dash spices and flip meats; preparing their next piece of art. It almost makes me sad to see that our dessert is on its way, and with it, the end of our meal.
The three of us share a chocolate tart, surrounded by cherries, burnt sugar ice cream and fried sage. It’s delicious and decadent and melts in my mouth. We also share a cookie plate, which includes two of my favorites: gooey chocolate chip cookies and mini whoopie pies. We eat them slowly as our eyes dart from wall to wall, hoping to discover another piece of artwork to admire before we go.
Leaving, I feel a mixture of excitement and mild depression, kind of like when you see an epic concert and know that you can never experience something that great again. But then my friend asks when we’re going back and I smile—I guess in this case I can experience something that great again.