Don't walk, run to Grotto before they come to their senses and raise the price of their chef's whim menu. This little gem of a restaurant is tucked into the basement of a townhouse of a Back Bay residential neighborhood. The décor is relaxed and romantic, the music is jazzy, the food is intense and delicious, the wine is excellent, and the prices will make you smile. We ordered the chef's whim menu: 3 pasta courses with 3 matching glasses of wine for $40/person. Our first course was Taleggio ravioli with roasted pear, walnuts, and balsamic reduction. The wine match was Bonny Dune Rose. The roasted pears in the dish underlined the pear flavor in wine, and complimented the savory Taleggio beautifully. For the second course, we had Butternut squash filled mezzaluna pasta with sausage cream sauce and seared scallops - rich, sweet and savory at the same time. A glass of full-bodied chardonnay with a hint of lavender honey was a great match to the weight of the dish. When the waiter brought us glasses of Duckhorn merlot to start us off on the third course, we couldn't believe our ears. Were they really going to serve us a $70 wine? It was rich and decadent with intense sage nose. The main course was the gnocchi with perfectly tender braised short rib and grilled sirloin. The sirloin was a bit chewy and not really necessary since a lot was happening on the plate already. Once we removed it, the dish breathed easier. The soft little pillows of gnocchi were perfectly tender, and not sticky or starchy. The short rib sauce was accented with capers, which added a touch of briny flavor and depth to the sauce. How could all this be only $40 is a mystery to me. We had Italian food that matched Grotto's quality before, but usually at twice the price.
Well, Grotto's $40 tasting menu was too good to last. It's now $60, but you get 4 courses and 4 glasses of wine. Even at the new price, it's one of the best deals in Boston.