Summery Dinner at Rialto’s Patio

It was a hot Sunday afternoon, with the scorching summer heat blasting down on us, making us sweat after just a few steps. But luckily, as the day went on, a gentle breeze started to cool us down. The bright blue sky made us feel calm. And we were able to enjoy a nice, light dinner at Rialto’s patio – a summery dinner filled with fresh flavors and delicious plates to share.

A couple of weekends ago my friends and I got together to visit Jody Adams‘ landmark restaurant in Harvard Square. I don’t go to Rialto often because I find it a little too expensive. If I do go there, I opt for the bar menu which is much more  affordable. For our last dinner though, we shared a bunch of plates for our group of five, which was more economical and also let us try more dishes.

we arrived at around 6 p.m. when the patio was still empty but within minutes it filled up so we were lucky to grab a table

warm, fresh baked bread and olive oil with sea salt on the side

I ordered the Prestige Shandy: Prestige Haitian Lager, limoncello and lemon juice

I’m not a big beer drinker but I do like limoncello a lot. This shandy was light and refreshing but it wasn’t as cold as I had hoped for.

the champagne however, which was generously provided by Rialto on the house, was nicely chilled

we ordered some simple greens to start our meal

we couldn’t pass up the plate of calamari – there is something about fried seafood that screams summer

we also ordered the day’s special: cod cheeks

The last time I had cod cheeks was at Craigie on Main and it was as luscious as I remember it to be: soft, buttery, and rich.

we also couldn’t pass up the prosciutto plate with blue cheese

we were a table filled with cheese lovers so we ordered the burrata too

The burrata was stuffed with a spiced anchovy mixture and served with pickled eggplant. It was good, but it was… tiny! I am spoiled by the full, gorgeous balls of burrata from other restaurants like Alma Nove and Oleana. My dining companions commented on the small portions overall too. I understand that we’re not eating at the Cheesecake Factory; we certainly weren’t expecting massive amounts of Italian food ala Maggiano’s. We know that Rialto is, in fact, an upscale Italian restaurant. But I’ve dined at plenty other high end restaurants with substantial appetizer portions. I’m not saying that we didn’t have enough food – we had plenty, for sure, (actually we had more than enough). But our whole dinner was a splurge-y meal for all for us, so ordered much more than we normally would. If you’re just going to Rialto for a casual dinner, I suggest skipping the starters altogether and just ordering more sides with your meals, which were all phenomenal.

a plate of summer vegetables

pan seared mushrooms with herbs, shallots, and white balsamic

barley with pea shoots and extra virgin olive oil

Next time I would make a meal out of these sides – they were all so simple and yet impeccably prepared. I actually think that Rialto shines the most with these sides. My friends got a couple of half orders of pasta (orecchiette with housemade sausage and lobster bucatini) and I tried them too  but for me, the highlight of our meal was the side dishes.

I ordered my main meal from the bar menu: the roasted duck sandwich

I like the idea of roast duck as sandwich meat, especially when it comes with melted gruyere cheese and hand-cut potato chips. It was pretty good, but I wasn’t as impressed with the sandwich than I was with the side dishes.

We ordered two desserts to split between the table, and the chef sent us an extra one!

we had the sfogliatelle

blueberry crostata with peach ice cream

and the rhubarb rose meringue with pistachios and a strawberry-rhubarb sorbet

it was a lovely Sunday evening dinner spent outside with the gentle summer breeze and the wonderful company of friends

That’s Amy, Megan, me, Emily, and Daisy enjoying the patio.

The food at Rialto was undeniably good. As I mentioned above, I think it is a little overpriced, especially because the portions are small – but if you just order a few side dishes and get something from the bar, you’ll end up with a reasonably-priced meal that highlights local ingredients and fresh seasonal flavors. And if you can come early for dinner, try to snag a seat at the patio for a more summer-time feel.

Do you ever make a meal out of sides or appetizers?

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