BOSTON - Neither Portuguese nor Spanish cuisine suffer from underrepresentation in the greater Boston area. Your options may be limited compared to the thousand and one choices for, say, mediocre Italian food. But each choice will still be relatively safe for the most part. It’s not about ubiquity. It’s about reliability.
But the issue isn’t a question of choice. It’s a question of interpretation. More specifically, reinterpretation. I’ve never been to Valencia, but I can’t imagine that a quail egg, jamón and caviar taco is exactly going to be what most residents would refer to as an Iberian national treasure. And while the image of tossing q wine glass over your shoulder while well-coiffed flamenco dancers weave through white-clothed tables full of $95 paellas in the rustic sterility that is the South End might seem romantic enough, life simply isn’t a Love Boat rerun. Lorca was shot, but no one has any idea if it was at 5 in the afternoon.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t authentic outposts to be found. But do you really want to traverse Gloucester or New Bedford in the dead of winter?
You might remember Southern Proper. It wasn’t. I’m not certain what part of the south considers marinated pulpo and black kale salad to be proper, but a sawdust-on-the-floor juke joint it was not. But it’s the South End. You expect reinterpretation. Nor is reinterpretation necessarily universally disappointing. Both haggis and lutefisk are authentic delicacies, but I don’t foresee either demanding high capital in Boston anytime soon.
Chef Michael Serpa’s a busy man. He has to be, otherwise, you wouldn’t have been hearing his name bubbling on most diner’s lips over the past five years. He just opened up a restaurant inspired by the Tour de France last month. You might have been hoping for the same Kraftwerk record playing on repeat. But it’s a Parisian style bistro I’ve been assured is authentic—by someone who’s never been to Paris. Serpa knows seafood in New England. That’s why his Select Oyster Bar has garnered consistent fawning over the past five years—from people who can afford a $325 raw bar platter. But how well does he know authentic Iberian dishes? More importantly, how well do you or I?
That’s the question when Atlántico opens up this coming spring.
Atlántico takes over the former Southern Proper location on Harrison Avenue and promises to be a more casually priced (and larger) deviation from Serpa’s other two ventures, with a focus on Iberian specialties including paella, tinned seafood, and Ibérico ham. None of which is particularly difficult to find in Boston, but Serpa comes with a legacy including a 7-year stint at the North End’s Neptune Oyster Bar and a spell at Todd English’s Olives in Charlestown. Don’t hold the latter against him. Chances are you’ve worked for sociopathic narcissists at least once in your life, as well.
Serpa is expected to oversee the wine selection at Atlántico, which will focus on regional varietals including “under-the-radar wines, house carafes, a prominent sherry lineup, and some of the top wines from Spain all sharing the spotlight,” according to a press release. So, no. No glass of Taylor alongside a plate of wood-textured calamari, apparently.
No official date has been set for the opening of Atlántico yet, but for those of you willing to risk the drive, New Bedford and Gloucester are only a handful of miles away. So is the Atlantic Ocean. You may want to invest in a proper steering system.
Atlántico will be located at 600 Harrison Ave in Boston and is scheduled to open this spring. For more information, visit Atlántico.
Image via Wikimedia Commons