Moëca seafood restaurant to open in Cambridge by Giulia team

Michael Pagliarini and Pam Ralston, owners of the famous Italian restaurant Giulia in Cambridge, will open a new restaurant nearby, Moeca, in the spring of 2022. It will be located at 1 Shepard Street, Cambridge, between Harvard and Porter Squares, recently home to Luce, Shepard before that, and the Franco-Cuban icon Chez Henri for most of the two decades previously. “We have admired this space since the time of Chez Henri,” says Pagliarini. “It’s an important part of our neighborhood and we’re excited to create the next chapter. “

Since Giulia’s opening in late 2012, the upscale Italian restaurant has garnered a lot of attention locally and beyond for its excellent home-made pasta and hospitality; it tends to be one of the toughest dinner reservations in town. Moëca’s menu will also have some Italian influences, but it will also draw from elsewhere.

Pagliarini describes the future Moëca as a neighborhood seafood bar and restaurant. “We want to bring the best small boat, sustainable seafood to our neighborhood,” he told Eater. He and the team envision “a place where you can get oysters and beer, simple grilled fish, and plentiful seasonal vegetables.” Think spaghetti and razor clams, raw seafood with Asian and Latin American flavors, and the best homemade ice cream, gelati and desserts in [pastry chef] Renae Connolly.

Connolly was the pastry chef at the now defunct Harvard Square restaurant Benedetto, which unexpectedly closed in early 2021; she took over the pastry program at Giulia over the summer and will now be pastry chef for both restaurants. Fans of local desserts know that the former Clio and Cafe ArtScience is one of the best pastry chefs around. (Have a look on his Instagram account see some of his designs.)

As for the non-dessert portion of the menu, diners might see dishes like cuttlefish risotto with Italian porcini mushrooms, white wine, and nepitella, a tasty herb from the mint family; Fried giant soft shell crab with whipped cod, capers, lemon and white sturgeon caviar; and grilled blue shrimp with a hot head with an anchovy salsa verde and asparagus. There will also be a trio of dishes from the same fish highlighting different techniques and preparations, with the fish rotating depending on availability. Take wild striped bass, for example: Moëca might offer a raw sea bass dish with cucumber, bottarga, fresh citrus and basil; roasted collar ravioli with fresh herbs, tomato, ginger and lemon; and grilled loin with sweet corn and roasted peppers.

To drink, the team will rely on the “great Italian cellar of Giulia”, explains Pagliarini, adding wines from France (including champagne), Spain, Portugal and elsewhere, as well as a Complete cocktail menu with an emphasis on the classics.

Brian Gianpoalo will serve as head chef; he’s been with the team for almost a decade, opening Giulia as Sous Chef in 2012 and currently serving as Giulia’s Chef. Managing Director Lauren Faria is also a veteran of the group, having served as Managing Director of Benedetto and remaining on board after the shutdown “to help assess opportunities for a new business,” Pagliarini said. Giulia’s regulars may have seen her working on the ground in Giulia lately.

“We have always wanted to make a neighborhood seafood restaurant,” explains Pagliarini. “Some of our favorite and most beloved dishes at Giulia and Benedetto are seafood based. We want to take all of our favorites and give them a home, and then continue to explore the great traditions of seafood cooking wherever we go. we can find them.

The vibe, he says, will be less upscale than Benedetto was – more laid back and fun. “We will have the same exceptional service, the same lively hospitality and the same generous cuisine, and we are more committed than ever to supporting strong, diverse and vibrant food systems. “

In terms of potential accommodation linked to the pandemic, Pagliarini says take-out will certainly be offered “if dining inside becomes difficult”, and there is also hope of expanding Connolly’s baking program to include , among others, pints of ice cream and traditional Italian gelati. for takeout. Al fresco dining, on the other hand, is less likely, as the space available on the restaurant’s sidewalk is quite tight.

The restaurant takes its name from a crab called “moeca” in the Venetian dialect. (Here is a good read on crab.) “They are caught in local waters and marketed as soft shells,” says Pagliarini. “My friend Paolo Tagliapietra, for whom I hosted a dinner at Benedetto, admired these crabs as being resilient, resourceful and determined to adapt to the challenges they face. Basically all of the qualities we need now as we face the lingering challenges of the pandemic, the cultural evolution of the restaurant industry, and the impacts of climate change on our food systems. We’re ready to make the world a splash, one seafood dish at a time!

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