By George Brennan
I’d heard a lot about La Soffitta from my colleagues and friends — one of them in particular had been prodding me to get there for months. It’s not like they had to twist my arm; I love a good Italian restaurant, and everything I was hearing said that this place wasn’t just good, but great. So I plotted my visit to the restaurant on Main Street in Vineyard Haven.
It was a pleasant evening, so my wife and I walked from The MV Times office, stopped at a couple of places on Main Street, and arrived at the restaurant in plenty of time for our 6:30 pm reservation. (Reservations are highly advisable, especially in the busy season.)
La Soffitta means “the attic” in Italian, but the only resemblance between this elegant restaurant and an attic is that it’s above Stephen and Linda Bowen’s other Main Street eatery, Waterside Market.
With its elegant white tablecloths — they cover them with white paper, a smart idea with all that red sauce — and candlelit ambiance, La Soffitta is like no attic I’ve ever been inside.
The restaurant’s only been around for a few years, according to its website, but from the rustic sign outside to the black-and-white photos on the walls, it has the feel of an Island institution.
We were greeted warmly right away, and that’s always a good feeling whenever we go out to eat. The food always tastes a little better when you feel welcomed.
As we sat down at the table, the sun was setting outside, and we were treated to a dazzling light show that only a Vineyard sunset can create through the small, but plentiful windows in La Soffitta’s dining room.
We got to see the transition in the light-bathed dining room from skylights to the twinkling light strands that give the restaurant the feel that you’re dining outside under the stars.
Early on, we hit it off with our server, Janae Hamilton. She engaged with us in light banter (Who doesn’t like someone who will laugh at your dumb jokes?), and made solid recommendations about our wine and menu options.
OK, I know what you’re thinking: Get to the food.
We ordered the Trio de Bruschetta to start, $13. There were three different pieces of Italian bread covered with different toppings — tomato and basil, ricotta cheese and fried broccoli rapini, and olive tapenade. We cut each of them in half and shared them. My personal favorite was the olive tapenade, but my wife savored the slice with ricotta cheese, which was creamy with a hint of salt that contrasted well with the crisp bread.
I really wanted to try the Caprese Salad, $20, but was worried that I wouldn’t have room for dessert. (And when you’re at an Italian restaurant, you’ve got to leave room for dessert.)
For the main course, I ordered the Tagliatelle al Ragu at $35. The combination of three types of meat — beef, lamb, and veal — in a ragu over fresh-made pasta was too much for me to resist.
Janae didn’t even tease me when my pronunciation of the dish went horribly wrong.
The long, flat noodles were cooked to perfection, and there were morsels of meat in every twirl.
My wife may or may not have stolen a few forkfuls of my ragu in between bites of her Penne Carbonara, $22.
We didn’t have our kids with us that night, and they were missed. We’ve always loved making memories breaking bread together. So to see a family sitting nearby helped ease our pangs.
I can’t say enough about the service at La Soffitta. Janae and the other servers were attentive — there when we needed them, as if we were the only two people in the restaurant, even though that was far from the case on a Friday night. They also gave us our space to sip our wine and later to linger over a limoncello.
Dessert, you say? Ah, yes. Dessert was delicioso.
Chef Salvatore Della Torre, who made the rounds that evening checking on guests, sent out a tray of desserts. (There were so many, we invited our waitstaff. It seemed sinful not to share.) We especially liked the cannoli, which had us thinking about many visits to Boston’s North End. And the tiaramisu was sweet, light, and velvety.
Thanks for the recommendation, Joe, and we won’t wait long to get back there to try some of the other great menu options. Tell Chef Salvatore my mouth is watering for the saltimbocca.
LaSoffitta, 82 Main St., Vineyard Haven, 508-687-9448, lasoffitta.com. Dinner daily, 5 to 10 pm. Closed Tuesday.