Just south of the Hub a new food de­sit­na­tion takes shape

A siz­zling new food de­sit­na­tion is tak­ing shape just south of Bos­ton.

Where Boston - - CONTENTS - By Mat Schaf­fer

NOT MANY FOOD LOVERS pre­dicted that Quincy—Bos­ton’s im­me­di­ate south­ern sub­urb—would emerge as a cut­tingedge culi­nary hotspot. How­ever, the “City of Pres­i­dents” is fast be­com­ing a go-to restau­rant des­ti­na­tion, serv­ing qual­ity fare that ri­vals any­thing you’d find in the Back Bay or South End.

Ground zero of the lo­cal gas­tro­nomic sea-change is Quincy Cen­ter, where a re­cently con­structed park now con­nects the United First Par­ish Church (where John Adams and John Quincy Adams are en­tombed) and Quincy City Hall, an im­pos­ing ex­am­ple of Greek Re­vival ar­chi­tec­ture. Only foot­steps away, you’ll find a slew of restau­rants well worth the ex­plo­ration.

When Devin Adams—well named for this city, but no re­la­tion to John—de­cided to go into busi­ness for him­self, he looked to Quincy and opened The Town­shend, a small, smart, cock­tail-cen­tric restau­rant named for Bri­tish par­lia­men­tary acts that pro­voked the Revo­lu­tion. Both the drinks and the menu—over­seen by for­mer Row 34 sous-chef Alex Diaz—are care­fully de­signed and crafted: High­lights in­clude seared pork belly with thyme-scented can­nellini beans. For­mer Yvonne’s pas­try chef Kate Holowchick does desserts. “A lot of (our staff) live out here,” says Adams, a for­mer bar­tender at Bos­ton’s Is­land Creek Oys­ter Bar. “We’re swarm­ing with tal­ent.”

“I was born in China but I’m as Quincy as they come,” says Jimmy Liang of J|P Fuji Group, own­ers of 10 pan-Asian/sushi restau­rants in and around Bos­ton. “I grew up here, went to school here; I’m a Quincy guy.” With its blond wood and mus­tard­col­ored dé­cor, Liang’s new Fuji at WoC is as el­e­gant as the cui­sine. Sashimi of fatty yel­low­tail dec­o­rated with gin­ger foam and

If you be­lieve in culi­nary feng shui then per­haps there’s some­thing in Quincy’s en­ergy flow con­ducive to restau­rant growth

ed­i­ble pan­sies is served in a lac­quered box filled with dry ice forc­ing you to blow away the fog be­fore ev­ery bite. For spe­cial oc­ca­sions, a pri­vate din­ing room with its own kitchen of­fers an omakase (chef’s se­lec­tion) ex­pe­ri­ence for up to 16 guests.

If you be­lieve in culi­nary feng shui then per­haps there’s some­thing in Quincy’s en­ergy flow con­ducive to restau­rant growth. This is, af­ter all, the city where Howard John­son and Dunkin’ Donuts be­gan. But un­til re­cently, Alba steak house (which opened in 2001 in the old Quincy Trust Com­pany build­ing) was a lonely out­post of fine din­ing in Quincy Cen­ter. To­day’s bustling din­ing scene prompted Alba owner Leo Keka to open Zef Cic­chetti + Raw Bar in Jan­uary.

With its brick walls, wooden beamed ceil­ing, and wra­paround, rain­for­est brown mar­ble bar, Zef is a leisurely, laid­back place for shell­fish, crudo, Ital­ian small plates, pizza, and home­made pas­tas. The chest­nut­stuffed ravi­oli in rich Parme­san crema with fried sage leaves and heir­loom cran­ber­ries are es­pe­cially de­li­cious. The wooden wine rack by the rear wall is from An­thony’s Pier 4, the iconic Bos­ton restau­rant where Keka started out as a dish­washer in 1991, af­ter flee­ing his na­tive Al­ba­nia.

If Alba was Quincy Cen­ter’s first se­ri­ous restau­rant, Fat Cat, which opened a decade ago, was its first un­abashedly fun restau­rant. What this casual com­fort food café lacks in at­mos­phere it makes up for in por­tion size and ge­nial­ity. Reg­u­lars love the “sig­na­ture” mac & cheese, made with a pound of corkscrew shaped ca­vat­appi pasta, four cheeses, mar­i­nated toma­toes and a ton of gar­lic. Lob­ster, shrimp, steak, chicken or hot dogs can be added, right up to the off-menu “ul­ti­mate” mac & cheese, which boasts all of the above plus scal­lops and crab­meat. “It can feed a fam­ily,” says bar­tender Chris­tine Sullivan, “and you’re more than wel­come to share it.”

Be­sides our sec­ond and sixth Pres­i­dents, no­table Quincy res­i­dents have in­cluded John Han­cock, ac­tresses Ruth Gor­don and Lee Remick, novelist John Cheever, and the Drop­kick Mur­phys. And then there’s Kerri Lynch-De­laney, owner of 16C Restau­rant, a cheer­ful room with large win­dows and an open kitchen. A 1994 North Quincy High grad­u­ate, LynchDe­laney has cook­ing in her DNA—she’s the niece of Bos­ton su­per­star chef Bar­bara Lynch (No. 9 Park, Men­ton, B&G Oys­ters), who con­sulted on the menu. Ex­cel­lent, thin-crust pizza, with top­pings like fig and pro­sciutto, are pre­sented on over­turned sheet pans. The dish that has peo­ple talk­ing is the Quiet Man steak tips, pop­u­lar­ized at a now-closed Southie pub, owned by Lynch-De­laney’s father, Paul. The mari­nade is a closely held se­cret. “Peo­ple think it’s ketchup and Coke, but it’s re­ally not,” says Lynch-De­laney.

In re­cent weeks, Bos­ton Viet­namese noo­dle soup chain Pho Pas­teur opened in Quincy Cen­ter along with South Shore/ Hyan­nis fa­vorite KKatie’s Burger Bar. In the com­ing months, look for Shak­ing Crab (Ca­jun seafood), Café Gelato, and Bel­fry Hall, a beer restau­rant from the own­ers of The Town­shend.

Bos­to­ni­ans aren’t shy about ven­tur­ing out­side the city lim­its in search of a great meal. The good news about Quincy is that no­body has to travel far from the Hub. It takes just over 20 min­utes to go from Down­town Cross­ing to Quincy Cen­ter via the Red Line—so book a ta­ble and bring your ap­petite.

WHERE TO EAT IN QUINCY

The Town­shend, 1250 Han­cock St., 617.481.9694; Fuji at WoC, 1420 Han­cock St., 617.770.1546; Zef Cic­chetti & Raw Bar, 1472 Han­cock St., 617.481.4848; Fat Cat, 24 Ch­est­nut St., 617.471.4363; 16C Restau­rant, 16 Cot­tage St., 617.481.2170.

EAT, DRINK, RE­LAX From top, beet salad at The Town­shend; cock­tails at Fat Cat; back din­ing room at Zef. Pre­vi­ous page, clay pot, Fuji at WoC

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