Taranta is an interesting restaurant in the North End that fuses Southern Italian cooking with Peruvian cooking. The result is an interesting blend of flavors that surprisingly works pretty well.
The restaurant has huge windows that open up into Hanover St. In the summer it's great if you can nab one of the tables right next to the window. The service was excellent, and the waiter was really friendly. On a Sunday night, about 70% of the tables were full.
What's also cool about this restaurant is that they have taken the initiative to be green. Certified by the GRA (Green Restaurant Association), they have installed low flush toilets and automatic lights in the bathrooms. They use led candles, serve their own carbonated tap water (instead of bottled water), and composts 63.7 tons a year! Even the wine list is biodynamic, sustainable, and organic!
We asked the waiter what he recommended, and we essentially went along with his recommendations. Here's our take on the dishes:
Pan roasted mussels: Pan roasted fresh cultivated P.E.I. mussels with Sicilian Marsala and tossed with Italian Bacon and roasted shallots
This dish is generous! For $14 you probably get 30-40 mussels which have been pan-roasted in this fragrant marsala wine sauce. The mussels were tasty, and the sauce was quite fragrant. Unfortunately, my experience was a bit dampened by one or two bad (not fresh) mussels in the batch. Other than that, the dish is flavorful and well executed.
Gnocchi di yucca con ragu verde stilo seco Peruviano: Cassava root gnocchi with a slow braised "Chicha de Jora" green lamb ragu and shaved parmesan (Spicy)
This was definitely my favorite dish of the evening. The homemade gnocchi was unlike any Italian gnocchi we'd ever had since it was made out of Cassava root (a plant native to South America). It was sweeter than normal gnocchi. The texture was soft and chewy. The Chicha de Jora green lamb ragu is braised for many hours, thus giving it super soft texture and a very deep, rich flavor. The spiciness reminded us that this dish definitely had a nice, unique Peruvian kick to it. I definitely would recommend this dish.
Costoleta di maiale con canna di zucchero e rocot: Brined double cut pork chop with a sugar cane – rocoto pepper glaze served with a yucca piatella and a sauté of giant Peruvian Corn, spinach and caramelized onion.
Again, I think the portions at this restaurant are really generous. Bryan and I ordered one appetizer, one pasta, and one meat entree to share. The waiter was kind enough to split up the meat entree into two plates for us. The picture above shows you the size of ½ of the dish. Incredible. We could only each finish half of our halves (if that makes sense).
This dish was tasty, creative, and definitely had bold flavors. We've noticed a common trend in Jose Duarte's (the executive chef's) cooking - sweet and spicy, which is a very interesting combination.
Final conclusion? This restaurant serves up solid, creative, and bold flavors in North End. Although the food is still a step below places like Prezza, it's still good and definitely worth trying out. It's definitely one of the most unique restaurants in the North End. If nothing else, it's an interesting chance to try many new flavors you may have never tried before.
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