In the past few years, the Southside has become the trendy place in town for new restaurants, new housing and new nightlife options.
The business district on Main Street has begun to expand as more people and more businesses look to latch onto the hip vibe of the area, and one of the main beneficiaries of that has been the stretch of South Broad Street from downtown to the foot of Lookout Mountain.
Long known as home of the city's once thriving industrial foundries, South Broad is buzzing again as new apartments and other businesses have begun to revitalize that long-ignored part of town. The latest extension of the Chattanooga Riverwalk comes out at the site of the former Wheland Foundry's Middle Street Plant and is bringing more people into an area ripe for growth.
The seeds of this resurgence on South Broad can perhaps be traced to the opening of a small Italian restaurant more than 10 years ago. Boccaccia Ristorante Italiano was a pioneer in the area, and the owners' patience — and excellent food — has been rewarded as a new neighborhood grows.
Boccaccia is in the lower floor of the old Southern Saddlery that now houses a variety of new tenants and artists. The restaurant is not readily apparent from Broad Street; diners must drive around to the back of the building to its side lot.
› Where: Boccaccia Ristorante Italiano, 3077 South Broad St.
› Hours: First seating 5:30 p.m., last seating 8:30 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays; first seating 5:30 p.m., last seating 9 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays; closed Sundays
› Prices: $4.30 for a half order of Insalata Mista to $33 for Dover Sole
› Alcohol: Yes
› Phone: 423-266-2930
Inside, it's dark and comforting, like a small Italian cafe, perfect for a dinner for two or a small party of friends. Rustic tables and low lighting make Boccaccia a good place for a date night.
The food at Boccaccia is traditional Italian, done simply but done right. The pasta is homemade, fresh bread is offered, and the sauces are fresh and tasty.
For starters, selections such as bruschetta, steamed mussels or fine meats and cheeses are available. Three salad choices are also options.
For the main course, there is a wide selection of pasta dishes, with and without meat, to choose from using many types of pasta and sauces. For those with a birthday coming soon, a free pasta dish and dessert is offered if you show your ID on the big day.
Finally, the selection of main courses is diverse, and all sound delicious. From the Spiedini di Mare (seafood on skewers) to Filetto Rossini (filet mignon with cream sauce) there's something for all tastes, and everything is prepared and served fresh.
Prices aren't the cheapest in town, but they are more than reasonable for the level of service and the quality of food offered.
For a quiet mid-week meal, I couldn't help but start with the Calamari Fritti antipasti. I'm a sucker for fried calamari, and who doesn't like some good fried squid every so often? The batter on the calamari is not too heavy and is served with an equally delightful spicy tomato sauce for dipping.
For my main meal, I chose the Involitini Val d'Aosta. For those of us not well-versed in Italian, that's chicken breast wrapped with prosciutto ham and fontina cheese — and that is what I call good eating in any language. The dish is served with balsamic vinegar reduction to give it a slightly tart taste and a side of freshly made fettuccini alfredo.
Add an order of vanilla creme brulee for dessert, and that makes for a fine meal.
The service at Boccaccia Ristorante Italiano ranks among the best of any of Chattanooga's fine dining restaurants. Servers are knowledgeable, friendly and provide prompt service. Recommendations on food and wine pairings help make the meal the best it can be. Dishes are cleared quickly from the table as the meal progresses.
Since its opening more than a decade ago, Boccaccia Ristorante Italiano has maintained a loyal base of customers from the nearby residential areas of Lookout Mountain and St. Elmo. To have been around as long it has, Boccaccia certainly has found its niche even when it was relatively quiet along South Broad.
But with new residential development and new business investment in the area, it seems likely that Boccaccia and other South Broad restaurants are primed for even greater exposure in the coming years.
With good service, comfortable yet upscale atmosphere and a tradition of excellent Italian cuisine, Boccaccia is in the right spot for even more people to discover what makes the restaurant so special.
Contact Jim Tanner at JFTanner@gmail.com. Follow him at twitter.com/JFTanner.