Walking into Boccaccia, we felt thousands of miles removed from Chattanooga. Bare bulbs hang from rafters, rough-hewn columns support the ceiling, and exposed brick walls add a level of authenticity that could easily transport a diner to Italy. Twin clocks help, with one noting the time in Chattanooga, the other in Milano.
Tucked away in the old Southern Saddlery building, the restaurant can be seen from the road, but getting there can be a bit of a challenge. Once you make the three necessary right turns off Broad Street, you'll find the search was worth the effort.
Boccaccia brings some interesting and innovative twists to its Italian fare. We ordered the Antipasto Misto ($12) and the Insalate Cesare ($7). Both were enjoyable and well-presented, but the antipasto suffered from a lack of proper introduction by our server. It consisted of a variety of meats, cheeses and roasted vegetables, only some of which we were able to identify. The Caesar salad was cool and crisp, but the dressing lacked the more rounded finishing notes a good Caesar dressing carries.
We chose pasta for our entrees. The Orecchiette con Salsiccia alla Piemontese ($13.50) and the Penne Arrabiatta ($13.50) arrived hot and aromatic. The Orecchiette (Italian for "little ears") and its accompanying sauce with roasted peppers and braised Italian sausage were wonderfully balanced. The goat cheese atop the dish added another layer of flavor. The penne sauce was flavorful but far too salty for our palate. A splash of balsamic vinegar helped a bit.
Boccaccia offers two groupings of pasta dishes, one with homemade pasta and a second with more common durum pasta. On our next visit, we'll be sure to try the homemade variety. The serving sizes are healthy without being overwhelmingly huge.
It should be noted that Boccaccia offers traditional Italian second courses. If you care to order from the menu in the designed fashion, you'd better be hungry. Offerings include Filetto Rossini (filet mignon with fois gras, $28.50) and a whole Dover Sole ($33).
The wine list, modest and focused, provides another nice touch to the meal. Some are offered by the glass, others by the bottle only.
We finished the meal with a Tortufo al Cioccolato ($7), a ball of chocolate gelato rolled in cocoa and hazel nuts.
IF YOU GO
Our server was attentive, knowledgeable and upbeat, all without pushing the boundaries. We weren't in a hurry, and that pace served us well for our meal. Having to wait almost 30 minutes for the check seemed forgetful.
Besides the food itself, Boccaccia seems to shine with both its decor and the familial sense shared by patrons. Everyone seemed to know everyone else. As couples shared tastes of one another's dishes, or antipastos moved between diners at larger tables, it felt more like a dinner party than a restaurant. Some small tables, a few larger, circular tables and one really long, family-style table mean you can bring your sweetie or the whole family. Just be forewarned that reservations will serve you well, especially on busy weekends.
Again, the simple and rustic style of the interior plays into how diners react to their meals and each others', with the results being comfort and leisure.
There's also an outdoor dining area, but we passed, preferring the dark, cool dining room to the patio along Broad Street.
If you're in the market for a quick dinner, choose another restaurant. But if you want to enjoy a leisurely paced meal, have a conversation with your tablemate and discover some of the better Italian fare in Chattanooga, you can't go wrong here.
If you can prove you're visiting on your birthday, Boccaccia will treat you to a pasta dinner and dessert.