What better place to seek shelter from the misbehaving spring weather than at Eataly Boston’s rooftop restaurant, Terra, which is opening Tuesday.
No really: This eatery — brought to you by celebrity chefs Mario Batali, Lidia Bastianich and the whole Eataly Italia gang — is a greenhouse oasis in bustling Back Bay powered by an oak-burning fire.
“It’s the maximum expression of simplicity,” Batali said of the new spot atop the Prudential Center and the food it offers.
“It’s casual, but not refined. It’s affordable, but not cheap,” he said, adding, “There are no saute pans involved. The chefs lay the ingredients on the fire, flip it over and take it off. There’s no Iron Chefery to it ... This is not your Eater.com tasting menu ... We won’t win a Michelin star here and we don’t give a (expletive).”
Batali and Bastianich were joined by Eataly CEO Nicola Farinetti, as well as managing partners Adam and Alex Saper while showing off the space, which is perched above the existing indoor market. For now, they said, the restaurant will only occupy the covered area. Though there are plans to expand its footprint and make room for outdoor dining.
The heart of Terra is the wood-burning fire, a staple instrument for cooking throughout Italy — from Piedmont to Puglia.
Bastianich, who has cherished memories of her grandmother making food over a wood-burning fire, said this form of cooking isn’t just about high temperatures and grilled meats.
“I remember my grandmother would put potatoes in a cast iron pan and place it on the side of the fire,” she said. “In two or three hours, lunch would be ready. She used to hang sausages above the fire, just like that. Wood fires are for grilling, but also for slow-roasting and even braising.”
And both Batali and Bastianich agree on one thing: With Terra’s food, ingredients come first, smoke comes second and the chef comes last.
“In some people’s minds, the chef has become the epicenter of food,” Bastianich said. “I don’t feel that way. I’m a conduit of food ... there’s not much that I should do to it. I take it, appreciate it and exalt it. If the prime ingredients are good, half my job — more — is done.”