Fairsted Kitchen at 1704 Beacon Street in Brookline was officially reborn as Grassona’s Italian on January 24. Owner Steve Bowman felt it was time for a change. “We really believe that restaurants are about evolution,” he says. “I have this quirky idea that everyone can relate to the idea of an Italian grandmother who just wants you to eat and be happy.”
When it comes to the neighborhood feel, Bowman knows what he’s doing. As a Brookline native, this is the neighborhood that shaped him. “Brookline is coming home for me,” says Bowman. “It’s wild to have Grassona’s in the space Vinny Testa’s was in. I had several first dates there in high school.”
Now he welcomes his high school contemporaries and their families for dinner. Later this month Grassona’s will debut a “Bambinos” menu for children that are smaller portions of the same high-quality dishes. No cop-out mac-and-cheese here. Before 6 pm every day the Bambinos menu will be half priced.
The Grassona’s menu is rooted in comforting classics with a twist. It turns out Fairsted’s chef Phil Dwyer is the Italian grandmother we always wanted. Most popular thus far are the Veal Porterhouse Saltimbocca with fontina polenta, prosciutto crisp and sage, and the Braised Pork Shank Ossobuco with root vegetable risotto and pickled mustard gremolata.
Bowman has also seen a lot of meatballs ordered. After playing with traditional meatball recipes, Dwyer threw caution to the wind and created his with a mix of beef, pork, and bacon. Spoiler: it’s a home run. For all-night nibblers, Grassona’s serves up elaborate antipasto platters, or you can make your own with a selection of meats, cheeses, and vegetables. Bowman says the menu will likely change seasonally, if not more frequently, retaining a few dishes that stand out as the neighborhood favorites.
At the bar, a curated wine list offers the best of Northern Italy, and Emma Connolly mixes up potent house cocktails like “Another Night in Brookline,” a mix of bourbon, cappelletti apertivo, lemon, demerara, and cacao. Though the bar does have a small television, it’s tucked discretely into the corner. The priority is on conversation and community here. All the glassware and dishware is sourced from thrift stores. Bowman often says his mother will rustle up beautiful, unique pieces for the restaurant in her travels. “You almost never get the same plate twice,” he says.
The cozy, intimate space is painted minimally with cream and red tones and decorated with Dwyer’s favorite dry ingredients. The only figurative décor is a prom photo of two of Bowman’s old high school friends. Bowman says it’s an allusion to the unexplained family photographs that seem to show up in every family-owned Italian restaurant. The picture regularly moves, an entertaining “where’s Waldo” for regulars.
Bowman encourages guests to come to Grassona’s for a celebration of food and family. “Brookline has this incredible group of intelligent diners,” he says. “I wanted to make Grassona’s something warm, familiar and comforting for the neighborhood.”