When you think of Italian food, certain images usually come to mind—hearty of pasta coming out of a bustling kitchen with a roaring fire, rivers of fragrant olive oil, and gelato piled so high it resembles a candy-colored snowdrift. Since April 13, 2007, Via Italian Table has turned those images into reality.
Part of the trio that makes the Worcester Restaurant Group (WRG), alongside One Eleven Chop House and The Sole Proprietor, Via Italian Table now celebrates a decade of delicious dining in Worcester, Massachusetts. “Via [came out of ] a passion for the type of food that we eat a lot as a family and that we have been brought up eating,” says WRG Chief Operating Officer, Caitlyn Carolan. “We have a big family. My mother is a wonderful Italian cook and so a lot of the things that are on the menu we’ve been eating for years in our house. So I think Via was a passion project.”
As the daughter of Worcester Restaurant Group, Founders Robb and Madeleine Ahlquist, she has been a part of her family’s restaurants since she was young and has seen the inception of both One Eleven Chop House and Via Italian Table. When it came to opening Via, the idea for an authentic Italian restaurant blended her family’s love of food, travel, and hospitality. Everyone who comes for a meal will feel the same warmth and welcoming spirit you might experience abroad.
Inside the brick building at 89 Shrewsbury Street, the open kitchen allows visitors a glimpse at the chef’s gastronomic magic, while a magnificent palette of gelato flavors tantalizes anyone who comes for a closer look at the display case. A bountiful pile of fresh bread sits at the edge of the softly-lit dining area, which it set under an exposed-beam ceiling of years past. Cool, modern chandeliers lined with faux candles over shapely booths adjacent to a patio that is reminiscent of a European bistro combines the old and new worlds in the Italian kitchen.
You might even say Via brings all of Italy to the dining table. “Our food sort of comes from all regions. We’re not northern Italian or southern Italian. We’re not specific to one area,” says Carolan of the diverse menu that includes traditional Italian fare to classic Italian-American favorites. In bringing the authentic Italian experience to Worcester, the Ahlquists took lengthy tours around Italy to ensure that their ingredients were of the best quality and authentically Italian. One of the showcase pieces in Via is the gelato machine which is the same kind that is used all over Italy. “It think with Via having a combination of that rustic Italian feel, it’s comfort food, but it’s really more true to what you would find in Italy,” she adds.
Unlike many other restaurants, the culinary team at Via Italian Table, as well as the other properties in WRG, take care to go the extra mile when developing new recipes, cooking techniques, and in perfecting the art of plating each dish. Via’s Executive Chef, Bill Brulé, is innovative at curating the menu for the restaurant’s wine dinners, beer dinners, and weekly lunch specials. “He is experimenting with house made pasta right now,” says Carolan. In honor of the 10th anniversary milestone, Via hosted the Italian winemaker, Ciro Perone, for a special wine tasting event, where guests sampled distinct Italian wines with 10 courses of small bites designed by Brulé. “I think that a passion for detail is something that we work hard at and that’s probably something our ship is very good at,” Carolan says.
The menu changes seasonally, but Via’s high culinary standards remain unchanged. “The thing that sets all of our restaurants apart is that we are a scratch kitchen, which means everything that we make is from scratch. So we’re not bringing anything processed into our house,” says Carolan of the three WRG restaurants. With dishes such as shrimp scampi, porchetta, grilled pizzas, and lobster risotto, the choices are endless. One of Carolan’s favorite dishes is the Bucatini Bolognese, a creamy tomato sauce with ground meat. Their seafood dishes are also light and fragrant and the Ragu of Italian meats is one of their signature dishes. “It’s one of the dishes that my mom has been making for years and years and years. It’s nice to see that it’s on our menu and does so well and other people appreciate it,” Carolan adds.
Whether it’s friends coming together for dinner, a family celebrating a graduation, or a girlfriends’ brunch, any reason is a great reason come to Via Italian Table. “We always have lots of different things going on,” says Carolan. After springtime holidays, the highly-anticipated Lobster Fest, which includes all three WRG restaurants, will take place in June.
You might be familiar with the Italian phrase, “La dolce vita,” but in Worcester, you can celebrate a sweet and savory decade of “la dolce Via” and look forward to more. Mangia!
For more information visit Via Italian tables website here
© Chelsea E. Dill 2017