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Phantom Gourmet: Italian Cuisine At Benedetto In Cambridge

CAMBRIDGE - Chef Michael Pagliarini is at his most comfortable at a long wooden table, rolling and cutting fresh pasta for another busy dinner service at Benedetto, his highly acclaimed new restaurant at the Charles Hotel in Harvard Square.

"Benedetto is a regional Italian restaurant. We're inspired by all the great traditions and history of Italian regional cooking," Michael said. "Our menu is arranged in a very traditional manner. We have small bites that are great to enjoy while you're having a cocktail or a glass of prosecco or a glass of wine."

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Some of Benedetto's signature pastas include torteloni stuffed with red wine braised duck, cherries, and broccoli rabe; Linguine alla Vongale, the traditional Neapolitan take on linguine with clams, made with garlic, olive oil, white wine, and lemon; and then there's the completely authentic, and completely irresistible Tagliatelle alla Bolognese featuring tender, grass-fed beef and slow-cooked short ribs.

Benedetto, Phantom Gourmet
Tagliatelle alla Bolognese at Benedetto (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

"We take great care in selecting the flour that we use," Michael explained. "We choose it for flavor. We also choose it to support people that produce a great product, a locally milled flour from the Pioneer Valley in Massachusetts. To take that flour and make a traditional Italian pasta with it, that's the best of both worlds."

Rounding out the menu are several sfizi, Italian style small bites, like Yellowfin Tuna Crudo, Soppressata with white bean bruschetta, thin-sliced prosciutto over grilled flatbread, and ricotta crostini that's creamy on top and crunchy on the bottom.

Benedetto, Phantom Gourmet
Ricotta Crostini at Benedetto (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

"We make the ricotta in house. Sicilian pistachios are the best in the world. Tart, little sweet, crunchy from the pistachios, has a splash of balsamic vinegar in there. It's a great first bite," Michael described.

For something more substantial, you could opt for the bone-in skate wing, the spicy grilled octopus, or the exceptional house-made veal and pork sausage.

"Any good kitchen needs to know how to make sausage. Our sous chef Nick made this sausage," Michael said. "It's beautifully spiced with juniper, just a touch a garlic, some nutmeg, white wine, and caraway seed. They can't keep it away from me during dinner service."

Benedetto, Phantom Gourmet
Veal and Pork Sausage at Benedetto (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

Most customers can't seem to stay away from the desserts at Benedetto, because the final course is far from an afterthought here. Check out their fluffy and colorful lemon tort, the artfully arranged Walnut and caramel cake, or the positively decadent Dark Chocolate Budino.

"Our pastry chef Rene Connolly is a master. She is just a fantastically talented young woman," said Pam Ralston, Michael's wife and business partner. "The desserts she makes are better than anything I've ever had. She has a chocolate budino. I'm a chocolate fan, I love chocolate. I can't imagine a better chocolate dessert to have than our budino."

Benedetto, Phantom Gourmet
Chocolate Budino at Benedetto (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

Truth be told, it's tough to imagine finding a more authentic, or satisfying Italian restaurant experience than at Benedetto.

"Just seeing people happy, enjoying one another's company, having great conversations, just coming in and sharing that part of their day. It feels really gratifying just to be able to play a small part in making someone's day a little brighter," Pam said.

You can find Benedetto inside the Charles Hotel at 1 Bennett Street in Cambridge, and online at

Watch Phantom Gourmet on Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30 and 11 a.m. on myTV38.

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