Chef Anthony Caturano has a boat moored in Gloucester Harbor named Tonno—Italian for tuna. So it’s no surprise that when the talented Boston chef opted to open a second restaurant focused on coastal Italian cuisine, Gloucester was on his mind.
It’s an apt combination for a city that revels in its Italian heritage as well as its working waterfront—and Tonno does both justice.
Wherever possible, the seafood-heavy menu is sourced from local waters, and prepared in classic style—after all, “the boot” has more than 4,700 miles of coastline, so Italians have a rich history of enjoying the bounty of the sea.
The well-appointed dining room
The focus is a new concept for Caturano, whose other restaurant, Prezza, has been a popular spot in the North End for more than 15 years, dishing up classic Italian cuisine. While a few favorites from the North End have migrated to Gloucester, most of the menu is new, starting with the nightly crudo offering—an Italian raw fish dish lightly dressed with olive oil. On a recent night, the crudo was a preparation of local bluefin tuna with chive oil and pickled red onion that brought bright balance to the dish. Hot appetizers are handled just as deftly—perfectly cooked octopus is a marvel—and the octopus la plancha doesn’t disappoint. The dish gets a smoky char from being cooked on a plancha—a Spanish flat top grill that figures in several dishes at Tonno. Flavorful and toothsome and served atop fregola (a small spherical pasta) and diced tomato, and dressed simply with olive oil, the octopus gets a very subtle heat from red pepper flakes.
Tonno’s meatballs; Grilled pork chop with potato and vinegar peppers
While fish takes center stage, meat lovers won’t be disappointed. One favorite imported from Prezza is the chef’s meatballs. Light, moist and served with a bright tomato sauce, they are a terrific starter or side. For a hearty pasta course, try the Bolognese, tossed with house-made pasta. Similar to the sauce perfected at Prezza, it is bold, rich, and light on tomatoes, placing emphasis instead on a slow-cooked fennel cream sauce.
Main courses include scallops grilled on the plancha—beautifully seared on the outside, sweet and tender on the inside. They are served dotted with chunks of smoky bacon and grilled cauliflower, atop a cauliflower puree, which brings a nice balance of earthiness to the rich scallops. A different kind of balance is found with the grilled pork chop—thick and juicy, the chop is served with vinegar peppers to lighten up and add some zing to the dish.
The bustling kitchen with the chef Anthony Caturano
The space, formerly Blackburn Tavern, feels contemporary while retaining cozy historic charm. Pale gray walls are accented with exposed brick and granite, and a row of windows enables patrons to get a peek at the waterfront.
Scallops “la plancha” with cauliflower and bacon; Decadent tiramisu.
Service strikes that perfect balance between casual and professional: The waitstaff is able to make some excellent recommendations about pairing food and wine, from the terrific list of mostly Italian bottles. The cocktail list also has a number of standout Italian options, including Elisabetta’s Spritz, a refreshing combination of Lillet, Aperol, and Prosecco, and the Cingale, a warming barrel-aged blend of rye, Aperol, and amaro.
For dessert, enjoy classic Italian dolci, from biscotti to the airy, flavorful tiramisu. Then take a stroll along the waterfront—you might just catch a glimpse of Tonno the boat.
Meatballs and ricotta $9
Octopus “la plancha,” tomato, and fregola $14
Tagliatelle Bolognese and pecorino $22
Scallops “la plancha” with cauliflower and bacon $26
Grilled pork chop, potato, and vinegar peppers $25
Elisabetta’s Spritz $10
2 Main Street, Gloucester