Lively art on the walls matches the lively bar scene at Trattoria Orsini, which opened last summer in Salem in the former Grapevine spot. The mix of modern art on the walls, with dark banquettes and French provincial style furniture, alongside a soundtrack of early disco music, gives the spot a bit of a retro-futurist vibe attractive to happy groups and cozy couples alike.
Chef Vittorio Ambrogi, who also helmed the stove at Grapevine, hails from Tuscany, and offers a unique menu. For a starter, try the Insalata Tricolore, a fresh festive combination of endive, radicchio, arugula, and frisée, vibrant with truffles, thanks to shaved truffle pecorino, then balanced with a spicy mustard lemon dressing. The Grilled Octopus antipasto is toothsome yet tender, dressed with cherry tomatoes, olives and capers. It is as lovely to look at as it is to eat – tentacles are draped over rectangles of fried black polenta.
In the mood for something more classic? You can’t go wrong with the Rigatoni Bolognese – cheesy, rich and delicious. Guild the lily by topping it with a moist, flavorful meatball, rich with hints of fennel.
Portions are generous and the service is very attentive. The thoughtful list of wines by the glass is almost all Italian, and the cocktail list is imaginative, while offering a nod to Italian spirits. As the days get warmer, the charming patio, right on the river basin, will be hopping –enjoy a Negroni or, if you like your drinks sweet, order the house version of an Aperol Spritz, which swaps out seltzer for lemon berry acai soda – a refreshing sipper for a warm spring day.
26 Congress Street, Salem, 978-594-8048, trattoriaorsini.com.