If an upcoming trip to the Mediterranean isn’t in the cards, La Gallina, the new coastal concept that debuted at MarketStreet Lynnfield in September, may be a suitable substitution. Consider the décor: lively blues and yellows, warming hewn ceiling beams, and the type of tile floors that you’re just as likely to encounter in Barcelona as in Essex County. If your connection with food includes a window into the soul of the kitchen, La Gallina offers the biggest and brightest view around. It’s a gleaming kitchen, where chefs perform out in the open, part of the scenery of the dining room.
No, you’re not in a villa overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, but that’s no reason to fret. La Gallina, with its welcoming spirit, exists thanks to industry veterans Matthias Kiehm and James Wierzelewski, the local restaurateurs who, in conjunction with Robin Gannon Interiors, have reimagined this space as an inviting entrée to a culinary journey that feels at once far-flung and accessible.
Cozy booths line one side of the dining room, and to rise into them—they’re suspended one step off the floor, as if in midair—is to rise into the destination of this restaurant, itself a place away from home. Transportive in both design and culinary ambition, La Gallina aims to extinguish any wanderlust left lingering from the heart of the pandemic, and the restaurant appears to be succeeding; even in its infancy, La Gallina is busy, abuzz even on a weeknight. A front patio, on a recent September Wednesday, recalled the halcyon days of summer.
La Gallina means “the hen,” in Spanish, and the menu at this newcomer is inflected with Spanish cuisine—but not only Spanish cuisine. The influences of Greece, Italy, and even parts of the Middle East are present in the menu, executed with precision under chef Daniel Xavier. Xavier, who hails from Boston’s award-winning Chickadee, in the Seaport, brings dexterity and cultural prowess to La Gallina, where Mediterranean dining is viewed through a broad lens. Hummus, native to Turkish, Egyptian, Lebanese, Greek, and Israeli culinary cultures, occupies an entire menu category (order the ground lamb version, which arrives heady with onions, pine nuts, and za’atar spice).
It’s impossible not to feel transported to Madrid after a single bite of the restaurant’s Gambas al Ajillo, or Spanish-style garlic shrimp. In this iteration, plump shrimp and pucks of chorizo swim in a chili-flavored oil that has been finished with butter and fino sherry, all of which is served in a pot that resembles the traditional cazuela, a clay vessel that houses many Spanish dishes.
The menu is organized into loosely thematic categories: Hummus; Spreads; In the Pot; Tapas; Leaves + Roots; Mains; Sides; Grilled Skewered Meats; Pastas; and Pizza. In some cases—as with the tapas, in particular—the categories are associated with a specific country, allowing you to travel the Mediterranean without a passport, moving casually from the aforementioned shrimp to, say, a tomato-slicked bowl of bucatini, or, later, to skewers of pork souvlaki and locanico sausage (wrap them in supple pita with tzatziki, kalamata olives, cucumbers, and pickled red onions, for an out-of-this-world gyro).
Chef Daniel Xavier
Ricotta and fig gelato
Hibiscus sour cocktail
The friendly, well-trained staff will be happy to help craft your meal, should you find yourself stuck between Lebanon and Italy, Greece and Spain. They will be happy, too, to direct you toward the cocktail that best suits your preferences. You could, of course, try the Hibiscus Sour, itself a superlative choice: It’s made with Four Roses bourbon, pineapple juice, lemon, and tart, magenta hibiscus syrup. Or, if the teetotaling life is for you, sip a Blackberry Burlesque, a pretty and muddled drink made from blackberries, ginger beer, lime, and mint.
A slim dessert menu—affogato with vanilla gelato, Lavazza espresso, and toasted hazelnuts; crème caramel; orange-pistachio cake with sweetened Greek yogurt; and a selection of gelatos—offers a sweet ending to a meal of diverse options. On a recent evening, the ricotta gelato with fig, a frozen dessert that most closely resembled the filling of the best possible cannoli, threaded through with jam, lingered only a moment at the table before evaporating. Where had it gone? Into the ether of La Gallina’s travels. Like so much else served that evening, it was reason enough to return.
1150 MarketStreet, Lynnfield, 781-776-7600, lagallina-lynnfield.com