Seafood and pasta can be a match made in heaven. If the shellfish is fresh, if it’s cooked perfectly, if the tomato sauce is light and bright, allowing the flavors of the seafood to come through, it’s one of the best dishes around—especially with New England lobster and clams.
It’s a delicate balancing act, though, with the difference between perfectly done and disaster in a matter of minutes.
That balance is one that Magia, a new restaurant on Route One in Danvers, gets just right. The Frutti di Mare features a half lobster, freshly cooked, joined by a mix of clams, mussels, calamari, and shrimp, each added to a clam purée in a light fresh pomodoro sauce at exactly the right moment to ensure nothing is overdone, and served over a bed of linguine.
Both the seafood, and the expertise, come from some of the finest purveyors in Boston. Chef Richard Travaglione, Jr., grew up working at Riccardo’s in the North End. The restaurant was opened by his father in 1994, and Travaglione has been there since he was 19 years old, bussing tables, washing dishes, seating guests, and, of course, learning the secrets of great Italian food from his dad.
Travaglione uses those deep connections, developed over decades, to source his ingredients, as he manages the transition from chief cook and bottle washer to his role as proprietor. The chef still operates Riccardo’s, which overlooks the Paul Revere House, and Giacamo’s on Hanover Street, leaving little time for washing dishes now that his third spot is open.
The Danvers resident jumped at the opportunity when the former Calitri’s closed, perhaps to be able to spend more time with his kids, Mario and Gia, for whom the restaurant is named. In addition to being a mash-up of the kids’ monikers, Magia means magic in Italian—and there’s a sprinkling of that throughout. Travaglione gave the spot a sleek makeover, with cozy nooks in the bar, art on the walls, and an open dining room with a gas fireplace, and lots of light.
Settle into a booth and start with the fried oysters. They are fresh shucked and plump, topped with a touch of tartar sauce, with a sprinkling of matchstick radishes and a pickled jalapeno to temper the richness. They’d be perfect with a glass of crisp prosecco —or really, whatever general manager Romeo Caraffa suggests. Caraffa, whose resume includes a veritable who’s who of white tablecloth Boston restaurants, knows his vino, and will happily guide you to the ideal pour.
If you’re up for more seafood, move on to the stuffed calamari. Travaglione learned the recipe from his dad, who likely picked it up from his grandmother. For greens, order the arugula salad, which is lightly dressed and would make a nice pause between hearty courses. Or try the Pasta e Fagioli—a cannellini bean soup that your nonna would approve of.
In addition to Italian classics, done traditionally, the menu features a couple of recipes directly from the chef’s North End restaurants. The Risotto Riccardo, featuring spinach, shiitake mushrooms, and fresh cherry tomatoes, comes from Riccardo, naturally, while Giacomo’s contributes Butternut Squash Ravioli, served with asparagus and prosciutto in a mascarpone cream sauce.
For a hearty show-stopper, order the tender Veal Chop Milanese, lightly breaded and served in a lemon caper sauce over greens. The long bone makes a majestic presentation —though it’s tricky to fit into a takeaway container. Magia offers an array of other options for meat-lovers, including a 28-ounce, long bone-in Delmonico steak or a pair of eight-ounce pork chops served with a white wine vinegar sauce and vinegar peppers.
For dessert, you can’t go wrong with Italian sweets. The crispy, creamy cannoli are filled to order, of course, and the tiramisu is airy yet intensely flavorful. A special of profiteroles, filled with gelato and topped with a dark chocolate sauce, was also delicious.
If you’re looking for a dessert drink, ask Caraffa for guidance. He has some delights up his sleeve, like chocolate wine and a pistachio cream liqueur. Move over to the animated bar, where live music starts at 8 p.m. on Friday nights. Sip on the nightcap of your choice, or a touch more pistachio liqueur, and enjoy a bit of North End magic on Route One.
126 Newbury St. (Route One), Danvers, 978-777-1266, magiadanvers.com