A delicious way to connect with friends and family over the holidays is by sharing a big, family-style meal at a restaurant. Everyone can kick back and relax because there’s no shopping, decorating, cooking, or cleanup involved. Fortunately, many North Shore restaurants offer large-format dining.
La Fina, Andover
Modern steakhouse La Fina in Andover regularly scales up starters, entrées and desserts for large parties. Take the La Fina Bouquet—a holiday-worthy tower of oysters, crab cocktail, jumbo shrimp, a poached lobster tail, and lobster cocktail. “The standard size serves four to six,” says Ashley LaRose, culinary director for Legacy Hospitality Group, which oversees several restaurants including La Fina. “But larger groups can add more of anything, including tuna and salmon tartare.”
There’s also the glittering, button busting gourmet frankfurter. “Big enough to serve eight, it’s a one-pound, all-beef gourmet hotdog, and we custom-make the brioche-style bun,” says LaRose. Served on a platter, the colossal appetizer comes to the table garnished with pineapple-onion jam, truffle horseradish mustard, a heap of crispy onion strings, and 24-karat gold leaf. “It definitely is a showstopper,” adds LaRose, who says most parties send the wiener back to the kitchen to get sliced up. “I mean, where else are you gonna find a hotdog literally the size of your arm?”
For entrées, the mixed steak platter can’t be beat. Depending upon the number of guests in the group, the kitchen fires up a variety of steaks and serves them sliced on a platter so everyone gets a taste of each. To boost the fun factor, La Fina offers five different sauces and compound butters. The sauce flight includes options like Béarnaise and chimichurri, while the butters range from miso-honey to foie gras.
The restaurant’s family-style sides include the ever-popular garlicky creamed spinach, thick-cut onion rings, and lobster mac and cheese. To finish, La Fina offers whole cakes, either vanilla with salted caramel cream or triple chocolate. Alternatively, guests can choose several sweets off the dessert menu, which come to the table on a platter with scoops of sorbet and gelato.
“Because our menu is mostly a la carte, it’s really customizable,” says LaRose.
27 Main St., Andover, 978-475-4082, lafinarestaurant.com
Another excellent spot for large-format dining is Angelo’s in Stoneham, which often hosts holiday gatherings in its wine cellar, a warm, glowing space lined with more than 7,000 bottles.
“When we have large parties of six, eight, or more, we’ll make whatever the guests want, and I’ll make enough food for everybody,” says chef-owner Angelo Caruso. His Fritto Misto is a popular holiday starter composed of fried calamari, shrimp, and scallops served with fresh lemon and homemade spicy mayo. For pasta, patrons often ask for Caruso’s Ziti Vesuvio and Tortelloni Piemontese.
For the former, he uses dried pasta cooked al dente and topped with a tomato sauce seasoned with garlic, fresh basil, and roasted hot peppers. For the latter, ricotta-stuffed tortelloni comes smothered in a rich Gorgonzola cream sauce accented with roasted shallots, prosciutto, and sage. “One of the biggest mains we do for Christmas Eve and Christmas is cioppino,” says Caruso, who makes the Italian seafood stew with lobster, shrimp, scallops, mussels, clams, calamari, and octopus. “It has a white wine and plum tomato base and is brothy, which is really nice.”
Shareable sides include broccoli rabe and mixed roasted vegetables. For dessert, Caruso loves the lemon custard cake showered with pignoli. Large groups can order it as part of the dessert platter featuring flourless chocolate cake and homemade cannoli.
239 Main St., Stoneham, 781-279-9035, angeloristorante.com
Tonno Gloucester also offers fabulous communal-style dining. “Our entire menu can be ordered family-style except for the entrées,” says general manager Joe Loiacano, who notes that groups often start with the antipasti board. Loaded with cured meats, cheeses, roasted peppers, artichokes, and mushrooms, it’s designed for six, but bigger groups can order more items.
The seafood tower for eight is another festive option. “It’s on our specials menu, not on our printed menu,” says Loiacano, “and consists of oysters, cherrystones, tuna tartare, salmon tartare, shrimp cocktail, and lobster (split tail and claws).”
Shareable mid-courses include spaghetti Fra Diavolo with shrimp, orecchiette with sausage and broccoli rabe, and the top-selling tagliatelle Bolognese made with beef, veal, and pork.
Tonno makes all its pastas, focaccia, and desserts from scratch and buys much of its fish and seafood off Gloucester’s docks. Crowd-pleasing entrées include the juicy bone-in rib-eye, grilled tuna steak, and cioppino. Groups often order the white beans with escarole, broccoli rabe, and roasted peppers as large-format sides. Regarding dessert, ’tis the season for Tonno’s tiramisu board. “It’s basically one giant piece of tiramisu that serves eight people and comes with a spatula so you can serve yourself,” says Loiacano. The restaurant also offers a mixed dessert board that contains tiramisu, cannoli, biscotti, and Italian cheesecake topped with sweet fig jam.
2 Main St., Gloucester, 978-879-4795, tonnorestaurant.com