Boston – Restaurateurs Tiffani Faison and Kelly Walsh open their highly anticipated Orfano tonight. Guided by the whimsy of “sorry Nonna,” Orfano is a subversive Italian-American restaurant that does not bow to traditions – its orphan spirit breaks away from regions and rules, conventions and expectations.
The opening marks Tiffani and Kelly’s fourth restaurant and it solidifies that even their greatest fans cannot predict what they are capable of. As their most upscale concept yet, Orfano, as Tiffani so aptly puts it, “has moves.” The moves extend from the bar to the service to the décor, and underlie Tiffani’s unique ability to translate her own sharp humor into a dining experience that bestows guests with much more than just her gastronomic talent.
A culinary maverick, Faison’s special sauce is in her ability to respect a cuisine’s roots while also fearlessly taking it apart and putting it back together in a way that only she could. With Orfano, she delivers next level Italian – delicious, elegant, humorous; distinctly different than anything else in Boston.
Guests will also find that Orfano is a restaurant where all are welcome, and where strong women are celebrated – from the team to the subtlest of details.
As the latest stop on their incredible trajectory, Orfano is the first restaurant Tiffani and Kelly have opened since unifying their portfolio under Big Heart Hospitality, which now has 200 employees. With a mission to change the industry’s standards, Tiffani and Kelly take care to help employees cultivate longstanding careers and to provide ample opportunity for female leadership. The talented Orfano team alone speaks to this – joining Tiffani and Kelly are Michele Carter as Creative Culinary Director of Orfano (previously of Barbara Lynch’s Gruppo), Dee Steffen Chinn (recently named “Best Pastry Chef” in the city by Boston magazine for her work at Big Heart Hospitality) as Pastry Chef, and Nicole Valva as General Manager.
Orfano’s bar program is under the direction of Brian Callahan, Beverage Director for Big Heart Hospitality and Charlie Gaeta, Wine Director for Big Heart Hospitality. Generous ice-cold martinis, Tiffani’s personal favorite, are in abundance. Callahan has also created a selection of specialty martinis, each distinct from the next. These can be found under the header Martinis a la Cart, and they arrive on a bar cart, so as to be prepared tableside, delighting guests before so much as touching their lips. Charlie’s deft hand creates a wine list with delicious and interesting Italian varietals and a range of domestic selections replete with nuance and heft.
It might just be impossible to start a meal without indulging in the Warm Hand-Pulled Mozzarella and Nonna’s Garlic Bread, served hot, tableside and from a paper bag.
Given Orfano’s August opening, there are seasonal dishes that are forces to be reckoned with. Tiffani has always been masterful with seafood and guests should take note of her Tuna “Martini” with tuna carpaccio, sliced gordals, lemon puree, and vermouth and Clams Orfano with chopped clams, peperonata, garlic & herbs, and buttery toasty breadcrumbs.
Pastas are made with care in-house and range from straight up classics like Cacio e Pepe Ravioli to elegant takes on carbs like the Fusilli Alla Vodka with creamy and tangy tomato, Calabrian chili and parmesan. A robust, rotating selection of hand-roasted meats, from Smoked & Roasted Prime Rib (weekends only) to Heritage Breed Double Cut Pork Chop and 14oz Prime NY Sirloin, is equally integral to the menu.
Dessert offers a wide array of Steffen Chinn’s creations, including decadent cannoli, dusted with an inordinate amount of confectionary sugar and served from a white cardboard box.
Inspired by the classic stalwarts of mid-century dining, Orfano honors the “old way” while presenting a refreshing lens through which to consider refined dining. Oversized prints of females make a bold statement in the dining room, giving nods to Anna Pellegrino, exuding power as matriarch of Rao’s, and Lady Gaga, unabashedly eating spaghetti. Guests dining at the restaurant’s oversized banquette, tucked away in an alcove, look up to find a collage of Italian goddess Sophia Loren on the ceiling. A pearl white countertop enlivens a gorgeous bar and café area that invites guests to enjoy a martini or bespoke negroni. Decadent and whimsical, the dining room is appointed with rich aubergine hues and custom mahogany millwork. Large gold chandeliers bathe the space in a warm glow and servers come to and fro through classic swinging kitchen doors.
Fans may forget that Tiffani forged the early days of her career cooking Italian and Mediterranean, or even that she made her first mark on Boston in 2010, revamping Rocca Kitchen & Bar’s Southern Italian menu. She quickly raised eyebrows when she took a sharp left turn to open Sweet Cheeks Q in 2011, her Texas-style barbecue restaurant, the first of its kind in Boston proper, and now long considered among the best barbecue in the Northeast. From there, in 2015, Tiffani took an equally surprising risk in opening her Southeast Asian restaurant, Tiger Mama, for which she has now twice been nominated as a James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef: Northeast (2018 and 2019). Fool’s Errand followed suit just last August; the adult American snack bar, was included as an honoree in GQ’s 2019 Best New Restaurants and received a glowing review from The Boston Globe.
Orfano seats 96 in total: 16 at the bar, 20 in the café and 60 in the dining room. The café and bar are open to guests without reservations. Reservations are suggested for the dining room.
Orfano is located at 1391 Boylston Street Boston MA – on the ground floor of Pierce Boston in the Fenway.