Quincy’s Culinary Renaissance

A flood of new restaurants have turned the City of Presidents into a dining hot spot.

By Megan Johnson | Photography by Kjeld Mahoney

Forget standing in the shadow of Boston. When it comes to the restaurant buzz, all eyes are on Quincy. With restaurants opening on every corner and new residential properties popping up left and right, Quincy Center’s culinary offerings are drawing in diners (not to mention plenty of talented chefs) from both the suburbs and Boston proper. Here’s an inside look at a few of our new favorites, plus a list of highly anticipated openings just around the corner.

ZEF CICCHETTI & RAW BAR

Instantly embraced by the neighborhood when it opened on January 4, Zef Cicchetti + Raw Bar is a little slice of Venice right in Quincy Center. Located next door to its sister restaurant, the Mediterranean steakhouse Alba, Zef’s delightful Italian small plates include a touch of owner Leo Keka’s Albanian heritage. A further show of Keka’s familial pride was the fact that he named the restaurant in homage to his father, Zef Keka, who passed away during the space’s renovations. The 180-seat restaurant has quickly become one of the busiest spots in the neighborhood.

“I felt Quincy was ready for another restaurant and spent a lot time developing a new concept that would be different from Alba,” says Keka. “Zef is a little more casual, with lighter fare and small dishes that cater to commuters who just want to grab a quick bite to eat with some friends before heading home, or bring the family out to dinner instead of cooking at home.”

The spacious venue has a rustic, industrial atmosphere, with exposed brick and an oversized historic image of the Hindenburg flying over Quincy on its “Millionaire’s Flight” October 9, 1936. With a beautiful bar and television screens tuned to local sports, it comes as no surprise that Zef has a strong after-work scene. “Quincy is one of the fastest growing cities in Massachusetts right now,” says Keka, citing the onslaught of young professionals and increasing foot traffic in the area as a boon for his business. Customers sip cocktails or glasses of fine wine while enjoying flavorful bites off executive chef Keith Anderson’s menu. Favorite dishes include semolina-crusted calamari with pickled peppers and Calabrian chili aioli, grilled octopus, homemade linguine vongole and stunning frutti di mare raw bar towers. Zef also puts on quite the weekend brunch spread, with pizzas, paninis and savory egg dishes like Tuscan-style hash with confit pork, allowing guests to celebrate the weekend in style.

Zef Cicchetti + Raw Bar, 1472 Hancock St., Quincy, 617-481-4848


PHO PASTEUR

After more than 25 years of overwhelming success in Boston’s Chinatown, Pho Pasteur owners Hieu Nguyen and Sau Cai decided the time had come to expand. Friends on the South Shore continuously encouraged the duo, both of whom call Quincy home, to embrace the City of Presidents for their next restaurant location. Pho Pasteur’s Quincy Center location started welcoming guests on New Year’s Eve, introducing a whole new neighborhood to the cuisine of Vietnam. Ever since, there has been a constant stream of diners eager to slurp giant bowls of Pho—their signature noodle soup.

“It’s our specialty,” says Nguyen, of their signature dish. “Once you try it, you’re addicted to it.” The key to Pho is the quality of the broth, which takes many hours to prepare and comes filled with rice noodles, slices of meat, scallions, bean sprouts, basil and limes. Some of the other popular items on the menu include the fresh spring rolls, which are served with peanut sauce for dipping, and com dia, rice plates with grilled meats and fresh vegetables. The menu’s lengthy vegetarian section pleases even the pickiest eater, thanks to diverse options like canh chua chay, a heaping bowl of vegetable and tofu hot-and-sour soup. Dishes can be paired with refreshing fruit smoothies or a cocktail prepared at the restaurant’s glass-tiled bar.

Nguyen says the uptick in restaurants in town has fostered a sense of community, rather than competition. “In January alone we had six new restaurant licenses on this block,” says Nguyen. “I see us having a good future.”

Pho Pasteur, 1462 Hancock St., Quincy, 617-770-3300


FUJI AT  WEST OF CHESTNUT

You don’t see many restaurant owners sweeping up the floors of their establishments, but Jimmy Liang is the exception. The owner of Fuji at West of Chestnut and CEO of the JP Fuji Group is frequently spotted doing the dirty work at his newest venture, which opened at the base of the West of Chestnut residential building on January 9. It’s a spot that’s near and dear to Liang’s heart, seeing as Quincy is his hometown.

“When I was first moving into Quincy Center, everyone was like, ‘you should be careful,’” says Liang. “But I’ve always believed in Quincy Center and there’s no reason I should stop believing now. This is my town.” Nearly 15 years later, Liang owns 10 restaurants in the metro Boston area, including six in Quincy. When the lease of his flagship restaurant, Fuji 1546, came up last year, he decided to revamp and relocate. Boasting upscale décor, artfully plated sushi dishes and creative cocktails, the new 5,000-square-foot Japanese fusion restaurant has become a favorite of locals and suburbanites alike. Standouts include the taro taco with fresh tuna, house-made spicy mix, fresh mangos, jalapenos, microgreens and ikura (salmon caviar) and the truffle tuna crudo plate dressed with thinly sliced black Alba truffle, sesame black pepper sauce, beet truffle oil, wasabi relish and coconut foam. The restaurant’s crown jewel is a 12-seat private chef’s kitchen where guests can experience Omakase, or “chef’s choice.”

With so much on his plate—Liang also has a construction company—it comes as no surprise that the owner only sleeps four to five hours a night. But despite his hectic schedule, Liang says he still would rather be in the kitchen than anywhere else. “I prefer to be a chef. That’s my first love,” he says. “I’ve been doing this for 24 years, and I still consider myself a chef-in-training.”

And in true multitasker style, Liang is already plotting his next restaurant location. “I have been entertaining a few different offers, and there’s one that I really like,” he says. “I’m working on something that could be a possible 2018 opening.”

Fuji at West of Chestnut, 1420 Hancock St., Quincy, 617-770-1546


HOT SPOTS ON THE HORIZON:

Shaking Crab Fans of this Cajun-inspired eatery no longer have to hoof it out to Newton. The Shaking Crab just opened a bigger Quincy location in mid-April. The casual seafood spot serves up everything from Alaskan king crab and crawfish to blue crab and lobster. The “shaking” part is no exaggeration—each dish is seasoned and served to you in the same bag. Crustaceans are complemented with savory comfort foods like fries and macaroni and cheese. And don’t forget to wear that complimentary bib. 22 Cottage Ave., Quincy, 617-481-0054

Belfry Hall One of the most highly anticipated openings of 2017, Belfry Hall comes from the same bevy of Barbara Lynch alums that opened The Townshend in the summer of 2015. Located in the former Home Ice Sports Bar space, Belfry Hall will be a contemporary beer tavern serving chef-driven, accessible comfort food (we can almost smell the homemade soft pretzels now). Expect their doors to open this summer. 35 Washington St., Quincy

The Pour Yard From the team behind Cagney’s Restaurant & Pub comes The Pour Yard. Here, you’ll be able to cozy up in the comfortable indoor/outdoor scene and drink canned-only craft beer and cocktails infused with herbs from their very own garden. 210 Washington St., Quincy

Café Gelato This decadent 1,700-square-foot Italian-style shop will cure your sweet tooth with fresh gelato made in-house on a daily basis. Expect strong Italian espressos and pastries alongside fresh sandwiches and salads from the same folks that own lunchtime staple Casa Razdora in Boston’s Financial District. 21 Chestnut St., Quincy

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