A historic Milton theater is transformed into a new dining hotspotBy Colby Radomski
For nearly fifty years, the State Theater in Milton was a popular entertainment destination for locals, serving its audiences live theatrical performances on its stage before morphing into a movie cinema. Vacant since its closure in 1987, the venue reopened in January 2016 for its second act—the South Shore’s newest upscale dining destination, Novara.
Novara, is the sister restaurant to Abby Park and Executive Chef Tony DeRienzo divides his time between the two eateries, which are located just sixty steps away from each other (he counted), in East Milton Square. Due to the close proximity, DeRienzo knew that it would be necessary to create a distinct identity for the new restaurant.
Novara serves traditional Italian cuisine with a modern twist (Novara was named for a region in Italy). The new restaurant also has a bit of celebrity appeal, thanks to the support of former New Kids On the Block singer and part-owner, Jordan Knight.
“It’s exciting to contribute to a business in the town where I currently reside,” says Knight. “Plus, I’m already a fan of Tony’s cooking.”
Renowned designer Steve Todisco (also the designer of Abby Park) was commissioned to revamp the building into an industrial-chic restaurant. Going with an Italy-meets-the-cinema aesthetic, Todisco added features like a red carpet and wine tasting bar (Novara’s version of a concession stand) near the front entrance, a giant projection screen on the restaurant’s rear wall, and an open-format V-shaped kitchen framed by long purple velvet curtains. Todisco also incorporated rustic elements into the restaurant design and decor to give diners the feel of being in an Italian village. Exposed beams and stucco walls adorn a private dining room designed to look like a charming “wine shed.” The space also includes several other dining areas, from the massive 30-seat white granite bar situated at the center of the room, to a more formal dining area with both table and booth seating. When the weather allows, a 20-seat outdoor patio is also accessible by way of accordion-style glass doors on the restaurant’s side wall.
“People think they’re walking into this little Italian restaurant, and everyone that walks through the door has the same reaction—like ‘wow,’” says DeRienzo.
The Italian style menu also has a “wow” factor, featuring inventive dishes that showcase non-traditional ingredients and plating techniques.
During my recent visit to the restaurant, Editor Maria Allen and I were able to experience DeRienzo’s Italian-with-a-twist cuisine and we were decidedly impressed. My favorite dish was the king crab scampi, which was served atop homemade fettuccini tossed in a rich garlic and white wine sauce with roasted tomatoes. DeRienzo opted for crab meat instead of shrimp because of its sweetness and added turmeric to the sauce to give the dish a flavorful punch.
Another standout dish was the flavorful Zucca pizza that came topped with roasted butternut squash in place of red sauce, sliced pancetta, crumbled gorgonzola, pine nuts, shaved black truffle and fresh arugula. The pizza was expertly crisped in the restaurant’s wood-fired oven and the combination of flavors was outstanding. The menu also features several other pasta entrées (think lobster gnocchi with truffle butter and sweet potato ravioli), creative pizzas and traditional Italian dishes like chicken parmesan and beef tenderloin. The restaurant’s beautiful bar features more than 22 beers on draught, 40 plus wines by the glass—several of which are available on tap—and Italian-inspired cocktails with names like “The Tourist.” With its chic new atmosphere coupled with its creative menu, Novara has already climbed the ranks as a destination eatery on the South Shore.