What better time to visit Boston than when it is all dressed up for the holidays? We booked a one night stay to see our son and soak up some festive vibes. I reserved at The Newbury which boasts a terrific location at the top of iconic Newbury Street in the heart of Back Bay, directly across from the Boston Public Garden. Having originally opened as the Ritz Carlton in 1927, it recently underwent a transformation and re-opened as the Newbury in 2021. Every bit of the hotel enjoyed a facelift, and while it is not astonishing in any way, it is clean and fresh, although a little basic. The last time I visited Boston I stayed at the Four Seasons One Dalton Street which is much nicer and more luxurious, (you can read my review here), but I liked the location of the Newbury a lot more.
While the decor isn’t anything to write home about, the employees really went the extra mile to ensure that our stay was memorable, especially the bellmen and restaurant staff.
Our room was located on the 16th floor, and was categorized as a Studio Suite. It was fine, more like a fancier Hilton Garden Inn. To be honest, the highlight was the children’s classic Make Way For Duckings which was waiting for us on the coffee table. Set in Boston’s Public Garden it put us right in the mood to get out there and stroll through it.
We were fortunate to savor the last bit of daylight as we admired the scenery in the Public Garden along with locals and visitors alike. As the sun set we worked our way towards Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall , which hold fond memories for me from visits in my teens and 20s. Sadly, Covid seems to have left its mark as many of the store fronts are empty. A festive dinosaur appeared oblivious to the changes.
The plan was to meet for a pre-dinner drink in the Newbury’s bar, The Street. At 6:30 it seemed that many others had the same idea, and we were told there was a 45 minute wait. Thankfully we found some space at a communal table in the library. Boston seems to have an air of formality that was on full display at the bar, people were dressed for a night out, there was not a ripped t-shirt in sight.
We enjoyed our complimentary nibbles with our drinks and then set off by foot to our dinner destination, Faccia a Faccia, located down the street at 278 Newbury. Faccia a Faccia is just one of the restaurants owned by renowned chef Ken Oringer and his business partner Jamie Bisonette, their other restaurants in Boston include Little Donkey, Toro and Coppa, plus a natural wine bar located underneath Faccia a Faccia called Bar Pallino.
I have eaten at Little Donkey, and rated it a solid good, but had heard Faccia a Faccia was really a winner so we decided to give it a try; and I was glad we did. The restaurant was full, and the energy level was high. Our server was extra friendly and very helpful in steering us towards delicious choices. In addition, we were able to bring a special bottle of wine and pay a nominal corkage fee. The restaurant prides itself on the “coastal specialties” of Southern Italy, and everything on the menu was tempting. Additionally, they pride themselves on their gluten free pasta, so I was excited.
Luckily we were four people so we were able to order a good sampling of apps including “grandma bread”, a tasty foccacia, burrata adorned with beets, walnuts and golden raisins, as well as the star of the first course: carciofi fritti, perfectly fried artichoke leaves and hearts.
I was tempted by other pasta choices, but ultimately went with the cacio e pepe. It was super peppery, (in a good way) and had the unconventional addition of slivered Brussels sprouts. The pasta was so good you wouldn’t have known it was gluten free. The squid ink pasta would have been my second choice, and others at the table confirmed it was delicious.
Although we were stuffed, the desserts were so enticing we couldn’t resist, (and we were celebrating a birthday so we had to put a candle in something)! The baked Sorrentina pictured below (an Italian take on a baked Alaska) was outrageously good. The picture doesn’t do it justice- vanilla gelato, yuzu cream. meringue and candied citrus was gluten free and so so yummy.
A Sicilian sandwich stood in for a birthday cake, a brioche with pistachio & orange+cardamom gelato was festive, fun and satisfying.
I really loved every aspect of our dinner at Faccia a Faccia, and that opinion was echoed amongst all four of us. It was far better than my previous experience at Little Donkey, and I would definitely recommend it. If you decide to go, do yourself a favor and save room for dessert.
We had plans for brunch but since breakfast was included at the Newbury thanks to our Virtuoso rate, we had to give it a try. To balance out the indulgent baked Sorrentina, I ordered a bowl of oatmeal, decorated liberally with walnuts and berries. As a barometer of hotel breakfasts I always order oatmeal, and it generally ranges from awful to delicious. This offering happened to be excellent.
My husband really enjoyed his blueberry pancakes, so I would say the consensus on breakfast was two thumbs up!
Our last stop on this quick trip to Boston was brunch in Somerville at Juliet , a very sunny and upbeat french inspired neighborhood café. I opted for an omelette to stick with the french theme and was not disappointed. The service was quick and efficient, and the atmosphere very pleasant. It was a perfect way to say au revoir to Boston, until we see you again.
Boston is such a fun and manageable city to explore, I haven’t yet found the ultimate place to stay; if you have any suggestions, please let me know!