Power meals are where boston’s power players fuel up – the boston globe

Not long ago, the concept of power dining was flatter than a white tablecloth. The recession ushered in an era of small plates and fast casual, with quick salads replacing two-hour lunches. And such institutions as Aujourd’hui, Icarus, Locke-Ober, and Radius fell like dominoes on an abandoned mahogany bar.

No more.


“As the economy changes, we’ve gone back to plated breakfasts

and hot lunches again,” says Mark Sapienza, executive chef at the Langham, Boston, who serves smoked salmon to Boston’s smart set at Café Fleuri. The Seaport, too, is an example of this upswing, home to glitzy restaurant chains that draw crowds noon and night. And many of the city’s most venerable spots — Parker’s, Rialto, the Bristol — are still going strong. So who’s lunching where? We dig in.


Where: Scampo

Who: Corporate strategy exec Kathy Burns and her venture capitalist husband, Michael Greeley, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, Mass. General Hospital president Peter Slavin, former governor Deval Patrick

The scene: Chef-owner Lydia Shire has been catering to pols and boldfacers for years. As such, she was always trying to feed Mayor Tom Menino his broccoli. “I’d kind of chase after Menino with a broccoli rabe sandwich,” Shire confesses. “He never had time to eat on his campaigns. But I always found a way to get rabe into his dinner, usually with his favorite pork chops.” These days, you might spot Market Basket’s Arthur Demoulas in the house (“He loves sitting at the bar and eating lamb”) or Ma (“very adventurous”). Other regulars include Patrick, usually for private lunches, and Burns, who has a sushi tuna pizza named for her.

Power perches: Tables 104 or 105 (Menino’s favorites).

Scampo, 215 Charles St., Boston, 617-536-2100, www. scampoboston. com


Where: Café Fleuri at the Langham, Boston

Who: Mayor Marty Walsh, ML Strategies’ Mo Cowan, Initiative for a Competitive Inner City CEO Steven Grossman, execs from Bank of America and Putnam Investments

The scene: “If it’s a quiet lunch, something has gone wrong on the stock market,” says Sapienza. “If it’s a bad day, people aren’t leaving the office.” On good days, you’re likely to find executives enjoying cottage cheese with fresh fruit alongside pols dining on house-smoked salmon or corned beef hash. Mayor Walsh is another frequent guest, as were mayors Menino and Ray Flynn. And back when the Boston Garden was being transformed into the Fleet Center, Bobby Orr visited daily, Sapienza recalls.

Power perches: Tables at L’Orangerie, overlooking Norman B. Leventhal Park.

Also consider: The Bristol Lounge Restaurant and Bar (look for VIP server Ricardo Mathelus) or Parker’s Restaurant at the Omni Parker House (home to veteran 39-year server Antonio Rego). General manager John Murtha remembers a day when former governor Jane Swift, fallen FBI agent John Connelly, and William Bulger were lunching at the same time — at separate tables, of course.

Café Fleuri, Langham, 250 Franklin St., Boston, www. langhamhotels. com

Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

Catalyst in Cambridge.


Where: Catalyst

Who: Philanthropist and former Stride Rite CEO Arnold Hiatt, Mass. General nephrology division chief Ravi Thadhani, Alexandria Real Estate Equities VP Timothy White, not to mention scads of “Google guys” and “Novartis girls,” as they’re affectionately dubbed by staff.

The scene: Chef-owner William Kovel wants his guests to feel at home. So much so that one regular has his own bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin and a martini waiting whenever he walks in the door. (Maybe that’s why those Google doodles are so creative?) For a recent Converse product launch party, Kovel and crew dangled Chuck Taylors from the bar.

Power perches: Any banquette in the 40s.

Also consider: Ames Street Deli, Tatte, Voltage, West Bridge — and Kendall Square’s Marriott lobby. (“I’ve personally heard more confidential info outside of a CDA [confidential disclosure agreement] than I care to recount,” confesses one pharmaceutical exec, speaking anonymously.)

Catalyst, 300 Technology Square, Cambridge, 617-576-3000, www. catalystrestaurant. com

Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff/File

Scollay Square.


Where: Scollay Square

Who: Legislators and lobbyists, lunching on pan-seared scallops or mac and cheese, and a sprinkling of Brahmins. “There are no shortage of people here with legacies,” says chef-owner Chris Damian. “People visit us because we’re private.” One regular? State Representative Paul Donato, known to feast on the lamb burger.

The scene: “Back in the days of the Big Dig, a lobbyist was speaking to a rep. Another official walked in toward the bar and saw the reflection of the two in the bar mirror. He turned on a dime and left,” Damian remembers. “Smart guy. If a photographer had snapped a picture of him, it would’ve looked like they were all meeting together.”

Power perches: The two four-tops to the right of the front door.

Also consider: Carrie Nation, the 21st Amendment, and 6B (for drinks); Capitol Coffee House (a pol favorite for fried egg sandwiches); 75 Chestnut (for a discreet dinner).

Scollay Square, 21 Beacon St., Boston, 617-742-4900, www. scollaysquare. com


Where: Rialto


W. E.B. Du Bois Professor of Social Sciences at Harvard Lawrence Bobo, scholar-historian-Emmy-winning filmmaker Henry Louis Gates Jr., and an endless parade of hungry academics.

The scene: Professor Bobo once mistook chef-owner Jody Adams for a server and handed her a check. (“I could see his wife elbow him. He was slightly embarrassed, but we became fast friends,” Adams says.) So chummy, in fact, that Gates asked the restaurant to bake Bobo a special cake to woo him back to Harvard after a departure. The late Joan Parker, meanwhile, “used our bar as her living room and our dining room as her dining room,” says Adams. When Parker was undergoing chemotherapy, Adams would prepare a gimlet, oysters with ketchup, and broccoli just for her.

Power perches: “Are you kidding? If I told you, everyone would want to sit there,” says Adams.

Also consider: Harvest (if squiring a visiting dignitary); Algiers Coffee House or Crema Café (for neighborhood gossip).

Rialto, 1 Bennett St., Cambridge, 617-661-5050, www. rialto-restaurant. com

Davio’s Restaurant.


Where: Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse

Who: Bill Belichick, Robert Kraft (loves the swordfish), Ringo Starr (a fan of arugula salad with basil and pesto), Herb Chambers (likes the bread pudding for dessert).

The scene: Flashy. “Mick Jagger is just like every other guest,” reveals restaurateur Steve DiFillippo, who once checked into a hotel while traveling and discovered his regular room was booked by the Rolling Stones. He later encountered Jagger at his restaurant and complained. “I’m kind of mad. You took over my hotel!” DiFillippo joked. Jagger gave him front-row tickets for the next night’s show to apologize.

Power perches: Any table tended by longtime VIP server Tonino Dalfonso. To channel Herb Chambers, take his favorite: 60.

Also consider: Bricco (the upstairs level is a deal-making den) or Strega Waterfront, a favorite of the Wahlberg family. “When they want chicken parm, they come to me,” says restaurateur Nick Varano. “But I can’t compete with their burgers.”

Davio’s, 75 Arlington St., Boston, 617-357-4810, www. davios. com, and other locations.


Where: Mooo . . .

Who: Celtics players who love tater tots.

The scene: Mooo . . . is known for its breakfasts, and the earliest guests trickle in about 7 a. m. By night, the steakhouse attracts nearby lawyers and local athletes. One favorite item? Tater tots. “We took our tater tots off the menu, and you’d think the world had ended,” says general manager Alexa Demarco. “We had a couple Celtics players request them, and we couldn’t do it on the fly. My waiter wanted to make things right. At the next Celtics home game, my server met Jared Sullinger’s girlfriend outside the Garden with four orders.”

Power perches: Many regulars sit at the bar or at tables 31, 36, or 44. If you’re chilly, Demarco might offer one of her pashminas that she keeps on hand for such occasions.

Also consider: Abe & Louie’s, Deuxave (a favorite of art dealer Brian Walshe, who once bought every ounce of the restaurant’s white truffles and every wine from his birth year during dinner), Grill 23, the Palm (home to Table 50, known as the “Godfather” power banquette).

Mooo . . . , 15 Beacon St., Boston, 617-670-2515, www. mooorestaurant. com

Essdras M Suarez/Globe Staff

The Gallows.


Where: The Gallows


Bill Clinton

The scene: “Every time he rolls through Boston, we cater his meal. We always make him a vegan meal. He’s a big fan and writes us lovely thank-you notes,” says restaurateur Rebecca Roth Gullo, who has served the former president mushroom Bolognese, spaghetti squash, polenta, and charred radicchio. The Secret Service gets burgers and Fluffernutters.

Also consider: Area Four (home to a recent Obama DNC round table) and the Hawthorne cocktail bar (which has hosted events for Charlie Baker and Chris Christie, though reportedly neither pol partook).

The Gallows, 1395 Washington St., Boston, 617-425-0200, www. thegallowsboston. com

Kara Baskin can be reached at kcbaskin@globe. com.

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