Sofia Italian Steakhouse

Versatility and competence go a long way
By ROBERT NADEAU  |  October 28, 2009
2.0 2.0 Stars

A special on a veal porterhouse ($32) was ordered medium and came rare. We didn’t send it back, and loved the side dishes of asparagus and mashed potatoes. The gloopy gravy, a comfort food generally, tasted of uncooked wine. I think it needs work. The veal chop was easily two and a half inches thick. And the recommended beef porterhouse was sliced to about an inch. But the fillet side was nearly rare and the sirloin side a little more cooked — that shows care to avoid the usual problem of porterhouse and T-bone cuts in which the fillet side gets overdone. It is, of course, the more tender part of the steak, but this one almost had the flavor of the sirloin side. It was excellent, set off with more of the asparagus and that macaroni and cheese (rigatoni rigatti, I would estimate, with a dash of nutmeg in the sauce).

I had doubts about the North Atlantic sea bass ($25), since the wild-striped-bass season is over, and the farmed stripers are fresh-water hybrids. The waiter confirmed the menu, so I thought maybe we’d get a black sea bass such as they used to sell steamed in Cantonese restaurants. Nope, it was a rich, white, well-flavored chunk of South Atlantic Chilean sea bass — Patagonian tooth fish — a wonderful fish I hope my grandchildren will get to enjoy, because the fishery will be regulated soon. (I don’t order them unless fooled like this.) Under the fish was a broth with chunks of sweet potato and artichoke, a better combination than I would have guessed. A side order of vegetables ($3) was all snow peas, and I recommend it.

The wine list has very few Italian bottles. It is mostly American, with some Greek and world-beat wines. We were celebrating and went for a bottle of Spanish bubbly with a French name, Delapierre Cava Brut ($40), which had toasty oak and chardonnay flavors like real Champagne, though it is apparently made from a blend of three grape varieties native to Spain. Tea ($2.50) is your choice of real or herbal bags, plopped into a metal pot of hot water. It’s not my favorite brewing system, but it worked. As did an early-evening cup of decaf ($2.50).

All our desserts were good, not great, with the nod going to the berry plate for its fine fruit and pretty presentation. Molten-chocolate cake ($7) was just that: a liquid center in a cupcake of fine dark-chocolate cake. “Tira mi su” ($7), despite eccentric spelling, was solid, soaked in the right chocolate and coffee flavors, and not heavy at all. The weakest was a plate of fresh-baked cookies ($6). This is supposed to be a taste of nostalgia, but when I was a kid, cookies were baked more and they were chewier. (Right, Grandpa . . . and tell us again how you had to walk three blocks to school in the snow, uphill both ways?) We didn’t get vanilla ice cream with cookies, either.

Service, even when the room is full (and loud), is on target — except for the sea-bass inexactitude. The dark-wood room offers jazz music and visual privacy, despite the din. Sofia is a fine and versatile restaurant, targeted broadly, but likely to satisfy a range of budgets and palates. If the Dedham crowd stays with it, and the West Roxbury people figure out how to get to the parking lot from around the back, it could last a long time.

Robert Nadeau can be reached at robtnadeau@aol.com.

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