Orfano, Faison's "subversive" new Italian-American restaurant, is now open. 

By Oset Babür
Updated August 26, 2019
Credit: JM Leach

With a barbecue joint, Southeast Asian restaurant, and standing room-only adult snack bar all on the same block, one might assume that Tiffani Faison has quite enough to keep her busy. On Monday, the chef and Big Heart Hospitality owner out-Fenways herself by opening Orfano, a “subversive Italian-American restaurant that does not bow to tradition.” From hand-pulled mozzarella to a decadent duck marbella feast for two, this is Faison’s homecoming to what she says is the culinary language she learned to speak at a young age.

Given that there are a number of award-winning Italian spots (including 2019 Best New Restaurant Fox & the Knife) littered all over the city, Faison is realistic about the challenges of joining that mix, but is confident that Orfano is a space Boston desperately needs.

Credit: JM Leach

“[The restaurant] came out of being in rooms that didn’t always feel super comfortable for us,” she says, referring to herself and her wife, Kelly Walsh, with whom she runs her restaurant group. “For our anniversary one year, we went to an Italian restaurant in New York City and we were sat at a crappy table. They pretty much totally ignored us. We were surrounded by guys in suits and expense accounts, and I think they just deemed us not worth their time. I remember leaving and thinking we could build a better mousetrap.”

At the new 96-seat restaurant helmed by Michele Carter, formerly executive chef of the Barbara Lynch Gruppo, there’s house garlic bread served warm in a paper bag, salumi, and lamb chops. On the wall, there’s a portrait of Lady Gaga eating spaghetti. Dee Steffen Chinn, Big Heart’s pastry chef, serves a “royal chocolate cake for two, kween” with truffle filling and ganache, as well as a ricotta cheesecake pie with sambuca cherry sauce and candied fennel fronds.

Credit: JM Leach

On first glance, it feels like everything on the menu is more or less familiar, and yet if you look closely, you’ll notice that the cacio e pepe is really taleggio tortellini and salsa verde, the crispy calamari comes with a “dim sum dippy sauce,” and there are quotation marks around run-of-the-mill items like “salad” and “martini”––this, Faison says, is the crux of Orfano, which is all about “taking things we love, tearing them apart, and putting them back together.”

Orfano, 1391 Boylston St, Boston, MA