This new classic Italian cuisine restaurant arrived earlier this month on downtown Massachusetts Street, and it’s fully prepared to please the people of Lawrence. Intorno moved into the spot (previously occupied by Esquina) at 8th and Mass, and is now owned and operated by Jim Vaughn, an Italian chef from St. Louis. Curious to get a dose of Italian, the mister and I headed out to this prime location for lunch this past Saturday.
Upon entering the restaurant, the bar area is off to the left and the spacious seating area extends the remaining length of the restaurant. The cool interior had me ooing and ahing as the server guided us to a table in the back. The mixture of the slate ceiling and support pillars with the exposed natural wall was pretty rockin’; add in the rich hardwood floors and tabletops, plus swanky black chairs and I was instantly in the mood for a cocktail. Since we were here for lunch, the expansive windows provided more than enough daylight – and the overhead light fixtures were not needed (and not lit). However, I’d love to return for dinner to get a sense of the interior lighting since the fixtures themselves were pretty unique. To top off the good vibes, Intorno had some fun breakbeat swing music (imagine this) playing over the lunch hour which was highly enjoyable.
Something else I noticed about this place – it has been designed to adapt to various ambiance. For example, there are two TVs mounted on the upper walls, one near the bar area (naturally) and one located centrally in the restaurant. However, these TVs were hardly noticeable since they were out of the general line of vision. Also, while they were both on, they were also muted as to not disrupt. I’m sure at some point during the days (Sunday afternoon, perhaps?), the TVs are on and audible, but I was happy they were hush hush during our Saturday lunch. The space itself also allows for a more relaxed lunch environment (natural light, fairly casual but still maintaining a sense of nuance), but again, I’d love to return for dinner to see how the lighting and space evolve in the night hours.
Although I wasn’t starving, I was pretty interested to peruse the menu. I had heard that Intorno would specialize in Italian cuisine, but what type of Italian? I was pleasantly surprised to see the menu – the lunch menu, that is – seemed to be carefully selected items offering a nice variety. Starters, salads, sandwiches, pasta; less than 25 items total to choose from. Phew! Am I alone in saying I get a bit anxious when a menu constitutes eight pages and over 100 food items? Whoa excess. Needless to say, this lunch experience was off to a great start.
We started with drinks (cheers, weekend!): bellini for me and a manhattan for him. We also ordered the garlic cheese bread to start, although I should note, table bread is complementary (to be dressed in oil, salt/pepper, and parmesan available at your table). All of this was awesomely satisfying; the drinks were well-balanced and not overly sweet (which is all too often the case), and the cheese bread was crisp, warm and mmmm cheesy.
For our meal, I went with the Gourmet Salad since I knew the hubs would order pasta (and share a few bites with me). He decided on the Pasta Carbonara Alicia. Service was quick, and we were chowing down in no time. My salad was refreshing and well mixed. It wasn’t doused in dressing, and was neither too small, nor too large. The mister’s pasta was rich and hot! -As in, impressively warm to the touch. He shared a bite with me, and it was so savory; no one flavor overwhelmed the other, it all blended perfectly. What’s more impressive is that as he finished his dish, he ran out of pasta before he ran out of meat (which never happens to this guy)! Awesome value for an awesome price.
We couldn’t fit dessert, but will have to return to give that a try. Our meals were both fantastic, and we truly enjoyed our lunch experience at Intorno. Our lunch totaled $39.25 (which included two $7 drinks), $48 after tip. The prices were great for the quality of food – no item on the lunch menu was over $11! I’m happy to welcome this Italian restaurant to Mass St, and hope you get out to try it, too. Buon appetito!
Find Intorno at: 801 Massachusetts Street, Lawrence KS 66044. [785-856-1625]