Michelin-Starred Chef Mark Ladner Comes Full Circle With Bar Enza

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Bar Enza

Michelin-starred chef Mark Ladner is having a full circle moment.

Back in the 80s, the Belmont native got his initial taste of the restaurant industry working at Café Fiorella in Harvard Square. After pursuing a culinary degree at Johnson & Wales, he worked at Olives in Charlestown alongside Todd English before deciding to move to New York. Spending nearly three decades in New York City, Ladner helped put award-winning Del Posto on the culinary map, but has returned home to where it all started to open his own Boston-area restaurant.

Meet Bar Enza, the soon-to-become Harvard Square hot spot located in the former Benedetto/Rialto space at the Charles Hotel in Cambridge. Unlike its predecessors, Ladner will not be offering a traditional fine dining experience in the hopes of attracting a perfect blend of college students as well as older locals with its snack program and quick bites.

The restaurant, which opened on September 25, is a collaboration between Ladner and the Lyons Group, which operates numerous Boston area restaurants, including Rochambeau, Osteria Nino, Scampo and Sonsie. “I am from this area and as a kid, I remember Patrick (Lyons) and his infamy with the club scene back in the 80s,” Ladner said. “I went to some of those clubs as a kid. I left Boston and went to New York and worked there for almost 30 years and then had this serendipitous event when this specific location became available. I am glad to be able to come back to Harvard Square.”

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Bar Enza

What are some of the most popular dishes at Bar Enza?

“We are in the process of developing new dishes, and have a snack program, finger food and quick bites for people to enjoy while drinking along with a more traditional menu with antipasti, dry and fresh pastas and small entrees,” Ladner said. “There are five different experiences with the menu including a la carte proteins that are served simply.”

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Bar Enza

While “Enza” in Italian translates to giant, it’s really no surprise that despite small plates taking center stage of the menu, Ladner’s favorite dish is the meatball gigante. “It’s essentially a giant meatball of veal, pork and beef that has sweet and spicy Italian sausage that is bound by mashed potatoes so it’s gluten-free as well.”

What does Bar Enza have that makes the restaurant so unique?

“It’s a beautiful room that is simply built with beautiful furniture,” he added. “You can have multiple types of experiences here. You can come to the bar or lounge; there are two dining rooms as well as a private dining room and outdoor dining. We are trying to make casual food that’s elegantly prepared, but not too fussy. I was doing a fast food pasta restaurant (Pasta Flyer) prior to this. Our dishes are very flavorful, but not heavy. We use really good products based on relationships we have had for decades and our produce comes from a nearby farmer’s market. I just hope people enjoy our menu and respond positively.”

Bar Enza is located at 1 Bennett Street in Cambridge.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Bar Enza