With three Nantucket restaurants, two kids under four years old, and one cherished life and business partner (Amanda Lydon), Gabriel Frasca certainly has his hands full. Yet it appears he couldn’t be happier, particularly during this time of year.
“Summer represents most of the things I love in life, laid over one another like some kind of heavenly plaid,” says the chef, who grew up on the North Shore and now divides his time between Nantucket (April to November) and Jamaica Plain. “I love baseball, ice cream, fresh produce and striped bass. I love that we get to build a [restaurant] team each summer. I love that the kids become little brown beans and that I get to garden—and that each day at 7:45 AM I can sit in our backyard, enjoy the morning sun on my face, drink a cup of coffee and read the Globe and the Times for 20 minutes before thinking about the day.”
Until recently, that day included overseeing Straight Wharf restaurant and the adjacent bakery sandwich shop, Provisions. Now, Frasca spends most of his time at the newly opened Ventuno, a modern Italian restaurant highlighting Nantucket ingredients. Located in the former 21 Federal space, “Ventuno is Italian for 21,” says Frasca. “It was important to us to pay homage to our predecessor both in terms of the address and the restaurant.”
Fans of the original will be pleased that the clean, airy look of the space hasn’t changed, just the cuisine. The menu is rife with Frasca and Lydon’s go-to seasonings of fresh herbs, acids like lemon zest and sherry vinegar, and salty jolts like cured olives. It features antipasti, such as grilled escarole Caesar; numerous pastas or “primi,” including spaghetti carbonara with house-made guanciale, Nantucket egg and grana cheese; and entrées like wood-grilled swordfish with hazelnuts, Swiss chard and mushrooms.
The food is seasonal, bright and herbaceous—the essence of Frasca’s natural style of cooking both professionally and at home, where after a long summer’s day he likes to kick off his Keen boots and soothe his frazzled nerves (“because of the Red Sox, naturally,” he jokes) and sip some Maker’s Mark “or a Pappy Van Winkle 23-year-old bourbon if the fates have truly smiled upon me.”