The impressive thing about Tesori is that, really, the place barely has to try. It’s a pleasant restaurant in one of the most depressing dinner neighborhoods in the city, a place where most restaurants close by 8pm and many of those that stay open serve mushy sausage sandwiches. Tesori’s competition can be counted on one hand, and its location in the Symphony Center essentially guarantees a packed house before performances. Blue Plate, the company that owns Tesori (and Rhapsody, the restaurant that preceded it in this space), has never taken a lax attitude toward the location—it has always kept up its charming outdoor patio, and installed a good chef, Dean Zanella. So it’s not that it wasn’t trying. But either Blue Plate or Zanella, whose food tasted as if he were exhausted, wasn’t necessarily trying hard.
Tesori, on the other hand, is a valiant effort with a successful payoff. The new chef is Andrew Deuel, a guy who has spent most of the past decade in New York, and he puts out a grilled octopus that is so crispy on the outside and tender within that I asked the server if it had been deep fried. His braised veal cheeks fall apart by merely breathing on them; his scallops, paired with sweet crab, can be cut with a spoon like flan. He’s making his pastas in-house; the best one I tried was the lasagna, a stack of circular noodles, the top one of which gets crispy like a cracker. His cavatelli is nice, too, with a toothsome texture, but the braised beef cheeks on the plate only added body, not flavor.
That’s one thing about Deuel’s food: It leans rich and, at times, on expected flavors. There’s a lot of truffle oil in this place (it’s most prominent on the mushroom pizza, served in the bar area) and a lot of fatty, slow-cooked meats. And though it’s hard to complain about a plate of duck that’s served perfectly cooked in two ways (roasted and confit’d), the food—that plate included—can be so unctuous it’s hard to finish.
Desserts suffer from overkill: A deconstructed—and then reconstructed, in a jar—apple tiramisu had too much mascarpone mousse and not enough apples to cut through it. But that’s just as well. By the time the dessert menus arrive, you’ll probably have eaten a good amount of butter and cream anyway.