The year is coming to an end, and with that, some of our favorite establishments are getting ready to shutter for the winter season. Isola Restaurant in Edgartown is one of those, and with only a couple more weeks left in the kitchen for 2016, newly appointed chef Jimmy Alvarado is pulling out all the stops.
Originally from Peru, Chef Alvarado has worked in a variety of East Coast kitchens, specifically in New Jersey, where most of his family resides. When a friend suggested he travel to Martha’s Vineyard, the decision changed his life. He worked for some of the highest-rated restaurants on the Island, including Lighthouse Grill (formerly Water Street at the Harbor View Hotel) and Beach Plum. Currently, he’s the executive chef at Isola, and also runs Martha’s Vineyard Smokehouse alongside other partners.
As the executive chef at Isola, he’s pushing the boundaries in regard to Italian cuisine. Sure, he’s serving up classic Italian fare, but with creative spins, like Smoked Tuna Arancini with cherry pepper coulis, shallot conserva, and onion dust ($13). Or Beet Carpaccio with crumbled goat cheese, truffle oil, honey, and fennel pollen ($12).
“Progressive Italian” is how we’d refer to his cooking style. On an Island that pushes seasonal produce, he has constantly evolved his menu, dependent on the offerings from local farms, including Honeysuckle Oysters, GOOD Farm, MV Mycological Mushrooms, and Morning Glory Farm.
“Feeding people good food and seeing them enjoy it, that’s what drives me to come to work every day,” Chef Alvarado said. That rewarding feeling is unlike anything else, and he was able to experience it at its finest when he was recently awarded first place in the Local Wild Food Challenge. The grand prize was an all-expenses-paid trip to Italy, where he’ll wine and dine at some of the best spots in the country, bringing back his experience and knowledge to kick off next season.
Stop in for dinner and taste Chef Alvarado’s food before Isola closes for the season. He and his team make all the pastas in house; try a pasta course along with your entrée — it’s the Italian way! The Wild Mushroom Ravioli ($29) is a delicious take on this classic dish, but much lighter. Instead of the classic cream sauce ravioli tends to swim in, these are served in a trumpet mushroom brodo, with cherry tomatoes, truffle oil, and a light shaving of pecorino cheese. It’s the ideal pasta course for vegetarians and meat eaters alike.
For an entrée, order the Stuffed Chicken Giambotta ($36) if it’s on the menu. The chicken breast is stuffed and rolled with chicken leg meat, cooked sous vide until incredibly tender, and then seared for a crispy chicken skin like no other. On the plate, a work of art develops right before your eyes, with crumbled sweet Italian sausage, smooth sweet potato purée, blistered shishito peppers, and crispy fingerling potatoes. It all works incredibly well together — the lightly spicy sausage, the naturally sweet potatoes. Other entrees include the Balsamic Braised Lamb Shank ($38) and the 14-
ounce Grilled Rib Eye ($38).
Then there’s the chef’s tasting. You get five courses for $55, and you’ll experience Chef Alvarado’s cooking style firsthand. The tasting menu is where the chef and his team shine, coming up with new dishes on a daily basis, and showcasing gorgeous but limited produce you won’t find anywhere else. It’s a fantastic option for adventurous eaters.
You can also get pizza at Isola Restaurant, so if you’re dining with younger children who love pizza, it’s the perfect family dining experience. Every Thursday is 2 for 1 pizza night, and every Sunday is family night: Adults buy one pasta dish and get the second half off, and kids eat for free from the kids’ menu. Also worth stopping in for are the Monday-night pop-ups, where we’ve enjoyed everything from roast pig and Vietnamese pho to Southern comfort food.
Isola is currently open Thursday through Monday, starting at 5:30 pm. For reservations and more information, call 774-549-9446.