Every couple needs a little restaurant around the corner, somewhere they can go when they want a quiet and cozy meal, don’t feel like cooking, and is within walking distance. For us, that place is Lantana Cafe in Medford. My husband and I have been there multiple times and have always walked away with large smiles and full bellies.
Lantana offers a regular menu with the usual suspects you’d expect from an Italian restaurant. We’re talking calamari, bruschetta, mussels, salads, an array of pasta dishes, plus several chicken and seafood dishes. Every day they also have several specials: usually at least one chicken entré, one seafood entré, an appetizer, and a dessert. Here’s a photo from one time we went during the summer. My husband ordered shrimp tortellini and I ordered mussels linguini marinara. Their sauces are always incredibly rich and the portions are generous enough to provide for an extra meal.
Here are some more recent photos. They always provide bread (like most places). But unlike most places, the bread is more like something in between a pizza crust and naan, and cut into pizza-like slices. The add some seasonings to the olive oil provided. As you can see in the photo, they also add some red sauce to the oil (we still haven’t figure out what it is, but it’s really good).
For an appetizer, we usually order the calamari or the pumpkin ravioli. Below is a picture of the ravioli. If the pumpkin ravioli could be a dessert dish, this would be it. That is not a criticism; it is a high complement. The ravioli themselves contain plenty of pumpkin. A lot of times, pumpkin ravioli end up with the filling in little clumps; not true here. The pumpkin filling is smooth. The sauce is unlike any other pumpkin ravioli sauce I’ve ever had. It has a cream base, and is sweet (hence the dessert comment), but not too sweet. And of course, you can’t have a complementary sauce without cranberries. My only criticism is that they probably give too much sauce for three ravs.
I ordered an item off of the special menu (there are new specials each day): chicken diavolo, with chicken, linguini, and a spicy diavolo sauce. The chicken had been cut into smaller pieces and breaded, and came out moist. The sauce had mild-medium heat, lessened by the rich plum tomato base. As you can see, the ample portion easily made for a second meal.
My husband ordered the chicken ornesto, which featured chicken in a orange brandy sauce with walnuts and pumpkin ravioli. You could smell fall in the air when the waiter brought out the dish. As much as I like the dish I ordered, after tasting the ornesto sauce, I wish I had ordered that. It complemented the pumpkin flavor well, and the crunchiness of the walnuts completed the dish nicely.
Lastly, Lantana also has a good size wine and drink list for a restaurant of its size, with pretty reasonable prices. If you go, definitely get there early enough to get a window table. The window area is quite cozy compared to the larger dining room, and you’ll be surrounded by rustic brick walls.
Key takeaways: Quality is near- North End quality, at 75% of the price (i.e. more bang for your buck). With generous portions and flavors reminiscent of home, Lantana Cafe serves up good Italian cooking in quaint, unassuming digs in Glenwood, Medford.