I receive burger recommendations from people everywhere I turn, and my parents are no exception. Being a natural born cynic, if it’s a restaurant I’ve never heard of or there’s very little buzz about, I’m hardly in a rush to go there. After being pushed for months to check out Bocca Bella, I finally ventured back to my Newton roots to see what all the fuss was about. Billed as a “Cafe and Bisto,” the lunch menu is dominated by sandwiches while the ever-changing dinner menu is predominantly Italian influenced. And there sits the mighty hamburger, once again a mere pawn in the dinner game, overshadowed by heartier fare and almost to the point of being off-menu, aka not the focus. But why should the burger be the focus, aside from being delicious, the burger isn’t exactly sophisticated. Sure, upscale options abound on menu’s all over, from the fancy to the faux fancy, like a cold sore, the burger is always there and not always so easy to get rid of.
Even though I am largely a food snob, I can generally tell what I’m in for ahead of time. The Bocca Bella burger is pretty indicative of any suburban burger in a non-typical burger environment. Charming in its own way, the under twenty seat establishment boasts an open kitchen, complete with a singing chef/owner who can’t help but put a smile on your face. The Angus burger is listed as 10 oz, but feels more like a half pound beast at best. The cheddar cheese is melted and the grilled onions are bitter and sweet, fairly traditional flavors that work in their favor. The meat boasts a couple of paltry grill marks, and the non-crusted exterior is one strike against it. But inside the meat is modestly flavorful, not punching me in the mouth with beefiness, but actually cooked to medium-rare and pleasantly juicy. Something the higher end places only wish they could do. I guess that’s the funny thing, this bashful burger is cooked the way it is supposed to be (at least on the inside) and yet the supposed “best” restaurants in the city can’t even claim that sentiment. Maybe that’s only funny to me, but the irony shouldn’t be lost on you either.
A Kaiser Roll is used as the bun, and it works, as the patty is long and tall enough to snugly fit into the bread vessel. Unfortunately no fries come with the burger, instead you’ll only receive a bag of Sun Chips (I kid you not) to accompany your burger. There’s certainly nothing flashy about this burger and it shows. But for $8.50 it’s at least cooked to temperature and is juicier than most I’ve had. Hard to say it’s worth a return visit, but for a little hole in the wall in the Auburndale section of Newton, it gets the job done.
Overall Score: 76