At ALBA on 53, Chef Todd Renner (unmasked for photo) creates diners’ favorites such as the Baked Cod with fingerling potatoes, mushrooms, cauliflower; the Charred Spanish Octopus, served with celery root puree, baby potatoes, and salsa verde; and the House Made Bolognese with beef, veal, pork, pancetta, and parmesan.
Alba on 53, Hanover MA – A Mediterranean Steakhouse Opened During the Pandemic
During the pandemic, the restaurant industry has seen a steep downward trend, with falling revenue a best-case scenario for many eateries. In September, CBS Boston reported that, according to the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, 20% of all Massachusetts restaurants had permanently closed. Sadly, many more restaurants have closed since last fall. However, despite this unwelcoming outlook, some new restaurants have decided to buck the trend and open during the pandemic.
Here is a look at four new spots around Southeastern Massachusetts that have safely braved the economic environment to offer area residents tasty food and tantalize their palates. While the owners’ stories differ, their collective ambitions and dreams are inspiring; and these new beginnings give us hope.
Most people who live on the South Shore are familiar with Leo Keka’s Quincy restaurant, ALBA, and its rooftop deck. Leo also owns nearby Zef Cicchetti & Raw Bar. His latest venture, ALBA on 53 in Hanover, opened in August.
Leo wouldn’t have chosen to open during a pandemic, but things were well underway by the time COVID hit and he didn’t see the point of turning back. Besides, it wasn’t the first time he’d launched a restaurant during a national crisis. “I opened my first restaurant, ALBA, in September of 2001,” said Leo. “It wasn’t that different from then. I knew people would move on and get back to normal.” Leo, like so many, didn’t expect the pandemic to last so long.
The opening was pushed back about three months because most of the furniture had been ordered from Europe and was delayed. Leo also had to make changes due to the pandemic’s extra cleaning and safety requirements. Hiring was more difficult than usual, and Leo implemented thorough training to ensure staff and patrons were safe and comfortable being there. The restaurant has been busy since it opened, for which Leo is thankful.
ALBA on 53 is a Mediterranean steakhouse. Leo, who’s from Albania, added a Mediterranean flair to the Hanover menu. He knew people with Mediterranean ancestry live on the South Shore and he wanted to share the food of his childhood with others. Leo brought in Chef Todd Renner, whose Mediterranean dishes Leo had enjoyed. Most recently, Todd worked at Cinquecento in Boston and was a regional chef with Tender Greens before that.
Diners’ favorites are the Charred Spanish Octopus, served with celery root puree, baby potatoes, and salsa verde; the Rack of Lamb, done in a harissa marinade with yogurt and fall vegetable ratatouille; and the House Made Bolognese with beef, veal, pork, pancetta, and parmesan.
The restaurant sources locally when possible, including produce from Wards Berry Farm in Sharon, Duxbury oysters, New Bedford scallops, and fresh bread from Pain D’Avignon in Hyannis. Leo uses herbs and produce from his rooftop garden at ALBA in his Quincy restaurants’ kitchens and is in the process of looking for land to farm so he can grow more and open a farm-to-table restaurant in the future. “That’s my passion,” said Leo. “Knowing and understanding food from the day you plant it leads to the best meals.”
Along with guest safety, a top priority for Leo during COVID has been his staff. Leo donated a portion of holiday gift card sales to his employees and was able to provide $30,000 in bonuses to his Quincy and Hanover staff.
ALBA on 53 has a large outdoor dining area that will reopen in the spring.
ALBA on 53
2053 Washington Street
Hanover, MA 02339