BY BECKY GRUNEWALD / PHOTOGRAPHY BY SCOTT DUNCAN

back house press bistro

The Press Bistro describes itself on its website as a "neighborhood bistro" and "a place for friends and neighbors to meet for a drink, some bites or a full meal." The mental image conjured up by those words perfectly captures its cozy, clubby feel.

This ethos also gives you a clue to the menu, which is centered around rich pasta dishes and hearty cuts of protein. There are nods to seasonality on the menu, and the ingredients are well-sourced, but a meal at the Press Bistro is more about ordering that dish you already know you love than trying some foraged ramps that are in season for a handful of days.

Some of the reliable dishes are the fried meatballs in garlic yogurt sauce (an excellent choice if you are ordering from the excellently priced small tapas menu) and the beyond-decadent pappardelle alla Bolognese, which is the real deal. The deep taste of the Bolognese sauce betrays the many hours it has spend bubbling on a stove.

The falling-apart braised short ribs in red wine sauce is elevated by its accompaniment of polenta, rather than the expected pasta or potatoes. The short ribs nestle in their soft corn bed and the wine sauce pools around it—it's a dish that's balanced and coherent.

There is a small, well-thought-out cocktail list as well, a standout of which is the "Salt and Pepper" (see recipe), and a few minutes spent at the bar will reveal that the dessert program is popular as well. A young employee who manned that small station made crepe after crepe and then folded the hot dough around a filling of rum ice cream and almonds.

Chef and owner David English (formerly of Ella) is a constant presence, both in the back and the front of the house. He is a tall, lanky man with a calm, soft-spoken presence and he's likely to be found peeling butternut squash in the kitchen or wiping a plate for a clean presentation while his staff whirl and turn around him in the small kitchen.

The Press Bistro doesn't get a lot of hype, partially because English seems to not stray from the kitchen into high-profile fund-raising or farm-to-fork gigs, but that's all the better for the regulars who crowd the comfortable booths and lively communal table to order their favorite dish one more time.

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