A Wood-Fire Experiment at Area Four

During a recent phone chat, restaurant owner Michael Krupp suddenly stops mid-conversation: “I’m sorry, hold on. There’s something very strange happening in my restaurant.” After a brief moment of muffled voices, Krupp returns to the line. “I just had a bunch of college kids walk in here carrying instruments. They were measuring the air quality.” This is bound to happen when a restaurant opens next door to MIT.

Krupp opened Area Four, a bakery/coffee house and bar/oven with chef Michael Leviton in 2011. The two had previously created Persephone/Achilles, a Boston waterfront restaurant and retail spot that opened to rave reviews but closed quickly due to a failing economy.

With Area Four, aptly named for its location in Area IV, Cambridge, Krupp and Leviton bring another innovative concept to life in the center of Cambridge’s technology hub. “It was really the perfect opportunity, because we were the first people to bring really great food with a laid-back atmosphere to Technology Square, which has so many office workers and scientists,” Krupp explains.

The restaurant does fit seamlessly into its tech-driven surroundings. Cement floors, aluminum chairs, and exposed ventilation and piping throughout give customers a no-frills, down-to-the-elements eatery. The restaurant’s mission, written on a large black chalkboard, states that all of the ingredients are gathered from local farms and businesses. Even the wine is on tap, bringing Boston’s first “sustainable wine program” to an area that thrives on research and bold experiments.

The menu takes on a similarly creative vibe, where almost everything is cooked in the two wood-fire ovens that Krupp calls the “cornerstone” of Area Four. Red onions, pecorino, and Brussels sprouts shredded to look like lettuce make for an interesting, bare-bones salad. The grass-fed beef meatballs with a side of giant, crispy croutons are a must, and could arguably work as a meal rather than an appetizer.

But whatever you do, don’t leave this place without trying the pizza. We went for the bacon and clam white pie, a briny, buttery, parmesan-coated thing of beauty. Still hungry? Area Four makes it’s own soft-serve vanilla ice cream and dark chocolate sauce.

Time will tell if the bakery/bar/oven is a successful experiment for Leviton and Krupp. For now, Krupp’s main goal goes beyond the pizza and brews: “We want every single person who comes in here to have a positive experience, that’s why we do this.” Even the kids carrying instruments.