Orta Restaurant | Pembroke, MA

Orta Restaurant | Pembroke, MA

A Taste of Italy on Boston’s South Shore

When Brett Williams’ long-time friend put his restaurant up for sale in 2012, the timing was perfect. At that point, Brett’s commute as an executive chef was long and tedious, and he and his wife were just about to welcome a new baby to their family. Brett saw an opportunity to work closer to home and was eager to put all he had learned to the ultimate test … and two stars were born.

From the moment it opened, Orta Restaurante, served up a true reflection of Cara and Brett Williams’ love for food and commitment to excellence. Having lived and worked in Florence and the Piedmont region of Italy, the pair brings their personal experience of modern Italy to their close-knit, hometown community. The strong influence of Northern Italian cuisine is evident in their recipes’ simple ingredients, creating “flavors that speak for themselves,” as Brett describes it. Dishes are made in-house daily, using local, sustainable ingredients, complemented by a deep list of Italian wines. Using area resources helps keep the menu fresh, as special dishes change seasonally just as they do in Italy. “My favorite time to cook has always been autumn, because the fall harvest creates the most hearty, big dishes,” said Brett.

Because food and cooking are his passion, Brett says he was challenged by the transition from employee to owner. “I simply cannot spend as much time in the kitchen as I would like,” said Brett. Consequently, he has to rely on the skills of his 42 employees to create and maintain his vision. He realized early on that training staff is paramount to success. As a hands-on manager, Brett leads by example. “I’ve seen many chefs who run with an iron fist, but that’s not my style.” Brett says he never asks an employee to do something he wouldn’t do himself. “I invest in my employees and work hard to find those that share my love for food and wine,” he added.

Orta serves a wide demographic, targeting young families and the 30-plus crowd. One Orta signature item is the potato gnocchi, created from a recipe Brett received during his time in Piedmont. “It took me four months of work to get the recipe for the gnocchi. That and our bolognese are like none other.”

Brett is a chef at heart, but as an owner, he says his priority is hospitality. When the customer has a special request, asks to split a meal or make a substitution, “the answer is always yes,” he said. Brett and Cara plan to continue to grow the business and open additional restaurants in the future. “I’m a person who is never fully satisfied. There’s always something we can do better, and I keep looking to find it.”


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