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The Stazione appetizer plate lets you sample all of the restaurant's best starters.
The Stazione appetizer plate lets you sample all of the restaurant's best starters. (Photos by Charlie Reed/S&S)
The Stazione appetizer plate lets you sample all of the restaurant's best starters.
The Stazione appetizer plate lets you sample all of the restaurant's best starters. (Photos by Charlie Reed/S&S)
A server takes a photo of a table of friends at Stazione, a nice place to celebrate a special occasion, with live jazz music on Friday and Saturday nights.
A server takes a photo of a table of friends at Stazione, a nice place to celebrate a special occasion, with live jazz music on Friday and Saturday nights. ()
Stazione in Cambridge is tucked away below the street off Market Square.
Stazione in Cambridge is tucked away below the street off Market Square. ()

CAMBRIDGE — So my friend and I are having dinner at Stazione, a posh little restaurant off Market Square, when all of a sudden the lights go out.

We thought the electricity was on the fritz for a moment until a candle-lit cake floated by in the dark and we joined in with the packed restaurant to sing the familiar birthday anthem to one of our fellow diners.

Within the course of the same meal, it happened again. Another birthday. There was also a massive party of more than 20 people on the recent weeknight my friend and I decided to give the restaurant a try.

Along with the great food, this hip downtown Italian eatery is simply just a nice place to dine out. And it’s clearly a place people go to celebrate special occasions.

The attention to detail at Stazione is first-rate, from the food and the service to the decor.

My dinner date and I started with the Stazione appetizer plate (11.95 pounds for two). The massive plate of calamari, melon and prosciutto, herbed button mushrooms, salami, shrimp and bruschetta was delicious but more than we could eat. (Well, we could have finished it, but we wanted to save room for our main course, so we practiced a little restraint.)

Then it was on to the main courses: the spinach chicken (5.75 pounds for a half portion, 9.50 for a full portion) and the steamed sea bass (13.95 pounds.) The chicken was cooked perfectly, so tender I thought it was fish for a second. The sea bass stole the show though, coming out whole in all its glory. The waiter even offers to cut and serve the fish for those who might not know where to begin. It was also delectable.

Both dishes came with root vegetables and a roasted red pepper stuffed with potatoes and light cream sauce, a unique and tasty presentation.

It was all dished up by one of the most polite servers I’ve encountered in England, where good service in a typical pub is when they don’t throw your food on the table.

The cozy basement dining room definitely has that "someplace special" feel. With candlelit tables and recessed lighting, the mood is warm, a place where you want to take your time. The perforated tin plates on the ceiling, real linens on the table settings and chic dinnerware all make for a subtle, yet sophisticated, atmosphere.

Owner Ab Attia spent a million pounds renovating the restaurant a few years ago, and it seems like it was money well-spent, as the place is packed most nights. While reservations aren’t required, it might be wise to phone ahead of time and reserve your table.

When the weather isn’t bad, Stazione also sets up bistro tables outside. And on Friday and Saturday nights, a live jazz band from London adds to the ambience.

With many dishes served in half portions (at half the price), it’s a place you don’t have to go broke in to try a few things on the menu. And they serve breakfast and lunch, too.

So, if you’re looking for a nice meal in a nice place, Stazione fits the bill.

To see previous After Hours reviews, go to stripes.com/afterhours

Location: 1 and 3a Market Hill, Cambridge, CB2 3NJ

Phone: 01223 352 607

Hours: Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Note: cash only

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