Parker House Rules

It's like a welcome mat, only tastier

The opening gambit at The Square, Teague Moriarty and Matt McNamara's month-old restaurant in North Beach, may be the warmest welcome in town.

It arrives long before the braised lamb shank for three ($44), the pastrami-spiced rillettes ($11), or the gougères filled with herbed fromage blanc ($8).

It may show up before, even, your muddled Old-Fashioned, whiskey waves making the oversized ice cube ring against the sides of the glass.

While you're peering around the midnight-hued room, playing guessing games about which diners are New Money and which are Old, a waiter will approach, delivering a complimentary warm Parker House roll to each guest and placing a teardrop-shaped smear of butter in the middle of the table.

Yeah, yeah, Parker House rolls.

When you pick yours up, it will be as warm as a newly laid egg, and will tear apart as if it were cotton candy.

The sandy crust on top: It's dried fennel seed and salt, an aroma that endures the thick swipe of tangy Straus yogurt butter that you'll smear over its surface.

Welcome to The Square.