Hits and Misses at Pride’s Osteria

Posted: May 24th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Beverly, Italian, Pride's Osteria | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments »

Last weekend we finally made our way to Beverly’s Pride’s Osteria, a place that has been generating some serious buzz.

Perhaps our expectations were high, but it ended up being an odd experience. The dining room was a bit stark and became very loud by evening’s end, making it difficult to converse. (Surprisingly, the bar area was much quieter.) The waitstaff, however, was perky and helpful.

Although the Montenegro Manhattan (made with Amaro Montenegro) was excellent, we were not impressed with skimpy wine pours, and we noted that many of the drinks were $1 more than the online menu prices.

We enjoyed the light, crispy focaccia, served with fruity olive oil for dipping, as well as the lightly smoked local bluefish with Maine fiddleheads and house-made cherry vinegar ($12). The dressing was tangy, and the fiddleheads were fresh and crunchy.

The Tagliere del contadino (farm board) featured artisan meats, cheeses, and bread and was tasty, but the half portion was tiny for $14. Also meager was the caprese con mozzerella di bufala. While the heirloom tomato slices and imported mozzarella were fresh and flavorful, the dish was not worth $14.

For entrees, we all opted for pasta, hand made by chef Paolo Laboa. The piedmontese style angnolotti filled with red wine, braised pork, beef, and sausage was the favorite; the little pillows served warm between the folds of a cloth napkin were tender and meaty ($22).

The other two dishes featured pasta with great texture, but the sauces underwhelmed us. The much-touted, award-winning pesto ($20) was silky but otherwise quite ordinary. The piccaggette pasta with lobster ($22) suffered in the translation. The Italian “alla Maggiorana,” I realized after Googling, is a marjoram preparation, but the menu described it as a “light, fresh organic tomato sauce.” The sparse, slightly bitter sauce that accompanied the dish didn’t meet that expectation.

Fortunately, we enjoyed a sweet ending to the meal. The house-made latte dolce were fabulous deep-fried, cream-filled dough bites that were amazing and addictive. The restaurant offers diners a shot of home-made liqueur at the end of the meal, and the limoncello was superb.

In all, we found the visit a disappointment. There were some memorable tastes, but some real duds as well, and all the portions were very small for the price.

Pride’s Osteria
240 Rantoul Street, Beverly
978.969.0083
www.pridesosteria.com

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A Taste of Tuscany in Beverly Farms

Posted: March 22nd, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Beverly, Italian | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments »

A fabulous meal, fellow food-lovers, and a knowledgeable teacher—that’s what awaited us earlier this week at Shelly Green’s house in Beverly Farms. Oh, and did I mention a roof-top wood-fired oven?

We were invited to attend a pizza-making class at Italy Eats, and it was an incredible experience. There was a lavish spread of cheeses, crackers, salami, olives, fig jam, prosciutto, and more. We nibbled and took pictures while Shelly gave us a tour of her kitchen, which is laid out for teaching and includes both an incredible ocean view and the aforementioned pizza oven. (Full disclosure: our class was complimentary as part of Shelly’s effort to reach out to local bloggers.)

Shelly had already made and proofed the pizza dough. As we sampled the antipasto, Shelly’s husband, Ralph, a native Italian, cooked some fresh bread sticks in the oven to be filled with broccoli rabe and sautéed peppers. Between the wine, the spedini, and the food-related conversations, we were hard pressed to turn our attention to the pizza making.

Still, we managed to turn out some fantastic creations using the array of ingredients provided, including fresh mozzarella, smoked gouda, farmer’s cheese, parmesan, spicy sausage, fontina, leeks, broccoli rabe, and chili flakes. Fellow blogger Brian Knowles came up with my favorite combination: a white pizza with farmer’s cheese, broccoli rabe, and sausage. Definitely one to try at home, it was perfect with Shelly’s lightly-dressed salad of arugula, watercress, and gala apples.

Shelly can accommodate up to eight people for classes, and if you come as a group, she will customize the menu based on food preferences and what the participants want to learn. The class includes a sit-down dinner. If you’re lucky, you’ll be serenaded in Italian after dinner by one of Ralph and Shelly’s guitar-playing friends, as we were. Shelly’s knowledge of Italian food is formidable, and she both encourages you to ask questions and offers recipes.

Shelly also leads small-group trips to Tuscany. There are still a few spaces left on her May trip based in an 11th century castle, which includes five days of cooking, photography, or both, and a “Big Night” medieval banquet.

We’d like to thank Shelly and Ralph for a magical evening—we’re still dreaming of that crispy, chewy, smoky pizza and scheming to somehow build our own wood-fired oven so we can replicate it.

Italy Eats
104 West Street Beverly Farms
978.927.5555
http://italyeats.com/

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62 Turns 5

Posted: January 28th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: 62 Restaurant & Winebar, Italian, Mediterranean, Salem | Tags: , , | No Comments »

There are a lot of reasons we were excited to be invited to the first of three dinners to celebrate 62 Restaurant & Wine Bar’s fifth anniversary. First, it promised to be a fun night of reminiscing on five years of success and how it came to be. Second, we have never forgotten how Chef Tony Bettencourt bravely led the way to a local food renaissance when he opened a fine-dining restaurant at a time when the North Shore was known only for pubs and clam shacks.

The third reason, of course, was the food. And it did not disappoint. The theme for the dinner was inspiration—dishes that reflect the journey that Bettencourt took from restaurant work and culinary school to ultimately becoming a chef/owner (with a six-year detour into truck driving, of all things).

The first course was a delightful, varied antipasti with house-cured salumi, roasted beets topped with sea salt, pickled mushrooms, and sweet and sour cippoline onions. While we sampled, Chef Bettencourt told us about the early days of his journey, ending with an unexpected shift to Italian food (he had trained almost exclusively in French cuisine). From a photo he saw of an antipasti table in a trattoria, he began his journey into a cuisine he adores and works every day to master.

Next was the pasta course, harking back to a meal Bettencourt and his wife ate on a culinary tour of Tuscany. Both the tortelli di patate and mushroom tagliatelle were spot on in terms of flavor and texture. We then received an extraordinary seafood dish that Bettencourt described as his twist on fennel citrus salad and reflective of the way he likes to cook now. Shaved fennel was topped with green olive tapenade, crispy prosciutto (house made), a perfectly seared sea scallop, and a spicy pickled grapefruit segment. Not only was the grapefruit a completely new sensation (spicy? grapefruit?), but the various elements came together to create a perfectly balanced dish.

The meat course consisted of house made garlic sausage, hanger steak thinly sliced and topped with salsa verde, and pork ribs over roasted fennel and potatoes. All three elements were extraordinary—so full of flavor and melt-in-your mouth tender, especially the rib. Bettencourt again explained that his style is to bring out the flavors of food rather than overwhelm them with sauces or extraneous components.

We ended the meal with tiramisu, once again with a twist. Rather than a layered dessert served as a rectangular slab, this was house-made ladyfingers completely saturated with espresso and rum topped with a delectable mascarpone cream sauce. Yes, we’ve all had our fill the ubiquitous tiramisu and, no, none of it tasted like this.

The best news about this dinner is that it’s the first of three in a celebratory series. The second dinner takes place on Wednesday, February 20 and will feature dishes from 62 Restaurant & Wine Bar’s very first menu. The final meal is Fan Favorites, on March 20. Diners are voting now for their favorite dish from the past five years on Facebook, and the winning dishes will appear on that evening’s menu. The dinner is $62 per person, not including tax or tip. Learn more about the dinners and information on reservations on their website.

Chef Bettencourt’s five-year anniversary made us realize that we launched North Shore Dish just over four years ago. Boy, has the North Shore restaurant scene blossomed since then! Happily some things haven’t changed: one of our earliest posts described a fantastic dinner we had at 62.

62 Restaurant & Wine Bar
62 Wharf St, Salem
(978) 744-0062

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Pellino’s: A Perfect Date-Night Spot

Posted: February 24th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Italian, Marblehead | No Comments »

We’re often asked for a recommendation for a romantic night out, so we are happy to add another favorite to our list. Pellino’s in downtown Marblehead has all the essentials: a quiet side street in a quaint area, a small dining room, perfect lighting, terrific food, and low-key service. As though that weren’t enough, we were pleasantly surprised by the prices.

On a recent Saturday night, we were seated in the window of this lovely spot, where we sipped the house Chianti while surveying the menu. Our appetizers were both memorable: lightly fried calamari with a flavorful marinara ($10) and a generous portion of caprese (fresh mozzarella topped with tomatoes) accented with balsamic syrup, a dollop of smoked eggplant, and a crisp crostini ($9.50).

The pacing of the meal was just right, and our waitress was both friendly and attentive. Our entrees were as successful as the appetizers. The mushroom ravioli were the perfect combination of feather-light pasta and earthy mushrooms, accented by a light mushroom/cream sauce that contained more mushrooms ($18). The chicken parmesan was super crispy outside and extremely tender inside. It was accompanied by a large serving of perfectly sauced angel hair pasta ($18).

We had opted out of pre-ordering the bread pudding or molten cake for dessert, so our choices were limited. But we were in no way disappointed by the vanilla gelato with biscotti. The lavish portion of ultra-smooth ice cream went down easily accompanied by the crunchy, highly-flavored cookies.

Pellino’s has gotten a good deal of positive press in the past, and we’re pleased to be able to say it lives up to its reputation, providing a fine dining experience at reasonable prices in a romantic setting.

Pellino’s
261 Washington St, Marblehead
(781) 631-3344
www.pellinos.com

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I Pazzi: We Wanted to Love You, But We Just Couldn’t

Posted: November 28th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Danvers, I Pazzi, Italian | No Comments »

A series of service missteps and kitchen issues added up to a very disappointing meal last weekend at I Pazzi in Danvers. We had heard good things about their authentic Italian food, but we had serious issues with flavor, among other things.

The menu looked very interesting, with traditional Italian fare mixed with the somewhat more exotic, including pasta with pheasant or wild boar meat sauce. We ordered a bottle of chianti, and our bread plates were filled with an artistic blend of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, parmesan cheese, and red pepper flakes.

But as we waited for our appetizers, which took more than 30 minutes to appear, we also waited for bread to dip into the oil. After we reminded the waitress, she brought warm rolls in the style of scali bread. A nice touch, although not appreciated by those in our party who dislike sesame seeds. Our appetizers were just okay, a very small timballo of eggplant that needed more flavor or at least texture ($8), and clams and mussels with a nice sauce for dipping the bread ($10).

With the exception of the osso buco ($29), which was tender and had good flavor, there were issues with all of our dishes. The beef filet was tender and cooked properly, but the peppercorn/cognac sauce was bland ($30), as was the garganelli with pheasant ($25). The salmon filet was wildly oversalted on top, although the rest of the filet was tender and quite good ($22). The thin slice of polenta underneath the salmon had no flavor at all. The asparagus on several plates, along a side dish of spinach, was delicious.

The menu description of the filet did not mentioned any accompaniments, so we asked and were told it came with asparagus and potatoes. But when the plate arrived, there were no potatoes; they were also missing from the veal shank plate, and no explanation was given. When we asked, we were told they had run out of potatoes, with no offer of a substitution. A couple of minutes later, the waitress returned and offered us polenta or pasta as a substitute, so we said we would try one of each. Neither had any flavor, so we were again disappointed.

With so many options for great Italian food on the North Shore, we’re a bit puzzled as to why the dining room was packed full (although, granted, it was a Saturday night); we certainly won’t be returning any time soon.

I Pazzi
50 Maple St, Danvers
(978) 777-1955
www.ipazzirestaurant.com

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Café Zabaglione Charms Us Into a European-Style Lunch

Posted: May 17th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Café Zabaglione, Cafe, Ipswich, Italian, Sweets and Treats | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments »

We’ll admit it: it was the dessert case that drew us into Café Zabaglione. It holds a huge variety of Italian and American desserts, including some luscious looking cakes. Often, authentic Italian pastries are an indicator of high-quality, European-style food, and that is definitely the case here.

We thoroughly enjoyed our leisurely lunch last weekend, which included genuinely warm service and great tasting sandwiches. The vegetarian in our group enjoyed the Italian, which consisted of fresh mozzarella cheese and marinated vegetables on focaccia ($8.50). The ham and cheese croissant with a side salad ($6.50) was also very well received.

The large chicken caesar wrap was filled with tender breast meat and crisp lettuce, fresh and delicious ($8.95). The meatball panini was enough for two (maybe three)—hand-made meatballs with great texture, chunky sauce, and fresh bread, with delicately breaded eggplant on the side ($8.95). The escarole soup was filled with vegetables, pasta, and flavorful meatballs and accompanied by a huge slice of fresh bread ($4.95). The café is an offshoot of the well-respected Zabaglione Restaurant around the corner on Central Street, and it clearly benefits from the same attention to detail.

It was fun to peruse the many cakes, pies, and other pastries in the case, and we finally settled on the mile high chocolate cake and the chocolate mousse torte ($7.95 each). The mousse was rich but not heavy, and it was surrounded by melt-in-your-mouth chocolate meringue. Still, it was upstaged by the cake, which had five layers of moist cake, intense chocolate filling, and even richer frosting. The price for a slice may seem high, but that’s only until you see it. This is clearly a two-dessert portion, and the quality is top-notch.

Café Zabaglione
1 Market St, Ipswich
(978) 356-6484
www.zabaglioneristorante.com

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Food At Salem Jail Improved, But Not By Much

Posted: April 6th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: American, Great Escape, Italian, Salem, Seafood | Tags: | 7 Comments »

Salem has so many new restaurants that we are having trouble keeping up. Last Sunday night, we stopped into Great Escape for dinner, curious to check out this unusual space—the site of a jail built in 1813.

The décor is indeed wonderful, with a high ceiling, a gorgeous stone floor, and whimsical jail-related art. Unfortunately, other than the dessert, the food was a disappointment. The menu is well written and has a good selection of appetizers, salads, pasta, seafood, and more. But the kitchen is having some obvious issues with ingredient quality and technique.

We started with a caprese salad ($10) and the eggplant tower ($10). The salad was an unappetizing plate of watery tomatoes sandwiching flavorless mozzarella. There was a good-tasting balsamic glaze, but it wasn’t enough to save the dish. I realize it’s not tomato season, but I’ve been buying hothouse tomatoes at Stop & Shop that were far better than these. The eggplant tower had flavor, but the eggplant was too thick, the prosciutto should have been cut instead of put in as a slab, and it was literally drowned in sauce.

Our entrées weren’t much better. We tried the papardelle dish with seafood and mushrooms ($19). The pasta and the mushroom reduction were fine, and the shrimp was cooked perfectly, but the scallops were rubbery, and the sauce had some grit (presumably from the seafood). The steak tips ($16) came with flavorful broccoli rabe, but the meat was not good quality, with some pieces quite chewy.

Surprisingly, our last course was great. The coffee was very good, and the tiramisu was plenty for two and very well done, with delicious sweet cream and great mocha flavor. The service was also commendable, although I was served the wrong wine. I wondered why my pinot gris lacked flavor until the bill came and I saw I’d been served pinot grigio.

There were few patrons dining the night we were there, so we’re guessing word has gotten around that the food is lacking, and we’re sorry to have to confirm it. We hope a revamp is in the works because a great spot like this deserves cuisine that matches it.

Great Escape
50 St Peter St, Salem
(978) 745-5022
www.greatescaperestaurantsalem.com

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Enzo Makes Northern Italian Even Better With Local Ingredients

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: American, Enzo, Italian, Newburyport, Seafood | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

Chef and owner Mary Reilly

New restaurants are always exciting, and our visit to Enzo Restaurant in Newburyport last week was especially so. We met the owners, Dave and Mary Reilly, shortly after we started North Shore Dish. At the time, Mary was a personal chef and taught specialty cooking classes. She and Dave had dreamed of owning a restaurant for years, and last week it came to fruition.

We were invited to the restaurant’s soft opening for friends and family. The restaurant opens to the public tonight. Obviously, we’re not presenting our normal review here as we did not dine anonymously. But the food at Enzo is spectacular, and although we’re not unbiased, we stand behind the recommendations here.

Light and tender fritto misto

The idea behind Enzo is an interesting one: Northern Italian cuisine with an emphasis on seasonal, local ingredients and a nod to New England traditions. It’s a twist we hadn’t experienced before, and it makes for some great combinations.

We started with an order of house-made potato chips with caramelized onion dip ($5). The chips are large and crisp, perfect for dipping in the savory onion and white bean mixture. We had dip left over, and our waitress offered to bring some bread so we could continue happily dipping. We also sampled the fritto misto, in this case made with Rhode Island squid and tiny Maine shrimp, served with garlic mayo and fried lemon slices ($10). It was exceptionally light for a fried dish, and the squid was more tender than usual.

The Caldwell Smash

To round out our fried-food extravaganza, we nibbled on breaded olives stuffed with herbed cheese ($5) and declared them the perfect bar snack. We also tried two of the house cocktails, both made with spirits from Gloucester’s Ryan and Wood Distillery. The Caldwell Smash combines Folly Cove rum, allspice, dram, apricot brandy, lemon, honey syrup, and mint in a refreshing balance of sweet and tart ($10). The Cane Nebbioso features Beauport vodka, fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice, and Ramazzotti liqueur ($9).

The emphasis that Mary puts on using top-quality ingredients and making as much as possible in-house came through even more clearly in our entrées. The bread for the pork sausage sandwich was a house-made stecca roll, and the sausage is from New Hampshire’s Kellie Brook Farm. It was accompanied by garlicky greens and house-made chips ($14).

Indian pudding with zabaglione ice cream, bacon brittle & bourbon syrup

Fresh bread showed up again in the chicken under a brick ($21), this time in the form of big cubes of foccacia in an unconventional stuffing. The chicken was moist inside with very crispy skin, and the half-bird serving allowed us to enjoy it for lunch the next day.

We tried two traditional Italian dishes, and both were outstanding. The risotto was cooked in red wine for an unbelievable flavor, and the poached egg on top added a further touch of richness ($16). The filled pasta called pansotti was so good we kept eating long after we should have stopped—the cheese filling was flavorful, the walnut pesto was creamy, and the pasta was almost paper thin ($18).

The New England side of the restaurant’s equation gets a bit more play after dinner. All desserts are made in-house, and they are worth the indulgence. Mary has taken the childhood favorite of many, Indian pudding, to a new level with zabaglione ice cream, bacon brittle, and bourbon syrup ($7).

Chocolate addicts can get their fix with the chocolate tart featuring thick caramel and dark chocolate ganache. But the surprise favorite was the lemon posset, an impossibly silky, very tart pudding served with softly whipped cream ($6) that we hope never goes off the menu.

Enzo Restaurant & Bar
50 Water Street, Tannery Marketplace, Newburyport
(978) 462-1801
www.enzo-restaurant.com

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Adriatic: A Cozy Spot For Fine Mediterranean Dining

Posted: December 21st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Adriatic Restaurant & Bar, Italian, Mediterranean, Salem | No Comments »

A friendly atmosphere, cozy setting, and an interesting menu are all indicators of a good dining-out experience. Of course, you never know until the food comes, but at Adriatic last weekend, those signs were spot on.

For those familiar with Salem dining, Adriatic went into the downtown space formerly occupied by Edgewater Café. The new owners gutted it completely, turning it into a very welcoming fine-dining establishment. There’s a medium-sized triangular bar on the right-hand side, tables on the left, and several bar tables in the main windows, which is where we sat. There’s a back dining room as well, equally cozy, and the night we were there, it was occupied by a private party.

One thing we particularly liked about Adriatic was the menu; it’s not huge but somehow has just the right amount of options, including pasta, risotto, meat, and seafood. We selected a caesar salad and the special soup to begin. The salad was fresh and tasty ($8.50), but the four-onion soup upstaged it mightily ($7.50). The onions were deeply caramelized, so the broth was on the sweet side, and the large grilled-bread crouton was the perfect foil.

For entrées, we tried the cod in parchment ($19) and another special, the pumpkin ravioli ($24). Both were perfectly cooked and had great flavor. The ravioli were large squares of (we’re assuming) hand-made pasta with a barely-sweet filling and a light sauce. The cod was a generous portion of fish accompanied by tender potato slices, tomatoes, and delicious black olives.

We decided to splurge on tiramisu for dessert ($6.50), accompanied by an espresso ($2.50) and a cappuccino ($3.50). The drinks were hot and authentic, and the tiramisu was rich but not too heavy.

The service, by one of the bartenders, was a definite highlight—very polite, friendly, and attentive. Our meal was perfectly paced and we never felt rushed, even though all of the tables and most of the bar seats were full. We’re looking forward to returning to sample more of the menu, which leans toward Italy but with a definite influence of other Southern European countries.

Adriatic
155 Washington St, Salem
(978) 594-1832
www.adriaticrestaurantandbar.com

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Quality and Price Make Petrillo’s a Standout

Posted: October 23rd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Italian, Peabody, Petrillo's Italian Kitchen | Tags: , , | 5 Comments »

Many Italian restaurants tend to be reasonably priced, but we found Petrillo’s a particularly good value when we visited last weekend. No wonder the place was packed on a Sunday night.

With all tables full and no reservation, we ended up at the bar, which is located upstairs. The bar wasn’t particularly busy, so we received terrific service, but all of the tables nearby seemed to be similarly well attended.

We started with a delicious glass of sauvignon blanc ($8), a large Kettle One martini (a deal at $8), and the eggplant rollatini ($9). With very thin slices of perfectly cooked eggplant an just-slightly-sweet ricotta filling, the rollatini was one of the best renditions we’ve had, and it was easily enough for two.

Our entrees were equally satisfying. The chicken parmesan was crisp, moist, delicious, and accompanied by al dente pasta ($15). We took half of it home. We couldn’t finish the scallops positano, either: a large serving of toothsome risotto, four giant scallops, and just the right amount of fresh-cooked spinach to cut the richness of the other ingredients ($23).

We were too full for dessert or coffee, but we did share a glass of the house chianti, which had good flavor, especially for $7 a glass. We definitely recommend giving this Peabody gem a try—and a reservation is probably a good idea.

Petrillo’s Italian Kitchen
6 Foster Street, Peabody
(978) 977-5330
www.petrillosrestaurant.com

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