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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Bringing the North End to the North Shore

Posted: January 25th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Italian, Marblehead, Marketplace | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Today is the grand opening of Il Mercato, a unique Italian market in Marblehead. The brainchild of Donna Oliviero, who owns Caffe Italia, the market is located in what was the restaurant’s secondary dining area.

Oliviero has been planning the opening for almost a year, and she’s created a destination market by combining foods imported from Italy with take-home entrées and breads made fresh on premises.

The imported foods include olive oil, aged balsamic vinegar, packaged almond and ladyfinger cookies (for making tiramisu), panettone, bags of dried oregano still on the stem, and soda in flavors like pear and apricot. There’s also a selection of imported dried pasta in large shapes not usually seen in the states.

A deli case contains prosciutto, mushrooms, anchovies, fresh mozzarella, and a large bowl of colorful olives. On top are arancini (rice balls), hot stuffed cherry peppers, and cannoli shells in two sizes ready to be filled.

Nearby is a selection of fresh-frozen pastas like fusilli, gnocchi, agnololotti, ravioli, manicotti from Original Gourmet Creation in Somerville. Oliviero’s tomato, bolognese, and pesto sauces are available to go with them, as are fresh-frozen porcini mushrooms.

In addition to selling the restaurant’s famous rolls and foccacia, the store carries Italian baguettes, multigrain ciabatta, and olive loaves. Two panini sandwiches are available each day: mozzarella/tomato/olive oil and the daily special. A selection of prepared dinners like lasagna, manicotti, stuffed shells, and meatballs are available to take home.

Oliviero is offering a huge variety of catering options, from antipasto trays and Italian cookies to entrees like chicken marsala and rolatini eggplant in sizes to designed to feed anywhere from 10 to 25 people. There is also a chef’s table that can be booked for between six and 14 people every night but Monday. The menu is designed with Oliviero to suit your party, starting with appetizer, entrée, salad, and two jugs of wine for $30 per person.

The market’s grand opening is today from 11:00 to 6:00, with a ribbon cutting at 4:00. Permanent hours are 11:00 to 6:00 Monday through Saturday.

Il Mercato / Caffe Italia
10 School St, Marblehead
(781) 631-5700
www.caffeitaliarestaurant.com/home_marblehead.html

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True Comfort at Caffe Paolina

Posted: January 8th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Caffe Paolina, Italian, Swampscott | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

We know it’s time to lighten up a bit after all that holiday indulgence. Still, last weekend in the midst of the whirling frozen stuff, we felt in need of some January cheer.

We headed for lunch at Caffe Paolina, which is in a near-deserted strip mall in Swampscott and looks like it might be a coffee shop. Instead, we were greeted by Paolina herself and served fantastic Southern Italian-style food that warmed us considerably better than our supposedly waterproof boots.

We decided on two starters: an antipasti ($12) and the antipasto alla Paolina and the involtino di melanzana (rolled eggplant cutlet, $5). Before they arrived, we were treated to complimentary bruschetta: firm Italian bread topped with chopped onion, tomato, and olive oil.

The antipasti was an interesting combination that seemed odd but tasted wonderful: lettuce accompanied by roasted peppers, cooked broccoli and green beans, shrimp, and melted cheese. The eggplant was even better: breaded and fried, filled with ricotta and spinach, and topped with warm tomato sauce.

The three pasta entrees we tried were fantastic. The lasagna ($12) was an authentic version with thin sheets of pasta and a creamy béchamel rather than the heavier ricotta/thick noodles we often see. It was surrounded by a light tomato sauce a bit on the sweet side (in a good way).

The fettuccini alfredo ($11) and chicken, broccoli, ziti ($12) had the same luscious cream sauce with a distinct flavor (cheese? nutmeg?), the kind you’d return for. The broccoli was cooked through but firm, and the chicken was tender.

The panini we tried, with polpette ($8), was not as good. The meatballs were bland, so the dish just fell flat.

As lunch spots go, Paolina’s is not inexpensive. But the quality of the ingredients and techniques is spot on, and the pasta entrees are generous—enough to take half home if you’ve indulged in some of the Italian bread or an appetizer. And we noted that the prices on the dinner menu are quite similar: around $10 for starters, $12 to $15 for pasta, and $15 to $17 for entrees, making it a good value (it’s also BYOB). The interior décor is more café than restaurant, but with great food at reasonable prices, we don’t think anyone will mind.

646 Humphrey St, Swampscott
(781) 593-6455
www.caffepaolina.com
(Note: Web site is under construction, but the hours and menus are there)

Caffe Paolina on Urbanspoon

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Neighborhood Prices, Authentic Flavors at Lynn’s Antique Table

Posted: October 27th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Antique Table, Italian, Lynn | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

We love Italian cooking, but sometimes it can be too much—in our desire for comfort food, we end up with an overly heavy meal. Of course, when Italian is done right, you get all of the flavor with none of the heft. And that’s exactly what we found at a recent visit to Antique Table.

We liked everything about this neighborhood gem, from the quirky décor to the attentive service and reasonable prices, but it was the freshness of the ingredients and their preparation that really impressed us.

We began by dipping strips of foccacia into oil accented with pesto and red pepper flakes while sipping a citrusy pinot grigio, then moved into an antipasto with a nice mix of cured meats, olives, and fresh mozzarella ($11).

Our entrees were all outstanding, starting with a plate of tender gnocchi in a light, fresh, flavorful tomato and basil sauce ($14). The fettuccini puttanesca also featured a delicious sauce along with an abundance of olives and firm-to-the-bite pasta ($14).

Our third entrée was a special that night, pollo rotelo, a large portion of chicken accompanied by asparagus, sundried tomatoes, and portobello mushrooms ($15). It was served in a cream sauce that looked heavy but wasn’t, and we loved that the same sauce was used for the pasta that came on the side.

For dessert, we splurged on a chocolate soufflé and a slice of turtle cheesecake. The soufflé had a wonderful texture and complex chocolate flavor. The cheesecake was truly sinful, with a buttery crust, not-too-sweet creamy filling, and a layer of gooey chocolate.

Our waitress was friendly and efficient, and she managed not to rush us despite a wait for tables (there are only about 15). With food this good at these prices, it’s no surprise the place is packed. If you’re looking for a quieter meal, you might try a weeknight, and although the Web site specifies reservations for parties of four or more, we were not only allowed to make a reservation for three on Saturday night but greeted quite graciously.

Antique Table
2 Essex Street, Lynn
(781) 477-9778
www.antiquetableonline.com

Antique Table Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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Sixty2 on Wharf Hits the High Notes

Posted: April 15th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Bistro, Mediterranean, Salem, Sixty2 on Wharf | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »


If you’re ready to shake off those winter doldrums and step out, we’ve got the perfect destination for you. We had a superb meal last night at Sixty2 on Wharf, the latest addition to Salem’s Pickering Wharf.

We found the décor, the food, and the service spot on at this chef-owned restaurant featuring Boston-quality Mediterranean cuisine. We were warmly welcomed by the host and seated in the cozy dining room featuring an unusual cork floor, stylish black tables, and inviting red walls.

The menu starts off right with a large selection of antipasti, all of which are $5. (We’re already plotting a return for a night at the bar sipping cocktails and sampling the small plates.) We discussed our options over a glass of white cote de rhone and a dirty dirty martini. The wine ($10) was a generous pour served in a carafe, and the martini featured Grey Goose and gorgonzola-stuffed olives.

Our appetizers set the tone for the meal—visual appeal, layers of flavor, and perfect texture. Fresh milk mozzarella was served in coin-sized medallions with crisp baguette slices and pepper jelly on a beautiful piece of gray slate. Polpettes were small balls of porky goodness, easily enough for two to share.

For entrees, we went with the night’s pasta special, gnocchi with oxtail, and the sea scallops with romesco sauce and farro. Our waitress was a gem who seemed genuinely happy to be serving us and had an extensive knowledge of the menu and wine selections. We explained that we wanted a light red to go with the scallops and were happy with the pinot noir she recommended.

The scallops ($25) were large and succulent with a wonderful crunchy sear on the outside; they combined well with the earthy farro. The hand-made gnocchi were also a highlight—moist and feathery light. The only thing off key was the oxtail, which was quite chewy.

The mozzarella and gnocchi were part of the $22 Neighborhood Nights three-course prix fixe menu, a fantastic value currently available on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Sundays. To end the meal, we indulged in the toffee pudding and the brown butter tart. Both were worth the calories, but the unusual flavors in the pudding and wonderful softly whipped cream really sang.

It’s easy to understand why the Boston Globe named Sixty2 best new restaurant on the North Shore, and we were pleased to see a good-sized crowd on a Tuesday night, since pricier restaurants sometimes struggle to fill seats in times like this. But it’s clear the locals have caught onto the symphony of flavors chef Tony Bettencourt and his crew are serving up.

Sixty2 on Wharf
62 Wharf Street, Salem
(978) 744-0062
www.sixty2onwharf.com

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Wine Dinner at Sixty2 on Wharf in Salem

Posted: February 13th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Salem | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

On February 24, the folks at Sixty2 on Wharf are teaming up with Eric Olsen from Salem Wine Imports and Eileen Wright from Adonna Imports to serve up an Italian four-course dinner. The cost is $75 per person (not including tax and gratuity).

Here’s the menu:
Antipasti: Porchetta; house-made salame with marinated vegetables; Institut Agricole Regional Valle d’Aoste 2007 Muller Thurgau

Primi: Pappardelle al Sugo (fresh pasta tossed with a rich sauce of guinea hen, wild mushrooms, pancetta and rosemary); Le Piane 2004 La Maggiorina

Secondo: Vitello al Brasato (braised veal with balsamic vinegar, black mission figs, and radicchio trevisano over a parmesan risotto); Fattoria Di Fiano 2004 Chianti Colli Fiorentina Riserva

Dolce: Panna Cotta e Biscotti (panna cotta with dried apricot with honey and vanilla and almond bicotti); Le Biancara 2001 Recioto

Reservations are required.

Sixty2 on Wharf
62 Wharf St, Salem
(978) 744-0062
www.62onwharf.com

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Italian Warmth to Thaw Those Mid-Winter Blues

Posted: February 10th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Caffe Italia, Italian, Marblehead | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Not sure how it happened, but two different times in the past few weeks we found ourselves having a light supper at the bar at Caffe Italia on School Street in Marblehead.

Both the restaurant and bar are very inviting on a frigid winter’s eve; warm lighting, delicious smells, and pleasant staff make it a welcome respite. We weren’t looking for a big meal and, like everyone these days, are keeping a tight rein on our budget, so decided sampling few appetizers might be the way to go.

The bar was hopping both weekend nights we went, mostly with a 40-something crowd, eating as well as drinking. The bar is U-shaped which gives it a convivial atmosphere, and the single large screen tv is at the back of the room, so it doesn’t overwhelm.

Every entrée that went by looked and smelled terrific, making us question the decision to order just apps, but we stuck to the original plan. Both the Guazzeto di Cozza, PEI mussels sautéed with fresh tomato seafood broth, ($10) and the Cappesante, pan-seared jumbo scallops served with spinach and drizzled with balsamic reduction topped with roasted pepper, ($11) were excellent. In fact, we enjoyed the scallops so much we ordered them the second time as well. The Broccoli Stufate, sautéed broccoli rabe, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and a touch of hot pepper, ($7) was tasty, and the only clunker was a potato leek soup on special one night. Lumpy and oily with little flavor, it was a big disappointment.

Where drinks are concerned, the cocktails are reasonably priced, and the wines run from $6 to $7.50 per glass. The wine list is respectable, with the expected concentration of Italian selections. Although the bartenders are eager and attentive, they are also young and inexperienced. When a request for a Manhattan or a Sidecar is greeted with a sure smile but a quizzical look and an inquiry about the ingredients, you know you’re in trouble. Both attempts were palatable, but we suggest these kids bone up on their cocktail knowledge.

We were pleasantly surprised to see Caffe Italia offers live music some weekend nights. Their online entertainment calendar doesn’t seem to be kept up, so you’ll have to call to find out the schedule. On one of our visits, The Transistors, a fun retro rock band, had the place jumping. People of all ages got up and danced, and many of the patrons at the bar found themselves singing along.

So while we have yet to partake of a full meal there, we can recommend Caffe Italia for its warm, inviting atmosphere and the bar as a fun place to have a tasty and inexpensive dinner.

Caffe Italia
10 School St., Marblehead
(781) 631-5700
http://caffeitaliarestaurant.com/

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