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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The Lunch Counter: Lunch Guy Meets Five Guys

Posted: June 5th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Swampscott, The Lunch Counter | Tags: , , , | 9 Comments »

lunchcounter1

Even before the hype of President Obama’s recent Five Guys run, Lunch Guy was looking forward to trying out the franchise’s new branch, which opened this past Monday in Vinnin Square, because he’s a sucker for a good burger.

After navigating the full parking lot, the long order line, the mysterious menu board, and the even longer pick up line, Lunch Guy finally grabbed a seat in the small, noisy restaurant to enjoy his burger and fries. The first surprise was that the Cheeseburger ($5) was actually two stacked burgers. The Little Cheeseburger ($4) is a single. While they charge extra for bacon or cheese, all other sides are free.

burgerThe burger itself was quite tasty, quality fresh ground beef in real patties, grilled and assembled with precision by the cast of thousands crammed in behind the counter. It’s the sort of thing you’d expect to be served in a pub, not a storefront burger joint.

Despite only Coke and Sprite being shown on the menu, the free-refill fountain drinks ($2) offered a range of sodas. The fries ($2.79 small, $4 large), advertised as hand cut daily and cooked in no-cholesterol peanut oil, were not Lunch Guy’s favorite. While certainly fresh tasting, they were closer to the boardwalk style, and he prefers them crispy.

5guys1Lunch Guy says the paradox is that it’s a sit-down burger experience in a fast-food environment, and the bottom line is that even though he enjoyed the burger, Five Guys isn’t likely to become a regular habit for him. He has a limited time for lunch and wants to relax while eating. With all the time spent waiting in line, (eight minutes from door to order, 10 to 15 to receive the order) he’s not going to have too much left to eat, and relaxing is out of the question with the noise and surging lunchtime crowd. The craziness and crowds should subside once the novelty wears off, but Lunch Guy leaves us with this tip: call in your order ahead or try grabbing lunch after 1:00, when the crowds have abated a bit.

Five Guys Burgers and Fries
980 Paradise Rd., Swampscott
781-595-1300
http://fiveguys.com/

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