Archive for April, 2012

Pescatore – Legit Italiano for Less

Monday, April 30th, 2012

http://www.pescatoreseafood.com/

Location: Somerville, MA

The Foodie: Recommends

File Pescatore in with the other great Italian restaurants that are not in the North End.

I’m slowly building a case to save millions of innocent diners from wasting their money on overpriced grub from Italia, one amazing eatery at a time.

Tucked away on a side street in Ball Square, this intimate little spot has been on my short list of affordable places to get my pasta on for a few years now.

These guys are all about uber-fresh pappardelle, ravioli, and fusilli with (as the name suggests) lots of food from the deep blue sea. Hop in your dinghy, grab some flour, eggs, and a fishing rod and I’ll row you through some of my favorite Pescatore-ian dishes:

  • Fusilli Amalfi – homemade pasta with a veritable fruits de mer of scallops, lobster, and shrimp cooked up with some broccoli rabe.
  • Gnocchi Sorrentino – This dish is painfully good. The gnocchi are as soft as a supple bosom. The lightly creamy tomato-basil sauce is so delightful I would bathe in it. Finally, melty buffalo mozz just puts me over the top with glee. Got to be one of the best gnocchi dishes around for the paltry price of $14.
  • Pappardelle Capri – with noodles as wide and thick as a big booty, arugula, cherry tomatoes, evoo, white wine, garlic and shaved parm, the Capri is another crustacean-inspired beauty of a dish served by the good people at Pescatore.

Gnocchi-riffic

Love those Capris girl

Recently I pontificated (excuse me) on the three common qualities of good Italian restaurants: Simple, Fresh, and Quirky. Here’s how this locale meets the trifecta of all things tutto bene.

  • Simple – No ‘tude here in the cooking at all. Just very well-made dishes with fewer than 10 ingredients.
  • Fresh – Gotta give anybody props for cranking out their own pasta and gnocchi. The fish and shellfish are all fairly good quality as well, not to mention the uniquely tasty homemade sauces up in here.
  • Quirky – the quirk here must be the location. Though the inside is warm and inviting, Pescatore is located in a concrete-exterior building that was probably a former Elks Lodge at the corner of a quiet neighborhood.

I suggest you add Pescatore to your little black book of quality neighborhood Italian joints too. I look forward to rowing by you on your way out here in the future.

The Painted Burro – That Colorful Donkey Got Moves

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

http://www.thepaintedburro.com/

Location: Somerville, MA

The Foodie: Recommends

Its tough to displace a neighborhood mainstay – but the Gargoyle has morphed into a little painted donkey quite well.

The owners of nearby upscale Italian pizzeria and wine bar Posto have proven themselves skilled restaurateurs by branching out into a completely different culinary genre and doing it well.

I’ll walk you through why their new, stylish, “Mexican Kitchen and Tequila Bar” is going to become one of the more popular eateries in Davis (maybe at the risk of cannibalizing foodies from their other spot).

  • Drink menu is twice the size as the food menu. There are countless tequilas, a nice selection of south-of-the-border beers, and a sexy bar area.
  • The house margaritas are a simple yet effective affair made with good tequila and lime juice (skipping the Cointreau). At just 8 bucks these babies are smooth and will please even the most discriminating spirits snob.

  • The tortilla chips. Ohhhh…the tortilla chips. Usually that part of a Mexican meal relegated to being mindlessly devoured by hungry gringos waiting for their mains – the Burro kicks these babies up a notch. These chips come out warm, are well-salted, and are thick while still managing to be light and airy. So delightful we must have gone through nine buckets of the things. I was still clinging to a handful on our way out the door after a huge meal.

  • The Guac. Though not the best I’ve had in town (that award still goes to Ole), the version here is slightly creamy and smooth and still thoroughly enjoyable.

  •  The platos principales. The entrees feature whole fish, rabbit leg, carne asada, a snobby-looking yuppified enchilada stuffed with maitake mushrooms and goat cheese, and a drool-inducing short rib barbecoa with poblano and Oaxaca grits.
  • Dos tacos. In addition to the aforementioned platos, the Burro is passionate about tacos judging by a selection of soft tortillas filled with things like chorizo, gulf shrimp, pork ‘cochinita,’ skirt steak, and my favorite – crispy Maine redfish. Though I loved my redfish with cabbage/jalapeno slaw and baja sauce – I was less impressed by the other tacos ordered by my fellow table chums.

The Burro is a welcome addition to the square as Davis continues to maintain a fine veneer of loveable piss-soaked college bars while becoming a breeding-ground for yuppie-friendly fun and games. I wonder what’s next for the Posto-Burro team…are they going Asian? South African? French?  Time will tell.

Mi nombre es Ryan. I bebe como el diablo.

Craigie on Main – The Burger.

Sunday, April 15th, 2012

www.craigieonmain.com

Location: Cambridge, MA

The Foodie: Strongly Recommends

I am a man who loves the down-home comfort of a well-made burger. When I spend any significant amount of time abroad, the one Amuurican dish I crave is a nice succulent meat patty. When I tuck into a good burger all sorts of pleasure zones light up in my brain, my entire body fills with warmth, and images of childhood cookouts flicker around me.

For the experience highlighted above, I keep coming back to places like R.F. O’Sullivans, but I definitely enjoy a higher-end gourmet burger as much as the next b-snob.

But a “haute” burger still needs to stay true to its roots as traditional comfort food. It still needs to bring me close to tears with childhood nostalgia and blanket me in a warm tingle.

Too often, an upscale joint will pack their burger so full of foie gras it becomes unrecognizable…or they’ll invent some crazy sauce that distracts from the experience, or they’ll serve it on a croissant or French toast or some wacky shit like that.

MY MESSAGE TO UPSCALE BURGER INVENTORS – DON’T GET TOO DISTRACTED BY POMP AND CIRCUMSTANCE. STAY TRUE TO YOUR ROOTS. BE LIKE CRAIGIE.

I was initially lured by Boston Burger Blog’s bold claim that this was the best burger in Boston.

Finally, the elusive Craigie Burger came within range of my bite. And I loved it. Some C.B. Facts:

  • Only served at the bar, bar tables, and for brunch. They are strict about this.
  • Limited quantity – so come for an early dinner Tues-Thurs or hit Craigie for brunch
  • It’s one of the most costly burger meals you’ll eat around – but worth twice what you spend.
  • The burger is life changing – featuring small-farm cheddar, a perfect house-made bun, mace ketchup, and nicely salted steak fries
  • The burger patty is reportedly loaded with every chef’s secret trick you could think of. I’d go into it more, but you’re better off just enjoying the burger in ignorant bliss.
  • Pay a few bucks extra to add the house-smoked bacon. Totally worth it.

BEHOLD:

BAM!

 

A PEEK INSIDE...

 

Craigie manages to deliver a luscious pimped-out posh burger – taking just the right amount of risk and creativity to make it their own while remaining true to what a burger really is: soul-warming, child-reducing, heart-pleasing goodness that encompasses all of humanity and inspires world peace.

Gran Gusto – Simple, Fresh, Quirky

Friday, April 13th, 2012

http://www.grangustocambridge.com/

Location: Cambridge, MA

The Foodie: Recommends

I love a good example of fine Italian food served as far away from the North End as possible.

Gran Gusto is one of those examples, judging by the food at least.

Despite the fact that you get that eerie feeling that you’re a tourist in the Little Italy of “Name-Your-American-Metropolis” while eating here; that our waiter was soooo over-the-top it sounded like he was a hired actor; that the chef annoyingly appeared on the Martha Stewart Show –

These guys really can cook. And I truly believe that all good Italian restaurants have three common characteristics, which were all met by Gusto’s formula:

  1. Simple
  2. Fresh
  3. Quirky

Lo’ and behold, my boys at Gusto presented a nice menu of fresh, classic, simple Italian dishes for reasonable prices –pimping dishes like:

  • “Per Iniziare” that included Antipasto, Octopus, and a pant-tightening Beef Carpaccio with spinach, artichoke and aged balsamic
  • Several pasta specialties that lean towards the sea (think cockles, mussels, shrimp, lobster)
  • LE PIZZE – A nice selection of traditional pies made with truly remarkable dough that is tantalizingly soft and soul-warming

I ordered a special salad of the night that was a lovely mixture of arugula, citrus dressing, bresaola, and shaved parmesan, followed by the Caprese Pizze (simply buffalo mozz, cherry tomatoes and basil). Swirled all that around with a unique wine from Sardinia and I was a happy man.

MARVEL AT MY MEAL:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gusto is a solid option for grub from the boot-shaped empire and you can tell the owners know their simple, fresh, quirky shit.

Come for the food, be amused by the ambiance.

Saloon – Best Not Be Comin’ To These Here Parts

Friday, April 6th, 2012

http://www.saloondavis.com/

Location: Somerville, MA

The Foodie: Does Not Recommend

8:00PM. Saturday Night.

We’re at Foundry on Elm. “Uh, is Saloon in here somewhere?”

“We get that a lot – try two doors down, by the lamp post”

Descending a flight of stairs, I expected to see a tumbleweed and a few ole timers sipping on sarsaparilla (mixed with high-end whiskey of course).

On the contrary – this place was packed wall-to-wall like a Faneuil Hall joint. Also like your favorite amateur hang-out, they also had one of those annoying tall douchebags rudely telling people where to stand to clear the way for servers.

From here on – nothing about the food was particularly bad, but then again nothing was better than the 20 other gastropubs in town. I mean, the formula is well-known at this point:

  • Put together a big whiskey list
  • Make sure you have a Pretty Things beer on tap
  • Throw some pork belly on the menu
  • Dim the lights

Sounds easy right? Whereas other g-pubs in town do it well (and Citizen is the gold standard in my opinion), I’ve never thought Foundry or their new baby Saloon completely nail it.

For example:

  • Beer menu could be spruced up a bit
  • Did you see how small the pork belly dish was?
  • Quotes from others at my table: “The steak was a mess,” “It was just OK,” “Who grabbed my ass?”

The one dish that received praise from our group of outlaws was the meat pie…but I still don’t think it was good enough to save the day, sheriff.

So, like Foundry on Elm, Saloon is really better for a couple drinks – skip the food spread. Looks like plenty of peeps are cool with that though given the reg’lar crowds at both spots.

In the words of Clint Eastwood after this scene – I’ve had better.