>>  Saturday, June 28, 2008

I had read a very positive Boston Globe article about this restaurant in Ball Square (Somerville) awhile back, and have been meaning to try it for awhile. I finally had a chance to go tonight. I called at around 5 PM and was able to make a 7:30 PM reservation with no problems. We were also able to find metered street parking pretty easily.

Our over all impression? Pretty good, although we're not sure if we'd come back again.

Why? Honestly? We kept comparing each dish with similar ones from Basta Pasta and continued to judge the ones from Pescatore inferior. Granted, you can't completely compare the two restaurants. Pescatore is full service, sells wine, accepts credit card, and has much better ambiance. However, the food is clearly several steps below Basta Pasta. I will describe each dish we ordered below:

Arancini ($5.95)
These are deep fried arborio rice balls filled with cheese and accompanied by a tomato dipping. The arancini balls here were pleasantly crunchy on the outside, but had bland flavor inside. The cheese flavor was not very noticeable, and the peas inside did not add much. If Basta Pasta's arancini was an "A," these would be C+.

Crab Cakes ($11.95)
Again (this will begin to seem like a theme), "not bad," but also, as one member of our party said, "not the best I've ever had, although there are some nice big chunks of crabmeat."

Fusilli Amalfi ($16.95)
The reviewer from the Boston Globe strongly recommended this dish, stating that "it was so good it made our eyes roll." This dish was actually pretty good. Clearly these chefs specialize in seafood, and all the seafood was perfectly cooked - nothing was rubbery or overcooked. The homemade fusilli was pleasantly chewy (although still a few steps inferior to the homemade fusilli at Basta Pasta), and the broccoli rabe, scallops, shrimp, lobster, and shrimp in a white wine, garlic and oil sauce created a very nice blend of flavors. This was probably my favorite dish.

Gnocci Sorrentino ($12.95)
The homemade gnocci came in a ceramic bowl covered with cheese and tomato sauce. Basta Pasta actually does not sell gnocci dishes, so I cannot make that comparison. I thought this dish was OK (I like the one at Il Panino better), and Bryan said he liked it.

This Italian seafood stew was one of the specials of the day, and we ordered it. Like I had mentioned before, these people know how to cook seafood. Generally, I don't like fully cooked tuna because it is tough and flavorless. The tuna in this dish was extremely fresh (Catch of the Day). It had good flavor and a perfect, soft texture. The remaining seafood also were cooked perfectly. The sauce was good, and we enjoyed this dish.

Chicken Marsala ($14.95)
This was probably the worse dish we had, which further emphasizes the point that these people know how to cook seafood. The chicken was overcooked and was a bit dry and tough. The Marsala sauce had virtually no sugar nor cream, which made it taste differently from most Marsala sauces we've tried. The small dumplings that came with the meal were mediocre at best. We couldn't help but keep talking about how good the chicken marsala at Basta Pasta was, and how Reno (the cook at Basta Pasta), really knows how to cook a perfect chicken breast. As one member of our party says, "there's no one that can cook chicken like Reno does. I'm not sure how it does it." There was no comparison here.

Tiramisu ($5.95)
The tiramisu was actually excellent - layers of lady fingers soaked in a nice, dark espresso + rum mixture with light marscapone cheese in between. I even said at the end of dessert, "that was the best part of the meal." We all agreed that the dessert was really good.

To reiterate what I said before, the food here is quite good, and they definitely know how to cook seafood. The ambiance is also very nice. However, the over all general talent of the chef is still inferior to Reno's (of Basta Pasta) and those in North End. Nevertheless, if you are looking for a reasonably priced restaurant (most of our entrees ranged between $12 - $17), a nice ambiance, good food, wine, and seafood, this is not a bad option.

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Gran Gusto

>>  Friday, June 13, 2008

I stumbled upon the name of this restaurant while looking for a kid-friendly place to take my college friends (who have 2 kids). We ended up going to Antico Forno in the North End with my friends since it was recommended as a great place in the North End for kids. While doing my research, I also learned that Antico Forno makes an excellent authentic neapolitan pizza. However, every time someone mentioned this fact, another person would pipe in saying that Gran Gusto had better neapolitan pizza. After reading this time after time, I decided I had to go to Gran Gusto to try this amazing pizza.

Gran Gusto is located in North Cambridge in the old Tartufo site, and has only been open for about 9 months. The owner is originally from Naples, and thus his food (like his pizza), is distinctly Neapolitan.

The service at this restaurant was excellent. The waiter was an older man who was clearly knowledgeable about the menu. He was kind, attentive, and friendly at the same time. He convinced us to try the special appetizer - (stracchino?) a creamy, very fresh Italian cheese that they fly over from Italy every so often. It has a texture somewhere between cream cheese and fresh mozarella. It was very rich and creamy (apparently 50% milkfat!) but interesting to try.

I ordered the Margherita pizza ($12), and Bryan ordered the fresh pasta dish ($17). The pizza crust was excellent - super thin and crispy and light. It was definitely well made, and one of the best thin-crusts in Boston. The flavors of the toppings were light, balanced, and flavorful. I would not have minded more tomatoes on the pizza. Maybe next time I'll try ordering a saucier/juicier pizza.

Bryan thoroughly enjoyed his pasta dish. The texture of the fresh pasta was chewy, and the sauce was well made. In fact, Bryan just told me he went back to Gran Gusto last week (by himself) and had pasta again.

All in all, we were quite pleased with the discovery of yet another delicious Italian restaurant so close to home. Best yet, this restaurant is a little off the beaten path and is also sort of still undiscovered. We went on a Friday night at 7 PM, and had no problems getting a table. They also have a lovely courtyard full of outdoor seating. It looks like a great place to have dinner on a warm, summer evening.
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Parish Cafe

Bryan and I went to Parish Cafe for lunch on Easter Sunday. It had actually been years since we visited this place, so we were not sure what to expect. We were pleasantly surprised. The creative sandwiches are really good, and for Newbury Street, the prices are quite reasonable.

I ordered "The Alternative"($10.25), which is described as a sandwich containing "fresh tuna salad tossed with diced onions and a roasted red pepper mayonnaise. Served on toasted Tuscan
wheat triangles, topped with melted Monterey jack cheese and applewood smoked bacon." The presentation was sharp, the mix of flavors perfect (yumm, bacon), and the texture of the toasted triangles made the sandwich special. I really enjoyed the sandwich.

Unfortunately, it's been awhile since we went, and I can't remember what Bryan ordered. I do remember that we both left the restaurant thinking that the food was yummy, and that we would definitely come back.

I also remember looking on their wall and seeing that they had won Best of Boston "best sandwich" for many years in a row, but it all of a sudden stopped several years ago. It made me wonder what competing sandwich company came along and stole the glory - High Rise perhaps? Darwins? Flour?
Parish Café on Urbanspoon

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