Category: restaurants

Trattoria Bella Mia

By , July 20, 2010 1:07 pm

Sometimes something totally awesome runs you over like a freight train and you never saw it coming. That’s what happened to me at Trattoria Bella Mia in Beverly, MA.  I went there to wait for a friend, have a beer and some quiet time to go over some work … what I got was so much more.

I moved to the area about five years ago from California.  I lived for a few years in Hamilton and now I’m in Beverly Farms.  I’d say about 50% of my bar hopping and restaurant outings occur in Beverly. And even then, I frequent very few places.  I go to the places I like and know will serve me well.  I’ve probably driven past Bella Mia a few thousand times and never really thought to try it out.  A while ago someone kept telling me to give this place a try.  Well, this person is a maniac, so I never really paid the recommendation much mind.

So like a week or two ago I decide to walk in and see what this place is all about.  It was pretty much dead.  I slid up to the bar, ordered a beer and watched some sports for a while and then scrammed.  A couple days later I do the same thing.  While I was there a friend called and asked me where I was.  I say, “Bella Mia on Cabot!” … They had no idea where this place was even through they lived about 100 yards away.  So I go meet them at another place and I head back to Bella Mia a few days later.  Same thing, kind slow.  I drink a few beers, watch some sports and leave.

This was going to be my new hide out. It’s perfect. It’s right in the middle of everything in Beverly, but no one knows it’s there. I could go there, chill out in peace and be left alone. No one is going to find me!  Life is grand.

So I was invited by a new friend to a Pan-Massachusetts Challenge cancer fundraiser cocktail party last week at Bella Mia.  Since this is my new hide-out I figured I better get to know the locals there. They put out some fried chicken tenders, pizza, stuffed mushrooms and shrimp cocktail as appetizers. All of it awesome!  I knew no one at the cocktail party and wasn’t really in the mood to mingle, but I had some beers and chilled out in the peripheral.  The crowd seemed pretty cool and I knew I would get to know this place very well in the future.  What really struck me is that at the restaurant I briefly met what has to be one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen in my entire life.  Seriously. Not kidding.

Well, back to the lecture at hand. Last night I went back to my hide-out to sip some brews in peace.  I decided to take a look at the menu and order up something since I was wicked, wicked staaahvin.  I decided on the Veal Florentina.  I love my vitello.  Some people don’t eat veal cuz they hear of all the inhumane treatment a baby cow goes through before it becomes a grilled veal chop.  I love animals. Really.  However, baby cow is just soooooo good.

The food comes … tender veal sautéed in wine with mushrooms and spinach covered in perfectly melted fresh mozzarella cheese.  Wow.  Amazing!  Oh, lets not forget the side of fresh house-made fusilli pasta smothered in a very fresh tasting robust marinara sauce.  I was in heaven.  I mean HEAVEN.  The food tasted so fresh and delicious I just couldn’t get over it.

I believe the key to my enjoyment of this meal was it’s simplicity.  I could vividly taste every ingredient in the dish.  Simple satisfaction is always a worthy goal.  Simple, delicious and amazing meal.  The veal was tender, the wine sauce was savory, the mushrooms were cooked perfectly and the spinach was just divine!  It seemed as if every ingredient amplified the pure, natural, intense flavors of all the others.

I guess I’m giving up my new hiding place by telling everyone I know about it’s total awesomeness.  I cannot in good conscience keep my mouth shut about Bella Mia.  I also can’t imagine not eating here at least once a week for next ten years or more.  This is a charming neighborhood restaurant that should be a lot busier than it is.

Yankees suck!

Emma’s Pizza

By , March 23, 2010 1:02 pm

I haven’t posted in forever, but had to share this experience …

Emma’s Pizza – Kendall Square – Cambridge

Hell, I even Yelped it. Check out the mirror post HERE.

WOW. I’ve been all over the world and have never been treated this rudely by a restaurant staff. I checked out this place today on the recommendation of a friend. I was by myself and wanted a good thin crust pizza and a peaceful place to read my paper as I ate.

Good pizza, not outstanding, but simple thin crust pizza. Wonderful, right? Well, the place only had one other seated party other than myself. And maybe a couple at the counter getting slices. I get a call on my cel phone and talk for a couple minutes with a friend of mine. the music in the place was so freakin loud I could barely hear the caller.

What I did hear, because he practically screamed at me was some guy in a red shirt yelling … “TAKE THAT PHONE CALL OUTSIDE NOW!!! WE DON’T ALLOW CEL PHONE CALLS IN HERE. GO OUTSIDE!!!”

Not kidding. My waitress had walked by my table a few times while I was on the call and said nothing. Then all of a sudden I feel like I’m being oppressed by the Taliban. I simply hung up and finished the rest of my pizza. I wasn’t all that mad, I just thought the guy was a miserable clown. Gotta feel sorry for people like that. Then he kept giving me dirty looks over the next few moments. I was going to say something, but I wasn’t in the mood for an argument.

Then I thought of leaving a light tip. Then again, why should this clown make the waitress suffer. I asked for my check and the waitress said, “Yeah, sure!” in a totally snotty voice. That did it.

I have to say, today was the first time in my ENTIRE life I didn’t leave a tip for table service. First time EVER! Actually, I did leave behind a well worn copy of today’s herald if anyone wanted to read it.

As I left I looked for any sign or notice of any sort prohibiting cel phone calls in the restaurant. Nada. I guess they figure you must be a mind reader. I’m all about manners and such and I rarely use cel phones in restaurants. But this is not a restaurant. It’s a pizza shop. Nothing more. Just a pizza shop with a cute paint job. They have a walk up counter and they are acting like they are L’Espalier.

The pizza was pretty good, but an absolutely miserable staff. It was a simple phone call. No need to yell at me. All they had to was ask kindly. I guess they are above all that. Might be a good idea if they turned the music down a bit so people can hear themselves think.

I haven’t been on Yelp in a while, but a clown show like Emma’s is what it takes sometimes to get motivated. I’m working on a new project in the area and will be visiting many Kendall Square eateries for the foreseeable future. I’m making sure I tell everyone of my experience at Emma’s.

Peace out! Yankees suck!  Emma’s Pizza too.

Starboard Galley – Newburyport’s Best Restaurant & Dining Experience…NOT!!!

By , August 6, 2009 3:32 pm

The homepage almost makes the Starboard Galley look enticing…almost. Yes, they do have outdoor dining, which fortunately the hostess was kind enough to let us know that it was “buggy” outside. As a table of four relocated to inside due to the buggy-ness, that is when I saw that their outdoor dining doesn’t actually look out on the water, it looks out on a parking lot. Very romantic.

In a state of hunger that was so great (and a tight budget) we opted for the Starboard Galley. Having never been there before (nor will I ever return) we should have been tipped off by the fact that there were no cars parked out front and no diners waiting to be seated. When we sat at our table I mentioned to my date that the restaurant smelled funny…”yeah, it smells like urine”. That should have been our second clue, but we were ravenous.

We perused the menu and decided to try the steak tips…it’s virtually impossible to make bad steak tips…that’s what I thought anyway. Our waitress, who was actually very nice, brought us our water (which tasted like dirt, but the lemon slice garnish helped mask that) and bread and butter. Nothing fancy, but it was enough to tide us over until our meals arrived. The steak tips were little brown chunks of meat that in no way were cooked medium rare and tasted like they had been sitting on the grill for hours. The chicken wings weren’t any better unless you prefer chicken wings overcooked to the point that they shrivel and dry out. The baked potato wasn’t even hot enough to melt room temperature butter and the brown spot, that was just gross. The veggies (zucchini and summer squash) weren’t hot either and barely resembled anything edible.

Bottom line, if you’re thinking of going to the Starboard Galley just go to Crapplebee’s instead.

Thanks for reading,

Muffin

P.S – Yankees suck!

Indigo Bar & Grill – Hamilton

By , December 3, 2007 2:11 pm

Just for good measure, I’m writing this post and linking all my previous posts regarding the Blue Smoke Bistro in Hamilton, Massachusetts. Some quick internet indexing posts need to be made since they changed their name to Indigo Bar & Grill. Or is it Indigo Bar and Grill. I need to write the name using both “&” and “and” in the title. I want to be sure any web searches for either name will link to this site. A friend of mine at Google suggested this. When Google speaks, you might as well listen.

Original post: Blue Smoke Bistro

Updates: Update 1, Update 2, Update 3, Update 4, Update 5 and Update 6.

Yankees suck!

Blue Smoke Bistro – UPDATE 6

By , December 3, 2007 11:50 am

OK, hopefully this will be the last update regarding the Blue Smoke Bistro in Hamilton, MA. I called their name change a while back. Read it here. I saw the new sign is now up for Indigo Bar & Grill. The old web site for Blue Smoke Bistro is gone and they have a new site up for Indigo. See it here. Kinda weird that I’ve been to place in San Diego with a similar name. Indigo Grill in San Diego’s Little Italy. It’s actually a great place for MezCal food which is tough to stand out against the competition in San Diego.

Now, a few things caught my attention. The new site for Indigo Bar & Grill is pretty decent. It’s fast, clean and too the point. They posted their menus online and I give them points for posting their menus in HTML instead of linking to a PDF document. Nothing irritates me more than linking to PDFs. For some reason many restaurants love to post their menus in PDF. Cala’s Restaurant posts it’s menus in PDF. So, obviously these restaurants don’t have a contiguous marketing/web strategy despite being under the same ownership. It’s not like they really need that sort of strategy, but it shows a lack of focus. The Indigo Grill’s website in San Diego links their menus with PDFs. Damn it all!

Next, in the upper left it says, “Website Coming Soon.” Ok. What the hell am I look at then if the web site is coming soon? It looks like the web site is there. And it’s actually done well. What are they going to add? Please, it’s the one thing you’ve done right. Dont plan on screwing it up in the future. The web site is fine. Slick, non-complex graphic. Linked menus and the address. What more do you need? It’s not like the place is even close to being busy enough to take online orders or reservations. Maybe they’ll add some cool, colorful fly over graphics. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Here’s what’s funniest. It quickly explains their recent name change. So they changed the name. But they claim nothing else is changing. Now that’s a shame. “Same location, same ownership and same great food,” they say. That’s all great except for the food part.

Yankees suck!

Blue Smoke Bistro – UPDATE 2

By , October 15, 2007 9:31 pm

Again, I still haven’t been back there, but I did receive an e-mail out of the blue from someone who just started food blogging in my area. Glad to know there’s one more of us.

Resto-Rant is a new food blog with only one post so far. Would you believe it’s a review of the Blue Smoke Bistro? It appears she had an even worse experience than I did. To the restaurant’s credit, I did have pretty good service unlike my fellow reviewer. It seems we had everything else was in sync though.

Welcome Resto-Rant! I hope you find better places to review. I have a tons of great local restaurant experiences to write about when I have the time. I’ll catch up one day. No, seriously. I will. Yankees suck!

Restaurant Week – Boston

By , August 14, 2007 10:15 pm

Restaurant Week is an event which showcases a number of Boston restaurants offering special dining promotions of three-course lunches and dinners for fixed prices of $20.07 and $33.07 respectively. The idea is for people to visit the city and try restaurants they normally wouldn’t visit. It’s a great idea. On paper.

So I go into Boston the weekend before last dying to tryout a new place for dinner. I pick up a friend in the late afternoon and we took a stroll up Charles Street, walk across that bridge that connects Cambridge & the West End, and back again. It seemed like the entire time we were walking we volleyed back and forth: Chinese or Italian? Steak or seafood? Sushi or Indian? French or Ethiopian? Creole or Greek? What do you want? I don’t know. What do you want? Whatever you want. Seriously, what do you want? I don’t care. Well just pick something! You pick something. Come on. Why can’t you pick something? Cause it doesn’t really matter to me. Same here. Well, where do you NOT want to go. I don’t know. I hate it when you can’t make a decision. Well it sucks when you’re harshing on me for not picking something when you can’t pick something either. FUCK!

We’ve all been there …

The indecisive banter continues … what neighborhood we should dine in rather than the food type? Alston or Fenway? South End or Kendall Square? Financial District or Harvard Square? She says, Back Bay! I say, I hate the Back Bay, nothing but a bunch of banker/lawyer clowns talking about their weekends with Muffy on The Island. I say Theater District. She says there’s nothing but bums over there. I’m like, it’s not as bum infested as pretty much all of downtown San Francisco. We both chuckle. What happened next seems like a simultaneous stroke of genius on both our parts. A complete rarity. It was staring us right in the face and neither of us knew it. All of a sudden we look at each other and say, synchronously, “North End!!” Hells yeah! Probably one of the few things we agreed on all day.

We cruise over to the North End and discover half of the North End streets were closed down for the Saint Agrippina di Mineo Feast. It looked cool. They had a bunch of street vendors serving food, selling jewelry and offering carnival style games. There was a stage where some old fat Italian guy was belting out Volare. He had a pretty good voice. The feast was pretty small considering how much of the neighborhood was blocked off. I was like, they screwed up traffic for this? The upside was that we could walk around in the streets and not worry about being plowed by a cement truck.

The North End is by far my favorite area of Boston. It’s known as Boston’s Little Italy, but has had numerous ethnic groups occupying its borders since it’s inception as Boston’s first official settlement and oldest residential community. Plenty of big U.S. cities have some sort of “Little Italy” area or district. In Manhattan there’s Mullberry Street. In San Francisco there’s North Beach. Mullberry street was a nice experience. But in San Francisco’s North Beach isn’t all that. You wouldn’t even know it was a Little Italy if it weren’t for a few tattered Italian flags hanging from the light poles. Italian restaurants down there suck. Pinocchio’s, Molinari’s, Tosca, Vesuvio, Cafe Zeotrope and Caffé Greco are great, fun places, but everything else is for the birds. Don’t waste your time in The Steps of Rome. I guess it’s a cool place for faux Italian’s to hang out and watch soccer, but most of the guys in there are Persians sporting brightly colored European soccer shirts and wearing sunglasses at night.

Anyway, I love the North End. It has a true Italian vibe going. I know, I spent two consecutive summers in Italy. As you walk down the street you pass by dozens of tiny Italian restaurants and pastry/coffee shops. You smell garlic one second. Espresso the next. Over and over. I love it! We’ve dined at Florentine Cafe more times than I can count. The Daily Catch is, well a catch! Il Panino Express, great sandwiches. Lucca, amazing!

We decided to try something new. Wandering around aimlessly, we wanted to find a nice place where we could dine at the bar and watch the Red Sox game. And preferably someplace with large open windows. The weather was amazing. We walk past a place called Bacco. It looked nice, menu was reasonably priced, had a bar, a TV, wide open windows facing the sun, smokin’ hot hostess … Perfect!

bacco.jpg

We grab a seat at the bar and I say, mango martini for me and a cosmo for my lady friend. The service was a bit slow considering on how dead it was and how many people they had behind the bar. We sipped our drinks, watched the game, made fun of people walking past the windows, under our breath. The menu looked good. Wine list was fair. I asked what the daily fresh seafood was that came with their Frutti di Mare. He said that they weren’t serving the full menu due to Restaurant Week. I really didn’t understand what Restaurant Week was all about. He handed me a sheet of paper with the special Restaurant Week menu. I was all like, why the hell did he give us the full menus, let us look at them for 15 minutes, then wait to tell us we can’t order off it and then finally hand us a significantly smaller menu. Stupid.

That’s when I learned about the “pre fixe” menu baloney. We’d get an appetizer, main course and dessert for $33. They had only a few selections for main courses and none were the Frutti di Mare I was all ready for. Turns out this fixed price menu only saved us about four bucks. Basically a free dessert. This wasn’t much of a value to me since I rarely eat dessert, and when I do, never in the same restaurant I had dinner. I like going for a walk and finding another place to sit and have some coffee and a cannoli. Irritated, we decide to stay and order anyway since probably every other restaurant has the same deal.

I can only think that some guy was saying … “I got an idea! Let’s get drum up interest in local restaurants by limiting all the menus!” “BRILLIANT!!”, the Guinness guy replies. One argument was that if you have fixed prices, people can go to some of the more expensive participating restaurants and try out their food at a bargain basement price. This argument is weak. Read on …

I order the Caprese salad with vine ripened tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil as my appetizer. I selected the Veal Florentine with seared spinach, pignoli, fontina cheese, pan seared gnocchi, and a vermouth glaze as my entrée. My friend ordered Prosciutto di Parma with warm grilled pears, gorgonzola and balsamic vinegar for her app. Chicken Marsala with wild Mushrooms and polenta for her main course. As for the wine, Bramosia Chianti for her; Buckeley Shiraz for me.

It took about twenty minutes for the appetizers to arrive. As customary we split the apps. Everything was fine with the apps except for there was no basil on my Caprese salad. It was on a bed of field greens. No basil in sight. The workers seemed pretty busy, so I over looked it. I don’t understand why they were so busy though. The place was dead. I think there was an upstairs part, but no noise was coming from up there. And they kept bringing out trays and trays of clean glasses to stock behind the bar. I’m all like, this place is dead, who the hell is dirtying all these glasses?

So the food comes. Now, I’m very picky, yet very tolerant when it comes to dining out, if that makes any sense. The veal was tough and fatty. Obviously not a good cut of meat. Gnocchi was cold. As was the spinach and the vermouth glaze. My first instinct was to send it back, but I was so freaking hungry I couldn’t wait for them to fix it. My friend asked for a bite of my dinner. I gave her a slice off the one side that was warmer than the other. If she knew it was cold, she wouldn’t have let me sit there and not ask for them to fix it. Honestly, I just wanted to get out of there. I had a bite of her chicken marsala. Pretty good. We wolf down the complementary tiramisu and bailed out. What sucked more was that my tiramisu was partially frozen on one half and almost room temperature on the other.

It’s my conclusion that the restaurants weren’t trying that hard to push out quality meals in the Restaurant Week pricing format. I can’t imagine that the real expensive places would give you $100 food for $33. Then again, I only sampled one place. The net-net of it all … Bacco sucks. However, the wine was great.

We leave Bacco and there was some sort of random marching band across the street. Pretty cool.

band.jpg

We’re walking back towards Hanover Street and we walk by a restaurant called Trattoria il Panino e Giardino. It smelled so awesome walking by. They had a great little outdoor garden dining area. That’s going to be my next dining experience in the North End I assure you. We’re walking up Hanover street looking for a quiet bar to watch the rest of the Sox game. We pass Mike’s Pastry. This place has some of the best pastries, cannolis, cookies and Italian bread you will ever find. It’s nearly impossible for you to walk anywhere in the North End and not see people carrying white & blue Mike’s Pastry boxes tied up with twine. I love it!

After wandering around for ten minutes we end up at the Waterfront Cafe on Commercial Street near the Coast Guard station. Awesome little Italian pub with an excellent selection of beers. Flat screen TVs everywhere! We finished watching the game. The Red Sox won, 4-3!

I took a picture of the vending machine in the bathroom. With a pretty girl in the bar, awesome beer on tap, Sox on TV, gorgeous weather, and this stuff in the vending machine … what more do you need? Yankees suck!

vending.jpg

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