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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The North End Restaurant Series Part 1 - Marco

We Bostonians are being punished.

No, not by the Red Sox.  Well…yes, by the Red Sox, but that’s not what I’m talking about.  I’m talking about the weather.

We had an extremely mild winter; in fact, Boston had the second least amount of snow it had ever received in recorded history.  Unfortunately, we have been paying for it the last couple of months in chilly weather.  Oh, it’s been nice out when I’m stuck in my office.  But generally, it’s been kind of cold and grey. 

Last Saturday, we woke up to news that it was to be pretty nice out Saturday, so we decided to go to the North End.  For those of you not from around here, the North End is like the Little Italy of New York.  We had read good things about a restaurant named Marco, and being that more and more restaurants in the North End are serving gluten free pasta, we thought that this would be a good place to go.  Needless to say, the weather turned out to be... cold and grey, which wasn’t the nicest weather to walk around in.

Marco is upstairs from another restaurant, so it was rather hot in their smallish dining room, but we were seated by an open window that let in a very slight breeze.  Our waiter came over and he knew that I was gluten free based on the reservation we made through Open Table.  We discussed the pasta, which is not made in the restaurant.  I thought I had previously read somewhere that they served Glutino pasta.  As it turns out, all of their pasta is from a box except for the pasta they make for their Bolognese.

Now I should say that I have not eaten in the North End for quite a while.  Quite frankly, except for one or two places, I am often underwhelmed by the quality of the food, so I wasn’t holding out much hope.  I’m glad to say I was wrong.

Cathy and I shared an appetizer of figs that had been stuffed with goat cheese and wrapped with prosciutto.  Figs have kind of a peachy strawberry-like flavor, which played well off of the creaminess of the goat cheese and the saltiness of the prosciutto.  There wasn’t a ton of goat cheese, which I think was great, because sometimes too much goat cheese can overwhelm the dish.

Then they brought over some bread.  Because we had made our reservation early enough, they brought over some gluten free bread.  They also brought over some separate extra virgin olive oil for me to dip the bread in and some honey.

Then the main course came.  You can order ½ orders of their pasta, so for you – my readers – I sacrificed myself and ordered a ½ order of two different pastas.  It’s a tough job…but someone’s gotta do it.

I ordered - what would have been cavetelli but was gluten free bow ties - with little neck clams, sausage, spinach and tomato.  The clams were slightly overcooked, but the sausage had good flavor.  There must have been some red pepper flake in there somewhere, as there was some heat.

But the star of the show was my second half order, the Bolognese.  Everybody’s Bolognese is a little different.  My personal favorite recipe is from Anne Burrell, and you can find it here.  This was different, made with some cream, but still hearty, filling and delicious.  The gluten free pasta they used was slightly thicker than the tagliatelle they normally use, but it was still cooked perfectly. 

We were full, but our waiter talked us into a slice of their flourless chocolate tort.  It was dense and full of chocolate flavor.

We were comped the two cappuccinos because it took a while for them to come out, so that was a very nice surprise.  The bill, which included what essentially was a bottle of wine, came to $127 before tip.
And of course, as luck would have it, as we were leaving to go home, the sun came out.  I guess though, I shouldn’t complain.  Tomorrow the temperature is going to be in the high 90's.  And the winter was pretty good.  I mean, we could always have a repeat of this.

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