Owner Frank DePasquale opened Boston’s first all-natural & organic ingredient filled menu on Richmond Street in the North End. This restaurant is designed to make you feel like you’re dining in a fish bowl, as 75% of the surrounding walls are glass windows which look out onto the busy streets of this Italian influenced part of Boston. Muted by a soft white drape, the back wall radiates a rotation of neon colors that reminds me of coral one would see in the tropics. The atmosphere is sophisticated yet relaxed, perfect for a date night or dinner out with a group of friends.
Bread: Served in a basket alongside a dish of olive oil, the two breads to choose from where slices of Italian and what seemed like a rustic, hearty, multi-grain bread. The latter was worth going back for seconds.
Menu: This two page menu is presented on a clipboard, complete with Antipasti, Primi, Secondi, Contorni, and a Chef’s Tasting with a choice of a five or seven course meal. I was with a party of six, so we decided to share a few appetizers: the Bufala Mozzarella Caprese, my addition of the Soft Polenta, and the Maine Peekytoe Crab Cake. For the main course I settled on the Hand Rolled Ricotta Gnudi with a beef bolognese. My first choice (which I regret not choosing) was the chesnut & black pepper Pappardelle with wild boar, charred leeks, ricotta salata. My friend reminded me that I can’t pass up trying their bolognese, and the reason I was originally hesitant was the pasta choice: Gnudi (NEW-d) pasta is similar to a gnocchi but is lighter as it’s not made with potato. The dish was great, I enjoyed the hearty sauce, but I prefer to have my bolognese with a Tagliatelle or Penne pasta.
Presentation: Served in a deep bowl with heirloom tomatoes over basil oil & balsamic, the Caprese’s buffalo mozzarella was a unique take on the traditional Italian antipasti. The soft polenta was served (I believe) in the steel skillet it was cooked in, topped with mushrooms which I happily ignored. The polenta itself however was more creamy than gritty, which some may prefer but I like my polenta to have more of a textured taste. Three small crab cakes were placed on a long dish with a trio of aiolis.
Bathrooms: In the back towards the kitchen, I appreciated that the one stall was a separate room from the sink, which eliminated any awkward walk-ins. Yes, there are always locks on the doors, but for some reason I never trust them. The restroom was clean and modern, and I especially liked the texture of the “steel drum” like base of the sink.
Wait Staff: My boyfriend & I arrived a few minutes before the rest of the party and we were promptly seated. Our appetizers, meals, and after dinner drinks all came out at perfect times; we were not hurried to finish any dish, and were also never looking around wondering when the next course was coming out.
Overall: You can’t beat the feeling of dining at Mare; with the cool lighting and flat screens in each corner displaying photographs of Italy, you forget you’re in the hectic North End. I have no complaints about the food; my boyfriend thoroughly enjoyed his Homemade Potato Gnocci with roasted duck, and my friend made a great point that her Stripped Bass was cooked perfectly, which is not an easy task. The only unsettling part of the night was seeing the prices on the menu. I choose my Gnudi bolognese because it was a cheaper Primi, and you could certainly tell by the amount of pasta I was given. It was a perfect size only because I had a sampling of all three appetizers. I suppose you’re paying for an outstanding quality of fish and the all organic ingredients that go into making each dish, but with my current status I’d only return for a special occasion.
The Perfect Bite: I had never tried the gnudi pasta and while I did favor it’s lighter consistency over the gnocchi, the creamy aiolis with the Maine Crab Cakes was superb … I also must add an honorable mention of the palate cleanser we were given: a slice of cucumber, topped with a blood orange, and a ricotta cheese lobster mousse. Unexpected, dainty, & delicious!