Maine Peekytoe Crab Cake

Maine Peekytoe Crab Cake

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!

Ristorante Fiore

This restaurant, located on Hanover Street in the North End, holds the record of my boyfriend’s favorite meal in all of Boston: Bombolotti alla Vodka. He’s never ordered another entrée at this restaurant and doesn’t plan on doing so in the future. I’ve maybe been there 5 times and have ordered it 4 out of the 5 times (my first time there I wasn’t aware of how special it was). It’s truly delicious, I enjoy their signature pasta over the everyday penne, and they get the vodka sauce just right without being too creamy.

Bread: three different types are served with EVOO. There is a biscuit type of roll that is the only one that’s worth going back for seconds.

Menu: traditional Italian menu, with sections of Antipasti, Insalate, Primi, Secondi, Contorti, and their signature pastas. Presentation: not much you can do with a bowl of pasta, but the Insalata di Pomodoro was laid out beautifully with the tomatoes and mozzarella overlapping each other, basil at each end. Everything appeared fresh and that much more appetizing!

Bathroom: the low point of the night for me, but don’t think that means I wouldn’t recommend this restaurant. It’s a small bathroom with 4-5 stalls, nothing that really grabbed my attention. It was neat & clean, so I’m not complaining. But the lack of originality didn’t matter; I was still thinking about my entrée and anxiously awaiting the best tiramisu in town.

Wait Staff: I’ve never had a disappointing waiter here, but this evening we had a lovely waitress who could not have been more adorable and pleasant. Attentive, checked up on us at appropriate times, always a smile on her face (and mine as well every time she approached the table).

Overall: I’ve never had any complaints about Fiore. I look forward to sitting on their roof deck in the summer!

The Perfect Bite: Insalata di Pomodoro. Fresh basil, fresh tomato, fresh mozzarella, olive oil. Yes, I emphasized the “fresh” because that’s exactly how it tasted.