Prezza: North End's Newest
Again off the suggestion of my dining mag girlfriend, my folks and I dined at Prezza last night, the North End's newest restaurant, tucked away on Fleet St.. It boasts a full bar and a 25yr old chef who is the newest protege of Todd English.
We arrived without reservations and at first I thought that we were not going to get a table. The bar is the only thing you can see from the standing-room-only lobby and it was packed with very casually dressed yuppies, who were all sipping on cosmopolitans. It was very loud, and I was shocked that we were able to get a table immediately and that the restaurant was relatively empty. Even at half capacity, the noise hinders conversation. There is nothing in the shiek grey decor that absorbs sound.
We were sat in an ample half-booth near the back of the restaurant. I sat in the odd chair out which was decidedly confortable. Within seconds the waitress took our drink order. On the cue of the yuppies of the bar I ordered a cosmo, thinking that it was a specialty of the house. It turned out to be standard and over-priced, even for a downtown cosmo. However, my disappointment with the drink was quickly allieviated by the dish of olives and basket of warm peasant bread which arrived a few moments after my cosmo. The olives were easily the best I ever had-- far better than the olives I get at the salumerias around the North End-- tender and flavorful with a fresh taste I had never encountered before with olives. I have to believe that they either cure their own or get these specially ordered, because I have never had such delictable olives in my life.
Upon the recomendation of the waitress, we started with the crispy Zuccini flowers appitizer ($10). We all expected strips of zuccini carved into a mock flower shape, but instead we were presented with actual flowers, presumably from the blossom of zuccini plant, deep-friend and laid over a creamy polenta and topped with a tomato-pancetta ragu. While the flowers had very little substance to them, the dish itself was remarkable. The pancetta marbled the ragu with a tasty saltiness that complimented the fresh sweetness of the bright red stewed tomatoes. The gorgeous color and fresh taste of the tomatoes, made me believe that they were purchased from the same gourmet genius that provided the olives---or perhaps they were stewed fresh on the premises.
After the triumph of the first two courses, the meal hit a plateau. I had the double thick pork chop ($20), my father the scallops ($24) and my mother the lobster pasta ($18). The chop was thicker than any I'd ever seen, but was not trimmed as well as I'd like. It was served with a garlic-nutty port sauce and served over spinach. Very good, filling and ample, but nothing spectacular or surprising. The scallops on the other hand were inspired. While there wasn't much food on the plate, it was fantastic. Five large scallops, seared to a salty-caramel coating and served around a seared polenta and topped with long strips of thin shaved aspargus which had been pickled with hot peppers of some sort. The lobster pasta was nice, big pieces of lobster, likely a whole 1.5 pounder, tossed in fresh wide noodles and served in a spicy fra diavlo. Unfortunately for my mom, the quick spicyness of the sauce did not mesh very well slow sweetness of the lobster, making it the weakest dish to be presented that night.
Well, all this tasty reminicence is making me hungry. In sum, Prezza is a standout compared to most of the over-hyped expensive joints of new gourmet on Hanover and Salem. Great food, fresh preparation and inventive with out being over radical. I'd recomend going on a weekday if possible, as the noise in that room on a packed weekend night would be a serious hindrance to conversation.