North End - Marcuccio's
- Michael Apr 15, 2001 11:10 AM
My wife and I are just home for Easter from a Friday night/Saturday in Boston for the Red Sox and food (Friday night was great for the Sox, but Saturday afternoon gave it all back). We stayed at the Club Quarters in the Financial district (good place, great deal) and were really looking forward to eating in the North End. After checking out the January thread about Trattoria S etc. and checking Zagat's, I chose Marcucio's. Boy, were we disappointed! The service was dis-interested at best, with no apparent ability to help me through the wine list (at least no enthusiasm, maybe no knowledge?) and not much help or excitement about the menu. To really sample the offerings we went with appetizers and 1/2s of multiple entrees, and it did nothing for me. I understand what they're going for with the fresh herb, light broth thing but it's also ended up meaning zero richness and a very thin taste. What they call risotto has little resemblance to any I'd want. The spicy shrimp risotto ends up a simple spanish rice style dish with some shrimp on top. Too bad. The one up side was a seared scallop appetizer that was pretty nice, but all in all a disappointment. We had spoken with someone who compared it favorably to Blue Ginger (out in Wellesly) as very creative variations on terrific ethnic food. Not close. (Blue Ginger was fabulous a month ago, the Sea Bass everything it's claimed to be and everything else we sampled being really special) Oh, well, we'll try again soon and hope for better.
Sage is tiny and outstanding. HIGHLY recommended.
Taranta is a great new place with upscale Italian "peasant food". It really has some authentic items not typically found at the red sauce places throughout much of the North End. One of the items which appears throughout the menu is "bottarga" - which comes from the belly of a fish yet is dried out and has a very concentrated flavor of the ocean. It is ofent scraped over the top of dishes to add a geat del of flavor. Mario Batali, of Babbo in NYC, is a proponent. Taranta does nice things with it. Here is a link to the restaurant.
In Marcuccio's defense, I have to say that I have had two of the finest meals of my life there. No hyperbole, just fact. Thing is, these meals were eaten before the fall of 2000, when Charles Draghi was the chef. Since he left (first to supervise the menu planning at Limbo, a jazz bar, and then to open his own place in the South End that as far as I know is still under construction), Marcuccio's has been a shell of its former self.
Go to LoConti's across the street from Marcuccio's instead. I have eaten dozens of times at this restaurant and when I have guests to entertain who want a true taste of the North End without breaking the bank, I take them here. Specialties include fantastic and simple pasta dishes such as tortellini pesto and linguini with shrimp and vegetables, as well as a classic cioppino that my boyfriend orders every time. The best thing on the menu is the sauteed broccoli, which you can eat as an appetizer or side dish for your main course -- it's garlicky and lemony and perfectly textured. The service is friendly and though the wine list is limited, we got frank and honest recommendations about what they had. I once had the best bottle of Pinot Grigiot that I had ever tasted. Please go and support this fantastic restaurant, and you won't be disappointed. Plus, the portions are large, so you will probably walk away with something left over for lunch.