Bella Verona -- Salem
Had a very pleasant and tasty meal at Bella Verona in Salem.
We started with a rolled eggplant appetizer -- very well cooked, not greasy, not too cheesy, and it had a scrumptious red sauce with nice bits of fresh basil to spoon over them. We used to have the ones at Carlo's Cucina (Allston) often, and these were probably better.
They serve warm crusty slices of Italian bread with a tapenade-type spread.
I also had a minestrone soup -- done in a chicken broth with lots of vegetables. Tasty, but I liked the same soup a Zafferano's in E. Boston better. My wife got a garden salad -- nothing extraordinary, but a well-done basic for $3.95.
For entrees, my wife a very simple spaghetti with marinara sauce and fresh mozzarella. It was done almost perfectly -- not oversauced -- the pasta had obvioulsy been mixed throughly with the sauce in the pan.
I had a calamari over linguini in a spicy red sauce with capers and olives. The calamari was a tad overdone, but I still enjoyed the dish.
We were too stuffed for dessert. The bill was $42 plus tax.
All in all, one of the best red sauce Italian places I've been. It's located on Essex St., right across from the Hawthorne Hotel. The room is a bit small -- probably fits about 40 people. But I believe they have a larger sister restaurant on Cabot Street in Beverly.
I probably eat at Bella Verona once a month for the last five or six years. Always consistent and always good. We're not talking mind blowingly good, but I always leave happy, full, and don't feel like I wasted a dime. Where else can you go on the north shore and get apps, entrees, dessert, and a decent bottle of wine for $100 for two people that has any kind of intimacy or atmosphere? They do close up a little early sometimes, but I think they get alot of tourists from the hotel. Service has always been good and the staff is friendly.