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Aug 16, 2006 01:38 PM

NON-red sauce italian

Totally inspired by Heat, the new Bill Buford book about Mario Batali, and now craving Babbo, I'm looking for a rustic Italian place that, unlike Batali's, is not wildly expensive. If someone knows where I can get some of that delicious squash or pumpkin ravioli saturated in sage butter, that would also be a plus!

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  1. Grotto and Sage immediately come to mind. The whole squash/pumpkin ravioli in browned (I realize you said sage) butter phenomenom seems to be dissipating after the last two years. However, when I think creative non-red rauce, I think of these two places in Boston. Sage is the more expensive of the two. Grotto's prix fixe is a steal. Don't try and go to either during restaurant week (if offered).

    1 Reply
    1. re: Dax

      Just to be clear, I was replying more to the request for "non red sauce" and thinking about interestingly-stuffed ravioli preparations as compared with Batali-like cuisine. I have no idea if those two are Batali-like.

    2. Prezza has that exact dish (at least a lot of the time they do). And while it's not cheap, it's certainly less expensive than Babbo.

      1. Prezza's sweet corn raviolini w/ shrimp and pancetta might fit the season better than squash ravioli. $16/28 I think so not a bargain but delicious.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Joanie

          Agree with Joanie about the corn raviolini (my favorite in the summer tho my husband prefers the pea with mascarpone). The pasta dishes are seasonal, so in the fall be sure to try the chestnut raviolini with duck.

          I think Giacomo's does a nice version of the pumpkin/squash tortelloni with sage, tho haven't been there in years - too crowded for me.

          And Mare does a delicious Butternut Squash "Caramelle" - pasta shaped like a cylinder with twisted ends with a creamy squash filling, with brown butter and sage (just tried this Monday night, actually - delicious).

        2. If you are looking for Mario Batali type food you should check out Marco in the North End. Marc Orfaly modeled it after Lupa, one of Batali's restaurants in NYC. I haven't been to Marco in about a year, so I can't comment on how it is now, but I was super impressed when I went there last fall.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Posenose

            I'm also a fan of Marco. Sage, Grotto and Prezza are also very food. Marco is probably a little pricier than grotto..a little less than sage or Prezza.

          2. I had dinner at Marco about two weeks ago and had a very mixed reaction. The space is cute - being tucked away in a small room overlooking the bustle Hanover St. is a nice feeling, and the exposed brick and herringbone-patterned wood pannelling on the walls gives an earthy but not quite rustic feel to the space. The open kitchen makes the place smell amazing when you get to the top of the stairs. (Total digression: I also think the graphic design of their logo/books of matches is adorable - heraldry-meets-playing cards.) The food, however, was hit-or-miss. I appreciate the sentiment and there's skill with timing and temperature in the kitchen, but ultimately, the flavors and portions were overwhelming. We had the grilled vegetables and the fried cod cheeks to start. The veggies (and the tender foccaccia with caponata in the bread basket) were our favorite part of the meal. They tasted farm fresh, had really picked up some char from the grill, and were accompanied by a nice onion marmalade. The cod cheeks themselves were delicate puffs in a light batter, but were too salty and accompanied by way too many sliced chillis, which smothered the flavor of the fish. The portions were as huge as any I've seen. We arrived starving from a day of working out and swimming and were *stuffed* by the time we got through the appetizers (and we ordered the "small" size of each!) The quantities were so gigantic that they arrived we actually thought they'd mistakenly brought us the large - and we wanted to cancel our order for mains, but felt the kitchen might have already begun to prepare them. For entrees we had the mixed grill and the pork chop with asparagus and pan-fried potatoes. We tasted a bite of two of each and had them wrapped to bring home, which I usually wouldn't do but it just seemed like a colossal waste of food. The steak was fine, the sausages (housemade pork and chicken) too garlicky. The pork chop was juicy but way too salty and spicy. At home ended up cutting off the edges and serving it with a maple-based sauce at home to tone it down. Service was a bit 'splain-y - I don't really need an unsolicited discourse about what's in a basic caponata, thank you - but maybe that's just their version of showing enthusiasm and pride in their food. Anyway, both servers were clearly making an effort to be friendly and attentive.

            All this to say that no, I wouldn't steer someone towards Marco in general, and definitely not as a Babbo alternative. Prezza, Sage and perhaps Grotto (though it seems like a heavier, richer style of creative Italian) seem more in keeping with Babbo's style of cuisine. It's been a long time since I visited Via Matta, but they might also be a place to consider. I also wonder how Caffe Umbra would stack up in this context, delicious creative Italian, though they aren't big on pasta.