I had written recently, in response to a poster's quest for Batali-like food in this area, that the poster should go to Marco, as it was modeled after Lupa, one of Batali's restaurants in NYC which I adore. When Marco first opened, it was as billed- very Lupa-ish in the best of all possible ways. That was last fall. I went back last night and was really disappointed, I have to say.
We started with an arugula salad with pancetta, parmesan and fingerling crisps. The arugula was woefully underdressed- and that's the thing about Lupa that I enjoy so much - though the food at Lupa is very simple, it is all about quality and correct seasoning. Everything is always spot on and Lupa in that sense, and it was at Marco too when it first opened, but no longer. The salad wasn't bad, it just wasn't good.
We then had a very expensive shrimp scampi appetizer, which was fine, but also underseasoned. It was served in a bowl with a garlic brodo and more of the bread, which was soaked in it. It was good, but not incredible, and for $19 for 3 shrimp, it should have been.
Next was a special, a mushroom and truffle risotto. Also underseasoned. At that point I had to ask for salt, which wasn't on the table, and which I almost never do, but I just had to do it. On the positive side of things, the broth the risotto was made with was clearly homemade and there were nice chunks of carrot and celery in it, and the mushrooms were good. But it was missing that extra "wow" factor that could/should have been there.
Finally, we shared the mixed grill special, which was flank steak, a pork and a chicken sausage. The steak was good and seasoned well. But the sausages were so incredibly dry, we just didn't bother to finish them and we didn't take them home either- a first for me! They tasted good, but the texture was unpleasant.
Service was goo- they were on top of things but not on top of us, so that's one thing the place has going for it. And really, if I hadn't liked Marco so much last fall, I wouldn't have been nearly as disappointed, I think, I would have just felt that it was an average North End meal. But knowing what it was and what it could be made it frustrating.
I too was unimpressed at my first visit, about a month and a half ago. I had never heard of Marco, but a friend wanted to try it. I really,really wanted to like this palce. It was a nice space and so many items on the menu sounded apealing. I ordered a few apps as my meal in order to experience as many tastes as possible.
We shared an app of Oven-baked black mission figs with gorgonzola and pancetta which was pretty good, so I was psyched. (What is with the whole fig craze lately?).
I had always read about and was very excited to try cod cheeks and Marco offered fried cod cheeks as an app. Yeah, they had a nice texture, but they weren't many steps above a box of frozen VanDeKamps fish nuggets. I was very excited about ordering the house-cured salumi of seasonal house-cured specialties...I'll stick to the excellent selection available at Purity Cheese on Endicott, bummer. We shared a pasta dish (I forget what it was) that was unremarkable as well.
I really don't like to comment on the negatives of any dining establishment, but there seems to be so much potential, yet sadly, poor execution. The service was very good, but bottom line, when I go to a restaurant it's for the food.
If in the future, they manage to pull it together I will return, but until someone on this board posts otherwise, I'll steer clear. As mentioned in the earlier post I just can't justify the prices for the quality.
I'm always willing to give a place the benefit of the doubt, because sometimes that happens, you just have an off night, it occurs even at some of my favorite spots.
As I'm sure many on this board would likely concur, you can go to a place and know that the potential is there, but they just didn't deliver, and there are those dining experiences when you know the best solution is to burn the place down to the ground.
I'd Like to think of Marco as the former