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Sagra is open

p
penny Feb 4, 2007 06:20 PM

Sagra, the new restaurant incarnation at 400 Highland St, Somerville, opened today. We started with the medley of fritture - some calamari, arancini, olives, croquettes, and mezzalune potatoes. Everything was fried to perfection - wonderfully crisp on the outside and luciously creamy on the inside. Then I had the grilled chicken, pounded thin, grilled perfectly (cooked through but still tender and moist), with intense rosemary. My DC had the Italian version of fish and chips: baccala alla Romana, fried salted cod with those wonderful mezzalune potatoes. For dessert, we shared the Torta al vino (wonderfully moist and flavorful, not too sweet). The prices are affordable (most entrees under $20) with a good selection of wines. Eating at Sagra is like eating at fine neighborhood restaurants in Italy. Much of the cuisine is from Le Marche (near Umbria), but it reminded me of restaurants I've been to in Milan - simple, but superbly executed preparations, with intense fresh flavors. I'm happy to have it my neighborhood.

  1. Rubee Feb 17, 2007 07:28 PM

    Appreciate all the reports on this thread - have reservations for next week , and we're really looking forward to checking it out. Thanks 'Hounds! Will report back.

    1. n
      newhound Feb 17, 2007 05:10 PM

      Went tonight, and had an experience totally in line with the mixed reports here. Calamari app was very good, but the rings were better than the tentacles, which were tentacle-shaped batter bombs with little squid at the core-- the result of slight overfrying. My Tuscan cannelini soup was truly enjoyable-- hearty and thick and a generous portion, with small cubes of prosciutto. Certainly worth ordering.

      DC had a fairly straightforward Margherita pizza, crisp and with abundant basil and sliced fresh mozzerella-- the kind of pizza that we all swooned over ten years ago but that is fairly easy to come by these days. My "pork two ways" main was very good-- a homemade pork sausage that was tender and really flavorful in a comforting way, alongside nicely seasoned and grilled ribs. The "broccoli rabe" it was served with was really broccolini, well-cooked and seasoned.

      The service was almost comically inept, in a sweet and earnest way. They seemed a waitress or two short, and our server came to the table with our Chianti, realized she didn't feel confident in opening it at the table, and returned a minute later after the bartender uncorked it. She was rushing to too many tables, and admitted that she was on her third night. The hostess was bussing at times, and it all worked but can work better.

      This place has definite potential-- you could take your hip cousin and your grandmother together and everyone would be satisfied-- especially once they get the serving and mangement kinks ironed out.

      2 Replies
      1. re: newhound
        pamalamb Feb 18, 2007 04:50 AM

        Just wondering, where else do you go for pizza like that? I've had similar at Antico Forno, but I can't say that Boston has an abundance of real thin-crust pizza.

        1. re: newhound
          Sgt Snackers Feb 18, 2007 06:23 AM

          Hey, were you sitting at the table next to us? :-)

          We checked out Sagra last night too. Good thing we had a reservation, since it was packed around 7:30pm and still packed when we left around 9.

          The food: very solid, quite good, certainly worth a second (or third) visit. Fairly simple presentation and cooking, but well executed. The menu has a number of interesting options and I hope they stick with the "authentic Italian" concept here; this is not a red sauce joint and I think it will be a draw even outside of the Davis Sq area.

          Appetizer of fried, stuffed green olives was very nice, not as tart as I was expecting, interesting way to start the meal.

          I had the veal milanese - large bone-in pan-fried veal chop. It was perfectly cooked, incredibly tender. Served with a side of sauteed baby spinach with lemon, again, very simple but a nice offset to the meat. DC had the gnocchi with duck ragu. It was good, but the sauce did not have very much meat and the presentation was somewhat one-dimensional: it needed at least a small garnish to offset the color of the pasta.

          Only three desserts on the menu; we had the nutella bread pudding with hazelnut semifreddo. Large piece that was easily shared. Not too sweet, with a bit of bitterness in the chocolate; deep-red blood orange segments provided a good counterpoint to the dessert.

          The food was very well-prepared; the dishes all seemed to need a little extra something to feel complete. For example, the veal and spinach really could have used one more side (say, a bit of polenta or risotto) to round out the plate. The menu does list all of the sides which can be ordered separately, but I prefer the chef to put the whole plate together for me.

          As others have pointed out, the service is pretty green. Most of the waitresses did not seem to have much experience. Funny things like one waitress interrupting us mid-bite to ask if she could take our bread plates, although the bread had been taken up 20 minutes earlier when the appetizer arrived. (I would have preferred the bread to stay on the table throughout the meal.) The owners -- at least I assume it was them -- two substantially-proportioned police-officer-looking types -- were also making quite a presence in the dining room, bringing menus and wine -- charming but maybe not very professional. It kind of reminds me of the service at Vinny's at Night, which can be endearing but somehow does not fit the decor and concept that they're shooting for at Sagra, which is a little less casual.

          All new restaurants have their kinks to work out, but I think this one could end up being a winner. We'll be going back.

        2. SEH Feb 16, 2007 07:06 AM

          I had a good spur of the moment V-Day meal here the other night. I'm in the hood and wanted to try it since 400 Highland came and went so fast I never even got there. Was not a fan of the food in it's Sauce days.

          Fully expected to maybe share an app or pasta dish and get pizza. But they had a V-Day menu for $45/pp that looked pretty good and we both saw stuff we'd be happy with. The food overall was very good. Service was pretty bad, although nice and well meaning. The hour wait past our reservation time was totally forgiven due to the weather and I know people had had trouble getting to work. The waitress was sort of clueless though about serving. I guess keeping the prices reasonable, you are hiring newbies. I can take it. I'll be back for that pizza/app meal. BTW, Marissa was in the kitchen that night. Wonder how long she'll stick around??

          1. t
            Taralli Feb 16, 2007 06:00 AM

            Here's todays Daily Candy on Sagra: http://www.dailycandy.com/article.jsp...

            1. b
              bellashoes Feb 14, 2007 02:58 PM

              went there(friday) with friends sat at the bar and had the sagra pizza
              there was no drink menu yet.
              the two bartenders that were on(two small girls very cute) were very friendly and both of them had smiles
              on there faces, they both were very helpfull to us.
              all tho i do think the wine list is a bit to much
              there was far to many wines on there for me.
              I will make sure i go back.

              1. c
                corduroy79 Feb 12, 2007 06:05 PM

                Went to Sagra tonight for some food and drinks and overall it was pleasant enough... the croquettes appetizer were quite tasty (deep fried crusted bechamel sauce, with grated cheese on top). As my entree i got the tagliatelle with a ragu of wild mushrooms. Unfortunately it wasn't much of a ragu at all and the pasta was all kindda clumped together - just a tiny bit more sauce wouldve improved the dish greatly. my friends ordered the chicken parm and the ravioli - neither of which were particularly inspired choices - nor where they inspired dishes. anyway, overall, it was good enough that Ill be going back, hopefully with a more adventurous crowd and try some, of what seemed to be, more traditional dishes on the menu... the service was a tad bit slow on a quiet monday night, but I'll give the kitchen some time to get used to things before judging them on that. this place has potential...

                3 Replies
                1. re: corduroy79
                  p
                  phoebek Feb 13, 2007 11:11 AM

                  You might get a kick out of this - the night we were there, the owner came by to say hello, and somehow mentioned that the "North End Favorites" (which includes the chicken parm) were put on the menu sort of as a joke. Much to the chef's dismay, the chicken parm has turned out to be one of the most popular entrees so far. The owner also said that the menu was still in progress, so it'll be interesting to see whether those "favorites" get a permanent place on the final menu.

                  1. re: phoebek
                    Joanie Feb 14, 2007 05:11 AM

                    There's nothing wrong with a good chicken parm.

                    1. re: Joanie
                      p
                      phoebek Feb 16, 2007 11:52 AM

                      Granted, but I guess it wasn't the direction that the chef wanted to go in (sorry for ending with a preposition.)

                2. b
                  Bluebell Feb 10, 2007 05:18 PM

                  Inspired by these other posts, spouse, daughter and I went to Sagra tonight. By 8pm, the place was pretty full! I had a really yummy Zuppa Quatta--a vegetable/red wine broth, with grilled bread and cheese in it. Had never tried it before, but I'd recommend it to others. Husband had a decent bitter greens salad, and kid enjoyed her mezzaluna potatoes as an app. Bread basket came with a whipped ricotta and herbs, plus a nice fruity olive oil pour. Good wine by the glass selection, very reasonably priced. No separate cocktail list, but I saw one table getting a martini. IMO, the cocktail list was the real draw at 400 Highland, so it's interesting they are not playing it up here.

                  Entrees were not as impressive. Husband's swordfish was a thinnish piece, and the caponata mix of veggies was a bit flat. I had the tagliatelle w/ wild mushroom ragu, and it was pretty plastered together at the center. Kid had a standard mac and cheese, with a nice breadcrumb topping.

                  Service was pleasant, and I expect the efficiency will improve as time goes on. For one week, things were running fairly well. It seems like a good change for the neighborhood!

                  1. p
                    phoebek Feb 9, 2007 05:03 PM

                    Sagra saga continues - tried to get some friends to come with us tonight, but they were otherwise engaged, so the number of items we could try was limited. Had the calamari - and will echo the compliments, particularly since it was served with a nice light aioli, rather than the ubiquitous and oh so boring red sauce served at many other places. DC had the lamb - an interesting combo of a loin chop and two shoulder chops, all beautifully cooked - the loin chop was more tender, but the shoulder chops were a much thinner cut, absolutely infused with flavor (maybe from being marinated). Following mmmangia's lead, I had the rigatoni della casa --I'm a sucker for sausage and rabe - the garlicky flavor was distinct but not overpowering, and the sausage delivered just the right amount of heat. One of the owners came over to chat - a nice touch, considering that we didn't know him personally, and many of the other patrons seemed to be friends. Our server was just the right mix of friendly and professional. Prices--both food and wine-- are extremely reasonable. Sorry, but i didn't check to see if they had a good cocktail list, though I did see someone drinking some sort of martini, and they do have a full bar. I'd say that they're doing quite well, considering that this is still their first week of operation, and I'll definitely return.

                    1. pamalamb Feb 7, 2007 11:21 AM

                      Is there a good cocktail list? Or is it more of a wine place?

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: pamalamb
                        pamalamb Feb 12, 2007 04:43 PM

                        I went for drinks with a friend tonight, and I thought I'd answer my own question here in case anyone is interested.

                        They do not have a cocktail list yet, but there is a full bar. The bartender said it is something they are working on. We shared the sagra pizza (cheese, garlic, rosemary, proscuitto, maybe onions?) which was excellent. The crust was super thin and very reminiscent of being in Italy. Can't wait to go back to try some more dishes.

                      2. t
                        Taralli Feb 5, 2007 05:20 AM

                        Do they have a bar where you can eat?

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Taralli
                          m
                          mmmangia Feb 6, 2007 11:38 AM

                          there is a bar indeed, and there was a couple who were dining there last night.

                          i was there and had the rigatoni della casa. absolutely perfect!! spicy, tender sausage, and thankfully perfectly executed. pasta is so easy to get right, but so often done wrong. the flavors, texture, and appearance of the dish were worth twice the price.

                          also had the fried calamari to start with. that too was perhaps as good as any i have ever had, without exageration. i have not tried it yet, but the pizza i did see looked like those i've only seen in naples.

                          i saw one of the owners as well. name george, or josh. nice to go to a restaurant where the owners care enough to show their faces. i will go back, and soon. from what i've heard elsewhere, it's owned by three cambridge cops, and they have no relation to the prior establishments at all. the question i want answered is who exactly is the guy doing the cooking. where is he coming from, what's his background? i want to know more.

                        2. MC Slim JB Feb 5, 2007 04:43 AM

                          Does anyone know where Sagra's ownership team comes from? Is the same folks behind the two recent failures in this space, 400 Highland and Sauce?

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: MC Slim JB
                            d
                            DoubleMan Feb 5, 2007 04:55 AM

                            I heard that it was three Somerville police officers. No connection to the old spots I believe.

                            1. re: DoubleMan
                              pamalamb Feb 5, 2007 05:28 AM

                              That's good to hear. While I loved the food and drinks before, they obviously lacked something in the management area. I'm looking forward to giving the new place a try.

                            2. re: MC Slim JB
                              t
                              Taralli Feb 5, 2007 08:19 AM

                              Here's a blurb from S-online naming the chef & I now see there's a lounge.
                              http://www.townonline.com/somerville/...

                              1. re: Taralli
                                finlero Feb 5, 2007 08:24 AM

                                So is it Sabra or Sagra? The article is rather steadfast in its belief of the former...

                                1. re: finlero
                                  yumyum Feb 5, 2007 08:29 AM

                                  It's Sagra. The Journal has it wrong.

                                2. re: Taralli
                                  p
                                  penny Feb 5, 2007 01:34 PM

                                  One of the owners stopped by our table to see how we liked the meal. He said that the chef, Robert DeSimone, is his brither and that they had been trying to convince him to open his own restaurant for a while. DeSimone worked in one of Marisa Iocco's restaurants and she was there last night.

                                  BTW their website is up (although not complete): http://sagrarestaurant.com

                                  1. re: penny
                                    Rubee Feb 9, 2007 06:19 PM

                                    I think I had read that DeSimone used to be at Bricco, and that Marissa is consulting at this new restaurant. Sounds great - looking forward to checking it out.

                              2. gini Feb 5, 2007 04:24 AM

                                Thanks for the post penny, and for venturing to Sagra!

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