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Jun 9, 2009 04:25 AM

Western Massachusetts Eat Up: Culinary Caravan

If you love good food, good conversation, and good fun, please join us for a culinary caravan that monthly will explore the best restaurants of western Massachusetts and beyond (using some of the great recommendations here on Chowhound to determine our locations).

To get notices of our events, sign up at: .

Our first "eat up" event will be Thursday, June 25, 7pm, at Side Street Cafe in Florence, Massachusetts.

You can contact the organizers for these events on Twitter at @AteToTheBar (that's me) and @jessicawaters. You can also search for the event using the hashtags #EatUp and #westernma.

There's a tiny fee ($5) to reserve space (which is limited) and ensure our chosen restaurants aren't left "holding the salad." You'll get it back at the event--to go towards gratuities (sans $1 for administrative costs--such as maintaining the MeetUp site).

Support our fine local eateries and meet new people, all at the same time! We very much look forward to meeting and eating with you.

--AteToTheBar (aka Chris)

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  1. Had a terrific time at Side Street Cafe in Florence, Mass, last Thursday for our first event. Met a bunch of new folks.

    The server, Jen, was great, accommodating our "separate checks" request and keeping cool in the thick of it.

    The chefs honored our inaugural event with a complimentary slate of each of the menu's desserts so we could try them all (not sure I can remember them all, but they included carrot cake, key lime pie, a chocolate cake-y bomb, banana toffee cheesecake). They were all delicious. I was particularly impressed with the moistness of the carrot cake.

    Catering Chef Ginny graciously welcomed the group. Owner Patrick, who wasn't in attendance, followed up with us by responding to our interview questions, which we posted on the MeetUp site (link above), which will give you some insight into the restaurant.

    We almost universally ordered off the $20/3-course menu, a great value with myriad choices. I had the Puebla Chicken (mole chicken with a side of mango-jicama salsa). Perfectly spicy, tempered with the cool and slightly sweet salsa. Started things off with the goat cheese and honey appetizer (see pic). You may be able to tell I love sweet-savory combos.

    This is a small place, literally on a "Side Street," but, as Chef Ginny said, "A gem can be found anywhere." I recommend this one.

    Next: we'll be visiting Ristorante DiPaolo in Turners Falls, Massachusetts. Stay tuned.

    2 Replies
    1. re: AtetotheBar

      I hope you have better luck at DiPaolo than I did. My husband and I, along with another couple, went there a few weeks ago. The service was slow and the food ranged from mediocre to downright awful.

      The waiter dropped a wet bottle of opened Prosecco on my husband's back. I reached over and felt his back and it was wet. I said "Are you okay, your back is wet" to which the waiter responded "No I don't think it's wet". He didn't offer to do anything! He just walked away.

      I ordered the Fettuccine Alfredo which I hadn't had in about 25 years. I lived in St. Louis for a few years and The Hill had some 4 star restaurants that made absolutely sublime Alfredo. From all the hype about DiPaolo I thought it would be a good test dish. I have to report that it was inedible. It came as a big glob on the plate and it was so thick you couldn't even separate the strands of pasta. It was as if it had been mixed with paste. Utterly disgusting.

      One friend had the Cacciatore and the chicken was tough and the sauce tasted burned.

      Another friend had a pasta dish in which the pasta was terribly undercooked.

      On the drive home we were all expressing disappointment and a friend said "Maybe we just have to avoid the pasta"!

      I am fed up with the restaurants in the valley that charge exorbitant prices for horribly mediocre food. When I pay $20 or $30 for an entree I expect it to be better than I can make at home!

      So far, Gypsy Apple has been the best of the upscale restaurants.

      1. re: fillyfilet

        That's too bad. I've been back to DiPaolo's since the noted event and had an outstanding experience each time. Impeccable service, casually elegant surroundings; interesting menu. Their risotto (tried three different kinds in my visits) was the most well prepared I've ever had--perfect or darn near. It is somewhat expensive for the Pioneer Valley, and I too am fed up with mediocre food at high prices, but I would definitely pay to go back to this one! If you're interested in exploring other options in the Valley perhaps more to your liking you may want to join our the Western Massachusetts EatUp! "culinary caravan" at I'm going to post a "ChowDown" posting after this and give all the pertinent details to our next one at Ollie's Down Under in Shelburne Falls. Cheers.