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Help me understand Italian food in New Hampshire (and northern New England)...please?

I am hoping in starting this topic that I do not actually insult anybody, especially those of you fond of the Italian restaurants in the New Hampshire area. That being said, in the 8 years I have lived in southern NH, I am baffled by the Italian food here. I grew up in New Haven, went to college in Providence and lived in Italy for a few years. So, I have very specific tastes when it comes to Italian food. My family is Italian, so making Italian food at home is not a problem at all. The problem is when it comes to choosing a restaurant here, my husband and I have to take Italian off the list right off the bat. We have yet to try an Italian restaurant here that is worth our money or time...we're better off staying home and cooking it ourselves. And forget the pizza...but I have learned that is to be expected for someone who grew up on New Haven apizza. But, I am thankful for that, because we have become quite adept at making pizza at home now!!

Ok, so anyway, if anyone knows what I mean, or the kind of Italian food I'm looking for...can you help me understand the difference between Northern NE Italian food vs. Southern NE Italian food, and where can we find some Italian food that we could appreciate.

PS...we enjoyed Piccola Italia the first time we tried it, but since then we've realized that it's not quite what we are after. Lucia's Tavola was a little closer, but I only had take-out, so hard to really critique based on that.

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  1. I'm not quite sure what you're asking, but I very much enjoy Three Tomatoes Trattoria
    Also, I've had some good meals at Sarducci's in Montpelier. Primo in Rockland can be very good, too.

    8 Replies
    1. re: sophie fox

      lol...I'm not sure I even know what I'm asking...it's just that the Italian food up here is so different than what I've had anywhere else, and IMO not very good. But, people that have been here forever are always recommending places to us that they think are great, and they all just fall short of that for us.

      Lebanon is far, but I like the Three Tomatoes menu...I'll have to remember it for when we end up that way! Thanks!

      1. re: solargarlic

        Can you even describe in what ways it is different than your preferred Italian foods?

        1. re: Morganna

          Morganna, I am sorry, I didn't see this before! The pizza is the easiest to describe...

          New Haven = burnt, thin but puffy crust, spicy sauce
          New England = sweet sauce, chewy thick crust

          The other stuff is harder to describe, but I find the food up here to be softer pasta, a lot of dishes where the chef adds a bunch of stuff trying to make it authentic. Not that you don't find those places everywhere, but like the carbonara - drives me crazy when the description includes "cream sauce". And I guess too I find the menus to be too big and the same every place I go.

          We've found great Indian, Thai, and Mexican restaurants so far...not so much luck with Italian food. That's what makes me so curious about this :)!

          1. re: solargarlic

            Well, the sauces here to tend to be sweet, that's something my Italian husband (raised on Long Island) has found. Sarducci's in Montpelier, VT is a place where they don't add a lot of stuff. Their dishes tend to be made from simple, fresh ingredients. I think they make their own pasta, as well, but I'm not as sure about that.

            Pizzas are way harder to come by. There are some wood oven places (Sarducci's has a wood oven) that make some nice thin crust pizzas, but they do still tend towards a sweeter sauce. I'm not sure what's up with that. :) I like a spicier sauce, as does my husband. :)

            There's a place in Barre, VT called Basil's that makes a decent thin crust NY style pizza with hot italian sausage that's the closest we've been able to find in the area to a real NY pizza. That's not saying much, but it's something, at least. Their pizza is better than any of the alternatives in the area and that's where we buy it when we get pizza takeout. I can't say the rest of their menu is very authentic, but it's tasty. :) Still, mostly with the sweet sauce, but simpler dishes with basic ingredients. And reasonable prices. :)

            I suspect the soft pasta stuff comes from the cooking history of the people who mostly settled here. It was long the standard in the British Isles to boil things until mushy. :) I think the overcooking of pasta might be blamed somewhat on that. :)

            I've never been to Italy, but we're hoping to go there for a vacation in 2011, so I can't comment on how anything compares to what's over there. :)

            1. re: solargarlic

              Your description of the differences in pizza is spot on! I am from NY, but now live in southern NH. I just can't find great pizza around here. The Gaslight in Portsmouth is about the best I have had in the area. I have resorted to making my pies again.

              I have a friend( he's Italian) from Boston, and thinks that Ristorante Massimo in Portsmouth is the best Italian food in NH. I haven't been there yet, but we are supposed to go soon.

                1. re: purchaser1

                  Honestly, I have always wanted to try this spot, but when I looked it up on here, it did not seem to get the most favorable reviews. I figured it wasn't worth traveling to or spending money on. It sure sounded like it could be the kind of pizza I would want.

          2. re: solargarlic

            I grew up in Hartford County eating a lot of Sicilian food and went to college in Hanover. I don't know much about southern NH in particular, but if you make it up to the Upper Valley, I agree Three Tomatoes is pretty good. I also recommend Ramunto's in Hanover for pizza.

        2. I think you are pretty much out of luck.
          Portland, ME has some good high end italian food, but basic red sauce italian and pizza is going to be hard to come by. CT and RI both have an italian american population of around 18%, New Hampshire is about 8% and Vermont and Maine even less. Which means that not only are you going to have less know how, but probably more importantly less access to the right ingredients.
          Come back and visit New Haven, we'll make you a large mootz apeetz, or some scarole and bean :)

          9 Replies
          1. re: EastRocker

            ha, I was afraid of that! We were just in Portland a few weeks ago, but only managed to eat some fried seafood. I did notice right away when I first moved here that not only were the restaurants lacking, but like you said, the ingredients too. That is now getting much better. Still, the only prosciutto to be found is in the deli case :P.

            Lucky me, my family is still in the New Haven area! Believe me, there aren't too many times when I am there that I do not indulge in a clam pie (which is sadly unheard of around here)!

            1. re: solargarlic

              Sorry to didn't find the more authentic possibilities in Portland, chief of which is Paciarino, opened last year by a couple direct from Milan, and serving gorgeous simple pastas (all made on the spot) and sauces, along with diverse and usually-not-seen wines, like some Sardinian and Sicilian. When you come back, you might also check out Ribollita and The Corner Room. When you do, I'll be interested in your report on authenticity, but also on taste.

              1. re: mainemal

                I would love to try any of those restaurants...looking at the menus I can almost tell that those are the kind of places I am looking for. Simple food, not chicken or pasta dishes with 10 ingredients added to it. Unfortunately we got to Portland late, for lunch, with our 2 kids. Lucky for us, we also stopped by The Standard Baking Co. Wow. Just. Wow.

              2. re: solargarlic

                angela's in manchester has sliced to order prosciutto, and several other cured italian meats.

                1. re: qianning

                  Angela's is a poor excuse compared to Providence's Venda Ravioli. Doesn't even compare. The staff is elusive and unhelpful when answering questions. Everyday products are expensive!

                  1. re: snl1129

                    I love the staff at Angela's--always friendly, though maybe not the most informed. They are always willing to hunt down Angela for an answer. I would have to agree that it's not the best-stocked or cheapest place to shop--though it's convenient if you live in the neighborhood and need veal stock or some esoteric pasta variety.

                    1. re: snl1129

                      I'm with whs, I've enjoyed my few visits at Angela's where the staff was wonderful and this is a wonderful option if going into Boston doesn't work.

                      1. re: snl1129

                        compared to the cost of gas and time and wear and tear of driving from amherst nh to boston or providence Angela's even at her higher prices is a good deal, especially if you only need a few items.

                        manchester does not have the demographics to support a venda ravioli, or my preference, boston's salumeria italiana.

                        1. re: qianning

                          Salumeria Italiana is a favorite of ours as well. My husband used to drive to Boston for me the day before Good Friday to stock up on my Easter pie ingredients...that was back when I was working and they carried Liuzzi's cheese. We couldn't find basket cheese anywhere in NH...then I discovered that Amato's in Amherst made it fresh, but now they are closed (or moved). I will have to check at Angela's to see if they have basket cheese (actually another little regional difference...it's so easy to find at Easter time in CT, virtually unknown around here.).

                2. I'm afraid EastRocker is correct in that there's not enough of an ethnic Italian population in NH, Maine or Vermont as in southern CT, NY and RI.

                  I feel your pain as I grew up near New Haven as well. I don't want to go on with this as I'll begin to rant, but there are a few standouts in these states, but few and far between. Paciarino, (as mainemal suggested) is one example of "authentic" Italian.

                  And, I'm afraid here comes the rant, if you were to serve a New Haven style pizza in New Hampshire a lot of people would hate it because "it didn't have enough cheese" or "tasted burnt." In upper New England they actually put cheddar cheese in the mix (it's a Greek pizzeria thing). IN VT it's all expensive, trendy, organic "flatbreads." Don't get me wrong as I really like Flatbread Pizza Co, but it's not Italian and neither is that disgusting Penne Ala Vodka everyone raves about in my neck of the backwoods.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: bewley

                    I can't really comment on NH/ME, but in Vermont, there are a few places that have serviceable "red sauce" Italian (you know the parm dishes, lasagna, etc.) As far as itmes like brasciole, I have yet to see it. Bove's is worshipped in the Burlington area but I find it to be dreadful (cottage cheese in lasagna, are you kidding me ??). There are a couple decent pizza options (in addition to the "gourmet" flatbreads that are $20 + for a pizza that barely serves 2). Virtually no one has an oven that is hot enough to blister the cheese and crust. Most places serving Sicilian style pizza precook the crust (probably because the oven isn't hot enough) and virtually no one tops the pizza with raw, loose sausage (most use cooked /sliced link sausage which is awful). American Flatbread does have a hot oven and I beleive the sausage is raw when placed on the pie. The product is very good but VERY expensive. Junior's in Colchester does a decent jobs but hs become pricey. They are one of the few places to get a god order of fried calamari. There is also Trattoria Delia (great Northern Italian cuisine). Three Tomatoes is decent but there pizza crust is so thin it reminds me of The Holy Wafer. I am always amazed how many more Thai/Vietnamese/Hunan/Asian places there are in this area as compared to Italian.

                    1. re: TonyO

                      Trattoria Delia is WONDERful. :)

                  2. Cucina Toscana in Nashua is probably the most authentic, owned by a Florentine named Davide. Go on a weeknight when it's not so busy and chat with him--he's a charmer. 900 Degrees in Manchester does thin crust brick oven pizza--my opinion is they don't get the oven hot enough so there isn't enough char on the crust, but you may like it. Seems like most of the Italian/pizza places are owned by Greeks. Kind of like all the sushi places being owned by Chinese--go figure, it's New Hampshire.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: whs

                      If you are in Nashua, how about Michael Timothy's? Pretty great all around, and nice, thin crusted pizzas too.

                      1. re: whs

                        I was going to say the same thing about Italian restaurants and pizza joints in NH. 20 years ago when I was up there, they were all owned by Greeks. Nutmeg in everything.

                      2. I feel your pain............................

                        I grew up in New Haven (Not Italo-American) but lived on all ethnic food. Apizza only comes fro Wooster Street. Decent Red can be found in hundreds of small restaurants throughout the city and suburbs.

                        I still live in Southern CT, but not New Haven.

                        I now am in the Merrimack Valley three days a week. From Lowell through the 495 corridor up (# to Salem and Pelham........

                        There is no decent Italian-American food. I try and try and am totally disappointed. Pizza is a joke. and it;s not just Italian-American food, Chinese is tasteless and generally inedible. Mexican is vile.

                        This is not a thousand miles from nowhere. Boston is only 45 minutes down I-93. If one could get decent ethnic food there, then the supplies are available.

                        But Johhny Whitebread who lives in the valley is content with 'plastic, tasteless' ethic food.

                        The few ethnic residents are too far removed from the food and culture of there heritage to demand quality Italian-American food.

                        I have a colleage who is 1st generation born in America Italo-American who lives in Salem. He begs me to bring takeout from New Haven everyu week or so to stock his freezer.

                        He and his family spent his last cavation at my home in Connecticut just so they could have a week of eating good Italo-American food at a different restaurannt every night.

                        It's time to make Sal's and Papa Gino's take the word pizza off there signs and menus.

                        14 Replies
                        1. re: bagelman01

                          Sorry, but you are way off to bash the Chinese and other Asian options in the route 3 corridor. Sichuan Gourmet in Billerica on 3A is, imho, the BEST chinese food around, including all of the Boston area, ditto Pho 88 for Viet Namese at Drum Hill in Lowell. Also excellent is Udupphi Bhavan for S. Indian in Lowell. There are also numerous excellent Cambodian restaurants in the Lowell area. And several other good Chinese places between Burlington and Lowell, Sichuan Palace in Chelmsford and Sichuan Garden in Burlington to name 2.

                          As for other food from non-asian cultures, you might start thinking in terms of the immigrant patterns in the area. For example there are also some wonderful Lebanese restaurants in the area and some excellent Brazilian places.

                          But if you have to have Italian and ONLY italian, well, is that so different from the mentality you ascribe to "Johnny Whitebread" , after all not all "ethnic" residents or restaurants are "italian".

                          1. re: qianning

                            ditto ditto ditto, you just named my favorite restaurants - we must dine together. Sichuan Gourmet in Billerica, is my latest addiction - once a week, I need my dan dan noodle fix - we are still working our way through the menu. :-)

                            have you done the new brazillian - Tabocas?? Portugese is awesome too in the area.

                            1. re: lexpatti

                              Lexi-I ate at The new Brazilian last week and it was quite good. For Portugese, I usually take a ride to New Bedford or Fall River

                              1. re: bagelman01

                                Have you done the portugese at Friends on Market St. or VI Seasons? We love Friends, more than Cavalieros but someone recently said VI Seasons was excellent and thats on my list now.

                              2. re: lexpatti

                                Sichuan Gourmet in Billerica, OMG! Ate there tonight for the first time. Had the Dan Dan Noodles, the dried lamb with cumin and chili, and the fried sweet potato cakes for dessert. It was fantastic! Hands down the best Chinese food I've ever had. I plan to eat here at least one more time this week (and maybe every day) before heading back to the Green Mountains.

                                1. re: rcianci

                                  soo glad you loved it, I have a continuous thread on this place as I go several times a month (always trying new things) - if you need more great choices, check it out:


                                  latest addiction is now the wontons in chili oil - OMG!!!!

                              3. re: qianning

                                I am well aware of what ethnic food is. I have had very good Brazilian and Greek Food in the Lowell area.

                                I only bashed Chinese food, NOT Viet Namese, Cambodian or South Indian, so don't take me to task about what I didn't disparage. I have eaten at Sichuan Gourmet in Billerica. It may be as good as those in Boston, but that's not much of a recommendation. It was good, fresh, heavy on the chiles and not very imaginative.

                                Lao Sze Chuan here in Milford, CT is far superior. Back in the early 1980s I used to be in Boston on Essex street evry Tuesday for business, and NYC on the lower East Side on Wednesdays/ There was no comparison that the NY Chinatown and Chinese food blew away the BOston Chinatown Chinese food.

                                My opinion really hasn't chnaged over the years. I am a born and bred New Englander, But when it comes to most Italian and Chinese food, the 495/93 corridor is the provinces.

                                BTW>>>my daughter is Chinese and she agrees with me about Chinese food in MASS, you can't hide fair food just by adding hot spices.

                                1. re: bagelman01

                                  Thank you for the reference to the restaurant in Milford, CT...I'll remember that next time we're in the mood for Chinese. Lately we head to York St. Noodle House when we are in the mood for asian food...it's so cheap there, and good!

                                  1. re: bagelman01

                                    bagelman, I would have to disagree with you about Sichuan Gourmet. I have eaten chinese in Hong Kong, Bangkok, Yokohama, Paris and New York, as well as Nashua and Boston, and maintain that SG has some imaginative dishes on the menu. The double cooked bacon is amazing, and their hot and sour soup is exceptional. Also recommend the beef noodle soup, sounds dull but complex flavor, and the dry chili chicken dish.

                                    1. re: whs

                                      tho what this has to do with Italian food escapes me... lol

                                  2. re: qianning

                                    "But if you have to have Italian and ONLY italian, well, is that so different from the mentality you ascribe to "Johnny Whitebread" , after all not all "ethnic" residents or restaurants are "italian"."

                                    I'm sorry, I'm totally confused as to what this means exactly...

                                    1. re: qianning

                                      No, NOT ALL ethnic residents or restaurants are Italian, but that is the typr of food this thread is about. I suggest you reread the original Posting.

                                      1. re: bagelman01

                                        umm...solargarlic wrote the original posting...

                                        1. re: whs

                                          Yes, and my reply says RE: gianning, so what's your point????????????

                                          I absolutely agreed with solargenic about the dearth of good Italian food in northern MA and NH, and like solargenic I'm born and raised in New Haven

                                  3. Like most cuisines there are regional varieties, so its very hard to please everyone with any one type of ethnic food like Mexican or Italian. Northern Italian food is very different than southern Italian food (which is the red sauce). I prefer northern stuff - lots of butter and other dairy, lots of game, lamb, etc. But a good gooey lasagna sure can't be beat (and definitely no cottage cheese, please).

                                    Because I was able to enjoy my great-grandmother's northern Italian cooking and because I just don't have the finances to endure mediocre food out anymore, I rarely, rarely eat at Italian restaurants. But the same goes for a lot of other types of food as well.

                                    One can dissect an endless number of restaurants based on authenticity, quality, taste, etc. - Italian, Mexican, Chinese, I could go on and on. That's why sites like Chowhound are so beneficial to me because we can talk specifics about what restaurant we like or don't like and why. And if we can't find something that we really want or that meets our standards of what is "good", we can make it at home. My family does that a lot.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Bri

                                      the original poster is not talking about Northern Italian food vs Southern Italian food, they are talking about the way Northern and Southern italian cuisine is made in Northern New England vs Southern New England

                                      1. re: EastRocker

                                        Yes I know, I'm not confused. You can not talk about Italian cuisine without discussing regional styles. I'm talking about Northern vs Southern Italian and the lack of Northern Italian cuisine in NE in general. Considering that the OP was unable to identify even what regional style she was looking for when asked specifically, I wasn't attempting to answer her question directly, but to point out that due to regional influence (in Italy), there needs to be some specificity here. It doesn't matter whether you compare Northern NE with Southern NE if you're not comparing the same type of Italian food.

                                    2. I am from New Hampshire and come from an Italian-American family, and I now live in New Haven, so I guess you are my doppelganger in some bizarro universe.

                                      I have a couple of ideas that might help answer your question:
                                      * New Haven-area Italians are mostly from the Amalfi area south of Naples on the western side of Italy on the Tyrrehenian Sea. That area has a distinctive approach to food that's so prevalent in the New Haven area that it's generally considered to be "Italian food." Italy, like anyplace else, has a variety of types of food, regional specialties etc. My grandfather was from the Adriatic coast side of Italy, Abruzzo, and he had little interest in Amalfitani cuisine, but show him a veal chop and he was in love.
                                      - Likewise, Amalfi is not Mediterranean, but you see a lot of mixing of these geographic ideas in Italian-American food.
                                      - Northern New England is shot through with culinary influences from the old Yankees, as well as Irish and Canadian French. Heavy on the bread, heavy on the cheese, stick to your ribs. Not like the sun-drenched Amalfi coast either. And Yankees overcook everything - all my Yankee grandmother's recipes were "bake it at 350 for an hour."
                                      - I don't know where the whole mix a million flavors thing comes from with Italian food all over the US. I also don't like it.

                                      So... my approach is don't go out for food you can make at home.

                                      13 Replies
                                      1. re: shoes

                                        Thanks for all the replies, I have enjoyed all your insights and opinions.

                                        Believe me, we really enjoy cooking at home, and right now it's something financially we have to do more and more. I just would like to have the option of Italian those nights when putting together a meal is a real challenge!

                                        My family is from the Caserta area, so I am most familiar with the food from the South. I do love the diversity of Italian food and I am always trying new recipes from different regions (I buy Italian cookbooks by the region usually). Maybe part of the problem is the people cooking the food around here are cooking out of their comfort zone to please the people? So, everything is in the southern style, yet the chef isn't from there? I agree with the Canadian/French influence too.

                                        Of course there is the New England regional differences too...which I just noticed in a simple lunch for my kids...HOT DOGS!!! Even the hot dogs are different! (Those of you that can't find Hummel's up here know what I'm talking about)

                                        Also, I have to admit, part of my question comes from my husband and I having this very discussion often. We are hoping within the year to open a restaurant, but we are so perplexed as to what kind of cuisine we could do. If we cook the Italian food I grew up with and we have eaten in Italy be a total flop up here? Or would just good, simple food bring people in anyway?

                                        Anyway, lucky for me I am heading back home for the weekend...and you know where I'll be staying? Less than a mile from Liuzzi's Cheese!!!! And dinner out tonight, Ibiza Tapas! But after all this Italian talk, I may just have to head to Wooster St. :).

                                        Forgot to add: Michael Timothy's is excellent, one of my favorite restaurants anywhere, but it's been years since I've been. Oh, and calamari, must be done Providence-style (with hot peppers) for me.

                                        1. re: solargarlic

                                          It sounds like you have found a niche for your business that isn't being filled. What area do you live in/near? I think folks in most areas appreciate really good food that they can't get elsewhere. e.g. Elements in St. Johnsbury, VT has been going strong for a while now. Simple, elegant, locally sourced food. Hard to find a comparable place in the Northern Kingdom. However, if you are in a less sophisticated area, different may not fly.

                                          1. re: Science Chick

                                            Amherst, NH area...lots of restaurants for sale/lease in Milford though...

                                            true, that niche is needed (IMO), but not necessarily wanted ;).

                                            1. re: solargarlic

                                              I would be very careful outside of Amherst, NH with regards to opening anything out of the ordinary "ethnic."

                                              I heard that Marcella Hazan's son once opened a restaurant in Federal Hill Providence (over 20 years ago) and people didn't take to it: "Not enough sauce" and "Where's the cherry peppers?" and "You call this Italian??" If he had opened in Brooklyn or even Little Italy he probably would have done quite well. I worked at four "Italian" places in Rhode Island (no names mentioned) and two of the most popular (with the locals) had their pasta swimming in sauce and the portions were enormous. I find it similar in New Hampshire with people and their portion size obsession (even in swanky Portsmouth where till 6 years ago no one even knew what tapas were).

                                              Speaking of tapas, you note Ibiza in New Haven. I remember when that opened what 16 years ago by Ignacio. Wow, and he opened Meson Galicia (now Meigas Restaurant) in Norwalk, CT about 25 years ago and there's still not one authentic Spanish Restaurant in the whole of New Hampshire. Manhattan On Pearl I guess would count, but it's now Stella Blu and that isn't Spanish.

                                              1. re: bewley

                                                That is really interesting about Marcella Hazan's son, I never knew! Providence is definitely it's own type of Italian, but at least with the growth there, now there is so much to choose from. I am a big fan of Marcella's now after reading her memoir, I try and learn a lot from her cookbooks lately.

                                                Yes, we are looking forward to the Ibiza Tapas, we ate at Ibiza New Haven this summer. It was really good, but we really love the tapas when it comes to Spanish food most. I was just looking at the Stella Blu menu last night, looks interesting, not authentic, but if it's good that's fine by me. At least it doesn't pretend to be authentic.

                                                1. re: bewley

                                                  If you'll like good tapas without heading south into Boston, Lowell's Ole Tapas is reallly nice. We went when they first opened and was dissappointed but been since and loved it - they really changed it for the best!!! It's downtown on Merrimack St. Lowell has a lot of great ethnic restaurants: portugese, brazillian, cambodian, vietnamese and Ricardo's (Italian) can be great but not consistent.

                                                  1. re: lexpatti

                                                    Thank you for the tip on Ole Tapas, the menu looks good. How does it compare to some of the Spanish places in Boston (I've been to Dali, Tapeo and Solea and enjoyed all of them, from what I remember)?

                                                    1. re: solargarlic

                                                      we too have been to Dali, Manhatten on Pearl, few out in Seattle that we loved - they (Ole)really have their act together - been dieing to go again, huge difference from our first visit!!!

                                                2. re: solargarlic

                                                  oh god, you're going to have to compete with the Pasta Loft and Giorgios.

                                                  1. re: whs

                                                    lol...Pasta Loft...we went to try their pizza one time at a Milford Oval event...took one look and we ran the other way! I have had no desire since then to try their pasta. Giorgio's...has a lot of potential to be great, they do a few things well, maybe if they condense their menu. Problem with all those places is that people are so devoted to them! I think it could be hard to be the new kid in town.

                                                3. re: Science Chick

                                                  I think Elements is still and has been for sale . . . MLS#: 2795627, so "going strong" may not quite be correct.

                                                  1. re: bewley

                                                    If I remember reading in 7 Days correctly (and I could be misremembering), Elements being for sale has nothing to do with the business not working out.

                                                    1. re: Morganna

                                                      It was just an assumption on my part. It's been for sale for a while and though I've heard its wonderful, I'm not so sure its location is ideal.

                                            2. Glad to see Paciarino and Ribollita mentioned. Probably two of my top three favorite places here.

                                              1. I guess I do not think that every place should have the same foods. There should be regional differences and just because it does not appeal to you does not mean it does not appeal to others. I find this thread to be a bit demeaning to those of us who grew iup n New Hampshire and the surrounding area. Yep, those silly New Hampshire natives-no taste for good food at all. Oh well.

                                                6 Replies
                                                1. re: xcptnl

                                                  There is truthiness to your post--as a broad characterization, I would have to say that New Hampshire people are pretty conservative in their tastes. They like what they grew up with, which means food that's filling and uncomplicated. There's nothing better than a good boiled dinner, but thank god I can get a bowl of pho when I want one. That's only possible south of Concord, thanks to the influx of new ethnicities.

                                                  1. re: whs

                                                    I'm with you, diverse ethnicities = great dining options. We can all prob agree that Italy is where to get the best italian, france - the best french, China for the best chinese, Vietnam for the best vietnamese, Cambodia for the best, etc, etc so it's wonderful when so many try to duplicate the real thing (for us who can't travel to all those wonderful places, all the time).

                                                    1. re: lexpatti

                                                      I'm puzzled why French-Canadian food is so elusive here. This ethnic group made up a huge chunk of the population during the heyday of the mills. Chez Vachon is one of the few places to get tourtiere, poutine or salmon pie. (Sorry if we're getting off-topic.)

                                                      1. re: whs

                                                        I have an employee that makes a fantastic tourtiere - we just had it the other night (I've had several but love hers). Have you had the salmon pie at Arrow Diner? There is a lil place in Lowell that makes salmon pie and salmon puffs - love them. Cote's Market on Salem St (if you are down this way). They'll even make a bunch if you call the day before.

                                                  2. re: xcptnl

                                                    You make a really good point, and I apologize for making anyone feel bad because of this discussion. I do base my tastes on what I ate throughout Italy and my family's cooking, so I am not assuming that the food I grew up with is the best...it's just closer to the real thing. Actually, I would much rather discover regional specialties up here, but those seem hard to find as well. I'm very curious about Chez Vachon and I'd love to find great Greek food, since Greek food in New Haven = diners. I have yet to try poutine here, how sad is that??! So, instead of eating out and enjoying NH food, we spend our money at the farms, buying local meats, cheeses, honey, syrup, fruit....etc.

                                                    1. re: solargarlic

                                                      Great Greek food can be found at Cavos in Newington, CT. And there's a place in Lake Placid, NY... lemme think...ah that's right, Mykonos Restaurant. We were there in, uhm, I think it was 2006? Not sure, but it was really good then. I've noticed some bad reviews of it since, so it might not be as good any more. Cavos we were at last spring.

                                                  3. I can only commiserate...I have lived in southern NH for years but was raised in a classic old school italian family,,mostly in the Boston area...I dont patronize italian restaurants in this area..I will go to Boston..but mostly cook italian at home for family and friends...there is no sense in paying good money for mediocre food. I do keep hoping that something exceptional will come along..but I have been waiting for over 30 years and wonder if it is something I will actually see in my lifetime..perhaps I am asking too much..My italian roots are in Genoa, Rome and Campania..I am a european trained chef (retired) and the selection of food on our table cant be matched by any restaurant in this area..

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. Solar, I hear you! I've lived near Bangor, Maine for the past six years and overall I've found that New England folk don't do most ethnic food well. I've heard there are pockets of various ethnic groups around Portland and of course the French-Canadian influence generates some good food, but pizza, Italian specialties, eastern European? Forget it. I grew up in a little Italy neighborhood in New Jersey and I can't find anyplace that makes good sauce or understands that New York-style pizza shouldn't have a thick bready crust and a ton of cheese. And the calzones here bear no resemblance to any I've had back home. So I've learned to appreciate the lobstahs and the whoopie pies, but I make my own Italian pizza and chicken parm. :-)

                                                      1. I grew up in New York City and am now in Connecticut. In Hartford, we're lucky to have 2-3 very good Italian restaurants.

                                                        I know exactly the kind of food that the OP's talking about. I have, for one reason or another, been exposed to all manner of horrible excuses for Italian food. The most vivid example was a restaurant that boasted all about the authenticity and celebrated taste of its food. Fettucine Alfredo contained no detectable egg yolks -- perhaps that's because of all the flour that was used to thicken the sauce. And it was laden with garlic. Alfredo sauce *doesn't include* garlic, in my book. I've had tomato sauce so liberally laced with sugar it tasted like cheap catsup. Eggplant that's been fried into oblivion, covered with plastic cheese, not an herb in sight. One chef, many years ago, actually came out of the kitchen to defend his "Italian Wedding Soup." The meatballs had not been made for the soup; they were the restaurant's meatballs for spaghetti -- cut in quarters. The broth consisted of a combination of canned chicken noodle soup and canned Manhattan clam chowder. When I told him there's no place for clams in Italian Wedding Soup, he told me that all his customers loved it -- the can of Manhattan clam chowder was his "secret ingredient."

                                                        If an Italian restaurant offers "Buffalo Chicken Wings" and "Jalapeno Poppers" as appetizers one can be certain that the food is not the kind of fresh Italian food I, and the OP, are accustomed to.

                                                        Perhaps the OP will come to the rescue of the NH folks and open a good Italian restaurant?!

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: shaogo

                                                          I'm surprised about even Hartford lacking good Italian food, though I have no sympathy for you since you are not far from Pepe's in Manchester or from other great CT restaurants in the northern CT area ;).

                                                          1. re: shaogo

                                                            Unfortunately, you are 20 years too late, from the era when there were many great Italo-American restaurants on Franklin Ave in Hartford.

                                                          2. Just a heads up, In Clinton Mass (central mass,) there is a wonderful and AUTHENTIC Italian restaurant called Ristorante Via Alto 27 on High Street. Please please please give it a try, I was not shocked to learn the chef and owner actually owned a restaurant outside of the Vatican for years, until the lease ran out and he was refused a renewal. I have been to Italy and this is the most authentic I have found in this area. I think the major problem with the NH area is that there are very few actually Italian immigrants to the area, and too many decedents who have grown up on traditional American food.. Deep fried, laced in salt, and lacking any spices or originality at all. (see: Olive Garden)

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: gryphonskeeper

                                                              I will have to check that restaurant in Clinton, thank you for that tip. Oh, and spot on comparison to the Olive Garden...that is what NH Italian food is exactly....Olive Garden Italian.

                                                            2. Hi everyone,

                                                              I haven't eaten there in three years, but my family is also from Caserta (Casale)/Napoli, and years ago, very much enjoyed The Colosseum in Salem, NH. They had excellent tripe, fried zucchini blossoms (in season), an amazing amatrician sauce. But again, I haven't been there in awhile. Anybody been there recently?

                                                              I absolutely agree with you about the sweet pizza sauce. All our homemade sauces were savory, and many included at least a hint of anchovy, cooked into oil so that it dissolved and only left a nice ghost of flavor. This seems to be a regional thing.

                                                              Off topic---I have found good tourtiere and okayyyyyy cretons in Thwaites market in Methuen for my French Canadian relatives.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: Benjamino

                                                                My husband and I tried the Colosseum about 5 years ago as it was well recommended...the only thing I remember of it was the mushy pasta. Perhaps there were a few good things that day, but really, I just can't ever get pasta mushy, watery pasta.

                                                                My family is from Caiazzo specifically, a bit east of Caserta.

                                                              2. Have you tried Dante's in Barrington? http://www.dantespasta.com We haven't been in a couple years, but we used to really enjoy the food, the casual atmosphere and the modest prices.

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: beaton

                                                                  I've eaten at Dante's in Barrington, NH a couple of times. The service BOTH times screwed up the order and the food was not great. Overcooked pasta one time (rigatoni cooked to shreds), screwed up the sauce (asked for extra spicy arrabiata and it came out bland), etc. The place may have its own bocce court outside and the owner may have spent time in Italy, but it disappoints.

                                                                  1. re: beaton

                                                                    Thank you for the recommendation. I think Barrington is unfortunately a bit far for us to try a new place...plus I have to admit, I am a bit suspect of a restaurant that claims Carbonara to be a Northern Italian dish. That could ignite civil war for the Italians (and Romans)!

                                                                  2. For the food you're looking for, Villa Banca is not a bad option. It reminds me most of the NY/CT area "Italian" that I grew up with. It's still not the same as what you'll find on Wooster St. or on Arthur Ave, but it's passable.

                                                                    On another note, after going to Italy to study abroad and further studying of Italian cuisine, I now realize that what is predominantly available in New Haven/Fairfield county/NYC metro area is Italian-American food. This is not an issue of Southern vs. Northern Italian. It's neither. Dishes like chicken parm and veal marsala (with a heaping pile of pasta on the same plate) is not what people eat in Italy. That distinction is not made by most people in that area. After eating the great food in Italy, I was obsessed about finding something that actually came close to the food I had (Florentine as well as Roman) back here in the states. Back home in NY and CT, I couldn't find it. There were a few exceptions in the fine-dining realm in NYC, but it was mostly all red sauce joints. Still great food, but not the same. I found that Boston actually has several excellent restaurants that have food that you'd find in Italy (Via Matta, erbaluce, dante, Il Casale among others). The North End has a few exceptions (Prezza comes to mind), but mostly just more of the red sauce restaurants.

                                                                    As for pizza, there is absolutely nothing that resembles NY/New Haven pizza up here in NH (or the greater Boston area for that matter). Nothing. I, too, have resorted to making my own.

                                                                    16 Replies
                                                                    1. re: ecwashere7

                                                                      Thanks for the help, and insight. I agree 100% about Italian food here being usually Italian-American...unless you want to pay more and hit some fine dining establishments in the city (and I am sure Boston now too). There still is a difference after that between northern and southern NE. We recently went to Gran Gusto in Cambridge and we really enjoyed it there. Though oddly enough, the owners are from Naples and had mostly Tuscan food on the menu, but really, I suppose that's what is best up in NE in the winter. Anyway, I really went to try their pizza...it was really good, better than anything I've had around here...but still not quite what I hoped for (I really think it was because we were after the lunch hour, and the oven had cooled a bit). I recently discovered the secret to close to Neopolitan pizza at home ... 1st- top-quality homemade dough; 2nd - cook it in an extremely hot oven, in a cast iron skillet, under the broiler. I tried it last week, and for the first time I got a truly charred, but not overcooked crust! Awesome.

                                                                      1. re: solargarlic

                                                                        That sounds awesome. You'll have to send me your recipe for dough. I have a monstrous cast-iron skillet (15 inches) in my collection too.

                                                                        1. re: ecwashere7

                                                                          I'd be happy to pass it on to you, I'll send you an email soon. I got it from Peter Reinhart's book American Pie, and got the idea for the cast iron/broiler method from the Slice blog. I'll try to find that link again to. I'm jealous that you have such a big skillet to use, it will make the process much easier!

                                                                          1. re: solargarlic

                                                                            Thanks! I'm excited to give it a go. I've been settling for the Bertucci's dough when I make my pizza and its just not the same. When the weather is right I often times put my pizza stone in my gas grill. The stone traps the heat and my thermometer shoots up to around 650-700 degrees. Very crispy crust, and it adds a great flavor to the pizza. Not quite apizza, but certainly delicious.

                                                                            1. re: ecwashere7

                                                                              I can't seem to find a way of sending you a PM of the recipe, so here is a link to the recipe I found on a blog...


                                                                              The most important part of the recipe is the slow fermentation. I left mine out in the garage last time for about 3 days! One of the best doughs I've ever made. Whatever you do, DO NOT roll with a rolling pin!

                                                                              Here's the skillet method:


                                                                              The one thing I changed was not placing the skillet on the stove top...I just didn't want more gas running, or to have to move around an incredibly hot and heavy skillet with 2 kids always running around while I cook :). Enjoy!

                                                                              1. re: solargarlic

                                                                                Wow, thanks! Don't worry, I won't use a rolling pin. I used to work at pizza place back in NY so I did learn to throw dough from a master pizzaiola. I just delivered when I worked there, so I didn't master the technique until years later through lots of practice.

                                                                                1. re: ecwashere7

                                                                                  Nice, I'm not too good with the throwing, but my kids always ask me to try! I believe though that this dough is not best for throwing either. His neo-neapolitan (New Haven) style dough is a bit sturdier, and better for tossing. Clearly you have a good idea of what you're doing, and you'll figure it out as you go. Let me know what you think!

                                                                      2. re: ecwashere7

                                                                        You should try Cucina Toscana in Nashua (off exit 8). Not much atmosphere but the food is great.

                                                                        1. re: southie_chick

                                                                          I've heard soooo much about this restaurant, but the looks of the menu turn me off a bit. I feel like if I go it would be another letdown...I go to a place that is really popular with locals, but it's still not the kind of cuisine I'm looking for. Would you by chance, be able to compare their food to restaurants outside of NH? thanks :)

                                                                          1. re: solargarlic

                                                                            How are you going to know if you don't try it? If you're planning to open a restaurant, you should be scoping out the competition. Otherwise, this is an academic exercise.

                                                                            1. re: whs

                                                                              lol...you are absolutely right! But, as stingy and careful as my husband and I need to be with money these days, we'd rather save our dollars for a sure bet, or at least for some gourmet shopping for cooking at home ;). I'm sure at some point one of us will go by ourselves for lunch at the very least, seems to be the safest way to try out a place.

                                                                            2. re: solargarlic

                                                                              I've been to Cucina Toscana many times--I work right down the street--and I believe this is NOT the type of Italian you're looking for, solar. It's the standard New England Italian cuisine that's been lamented in this thread already: basic red sauce, lots of cheese. Yes, it's fresh and well-made, but nothing to write home about. Pales in comparison to the Italian of the North End.

                                                                              1. re: Tante

                                                                                Yes, and the North End pales in comparison to Italy. We spent 10 days in a glorious 1200 year old hill town above the Riviera di Fiori. When we were in the hills, we were served boar, rabbit and river fish. When we drove down the hill to the beach, we got amazing frutti di mare, sea fish and one day, the chef went mushroom hunting, and we ate fresh-picked porcini sauteed with a little ground veal and fresh pasta. Across the border in France at the tourist restaurants, you could get an artichoke. In Italy, they were out of season, and nobody was serving them. I think this sums up great Italian cooking: seasonal, fresh and local. On this basis, I could argue that you will never find an "authentic" Italian restaurant in NH--we eats what we gets, and hopes for the best.

                                                                                1. re: Tante

                                                                                  Yup, their red sauce tastes like .......... red sauce. Veal/chicken parm is pretty much the same there as the North End, and they do a good job on the frying. Unfortunately, their "bolognese" is the typical New England style of ground hamburger in red sauce but that seems to be atypical of a LOT on Italian restaurants - even some in the North End. Most of the North End don't even offer this because that's how the customers want/like their meat sauce around here. I found the best version of bolognese I've had "locally" wasn't even in the North End - it was at Via in Worcester (and they serve it on fresh pappardelle). Best "red sauce" dish (it's actually a tomato cream sauce) I've ever eaten in the Boston area was actually in East Boston at Rino's Place - their pasta matriciana (or amatriciana as it's usually called) is to die for.
                                                                                  However, I do like the white sauces at Cucina Toscana - I think they're as good as Lo Conte's on Salem Street or Villa Francesca's on Richmond Street in the North End.

                                                                                  1. re: southie_chick

                                                                                    Gran Gusto in Cambridge makes a good Bolognese...a lot of interesting spices to it...I was surprised actually, seeing as it is run by a couple of Napoletani.

                                                                                    1. re: solargarlic

                                                                                      Wherever they are from, at Gran Gusto they do know how to cook...they also have the right clientele to both enjoy the food, and to afford it....

                                                                          2. Has anyone else been to the Caffe Il Cipresso in Tyngsboro since new owners? We did the other night and we were impressed - me more then hubs. pasta is homemade. We started with the soup of the day - cream o tomato w/basil that was fantastic! I had Linguine alle Vongole - Baby clams in the shell and whole baby clams served over linguine in a white sauce. Our waitress said this dish is an addiction to many - I can see why, fantastic! Garlic bread was very good. Hubby got a Calamari dish w/sautéed onions, red wine, olives and a slightly spicy plum tomato sauce served over linguine but he chose to have it over ravioli with fontina&artichoke. He wanted a more thick hearty red sauce and this was light, thinner.

                                                                            Service was excellent too! Hubby loved his canoli for dessert, I loved a coffee gelato truffle (nice small sizes too - for people like me who really don't want dessert).


                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: lexpatti

                                                                              I have been wanting to try this place for years. Gotta get Tyngsboro in my rotation!

                                                                            2. I have lived my whole 49 years in NH and will now explaine to you classical Italian dishes the NH way with 2 examples. First Pasta, It does not matter what form it takes as long as you boil the hell out of it for at least 10 min. Now stir in 1 stick of butter per pound. Now this next step can be tricky and may take you several try's but on your next trip to the market select the finest jarred or canned sauce money can buy to your liking. I leane towards Rague with meat myself, but that new chuncky style has grabbed my attention. Now remember one jar is not a dinner going to make. The sauce is the actual meal here. Think of it as actually a stew with the pasta being the equivalent of noodles in your stew. Now the cheese, what ever you like and lots of it. Now thats down home NH spagett. Moving on to pizza. If you order out and a large pizza dose not weigh at least 7 pounds when you pick it up, STOP right there refuse to pay and call another place. I am telling you right now it does not have the apprpiate amountof Mozzarella & Chedder on it. No sense at all at even trying it at all. I hope this helps !!!

                                                                              9 Replies
                                                                              1. re: blaprell

                                                                                lol...this is great!! Thanks for your help :).

                                                                                1. re: blaprell

                                                                                  We know somebody whose husband refuses to eat Ragu sauce (the jarred variety) unless it's been strained. He doesn't like chunks.

                                                                                  1. re: whs

                                                                                    He's from Dracut - what do you expect!

                                                                                  2. re: blaprell

                                                                                    What blaprell writes is absolute truth, hence the almost near futility of this thread.

                                                                                    That bit of blather being said; Caffe Il Cipresso look quite promising, at least there are no "wings" on the menu. Too bad there isn't something like that closer to the Seacoast.

                                                                                    1. re: bewley

                                                                                      Villa Banca was mentioned above...I do believe the original topic/thread starter was looking for Italian food not the dumbed down americanized version

                                                                                      1. re: ctroutman

                                                                                        The OP was looking for was food that resembled Southern New England's Italian-American food, which is also not Italian.

                                                                                        1. re: ecwashere7

                                                                                          True, but it is at least a little closer to the real deal...my mom had cavatelli and braciole the other night at Consiglio's (New Haven), I can't recall seeing anything like that on a menu up this way (though I would guess somewhere in Boston must serve it). I am reading a great cookbook about the food of Naples right now and I can see a lot of the resemblances the food in New Haven has to that cuisine.

                                                                                          1. re: solargarlic

                                                                                            I agree with you completely. I definitely miss the food that I used to get back in CT and NY. At the same time, I've found great places in the Boston area (not the North End) that remind me of the food that I used to eat in Florence and northern Italy. Places like erbaluce and Via Matta are very close to the real deal. You can find very good Italian-American food in the North End, but only a few places will give you food that you might find in Italy. Forget about finding it up here in NH.

                                                                                            Now, how do you pronounce your mother's meal in New Haven? GAVA-DEEL and BRAH-ZHOLE?

                                                                                            1. re: ecwashere7

                                                                                              lol...yeah, that's pretty much how I'd say it! And funny enough, when I was in Florence, I was annoyed that I couldn't find cavatelli ANYWHERE (though now i understand why). I need to discover some new Italian food outside of the North End....