A Pleasant Surprise - Al Dente Restaurant
When we arrived at the restaurant, we were greeted by a thuggish mafia type guy and after we let him know we had a reservation, he put his piece away. He has a tough exterior, but he is actually a very friendly guy. We were seated immediately which should have been the case as the restaurant was completely empty at 6pm...but as the old adage goes "Don't judge a book by its cover." That was the case here. When we left there wasn't a table to be had.
Our waitress Angela was very accomodating. I explained what Joe and Moishe were up to and gave details as to their personalities- two semi-refined crudish New Yorkers who know good food and pretty much hate anything Boston when it comes to food. Most importantly, she needed to know that they can be somewhat blunt in their communication of displeasure. I let her know this on several occassions. Angela listed the appetizers that were staff favorites and we ordered two which proved to be very good and is detailed below. We heard another waitress pitching the same items to another party so we wondered if we were pitched the company line, but the quality of the offerings made it clear that those were the signature appetizers on the menu so no credibility lost there. She also graciously offered a pasta tasting with 3 separate pastas which was not on the menu. It was clear that both the pasta (fusilli) and the sauces were all homemade. It's nice to hear a waitress say, "I can get you pretty much whatever you want however you want it, even if you don't see it on the menu." That is the type of thing that makes you feel like you are eating at a quality spot and that they take pride in keeping their customers satisfied. Joe tried to work his venomous tongue a few times but Angela snapped right back at him and put him in his place. I am sure that made Joe feel right at home. His wife doesn't let him talk much, and neither did Angela. I think we would all agree that the service was excellent.
For the money, the quality of the food, and the appeasing attitude of the management and employees, I would definitely reccomend this spot. The crowd around us was mostly the young single North End crowd and if you come in around 6 during the week you'll have no trouble getting a table. By 7:30 though, the place was about 75% full so I'd reccomend a reservation no matter when you plan on dining. Perhaps one of the best parts of the evening is that Joe paid. We hope this trend continues at future outings. Details on our meal is below.
Note: They don't offer dessert or coffee, though Angela did bring three shots of limoncella and some small biscotti which was quite good- a different variety of Limoncella than I think most are used to.
Appetizers – Spinach Crepes and Shrimp Grand Mariner
1) Crepes were light and tasty in a béchamel cream sauce that was not too heavy. (good for bread dipping)Grade: B
2) Shrimp were also very good … a little on the sweet side but that was to be expected. Grade: B-
Pastas – Sampling of three sauces all served with freshly made fusilli.
1) Bolognese – Standard red meat sauce that I thought was a notch above average Grade: B+
2) Gorgonzola Cream - Not on the menu but recommended by Angela our waitress. Pretty tasty, not too heavy. Grade: B+
3) Vodka Sauce- Decent vodka sauce , but I have had better. Grade: B
Veal Umberto- Tender veal cutlet, egg battered, pan seared, topped with Parma prosciutto, sautéed spinach, mozzarella cheese, then baked
to perfection, accented with fresh sage in a lemon white wine butter sauce. Angela recommended to put it over the four cheese risotto as opposed to a side of pasta. The dish was very good and the risotto was tasty but very heavy and rich. An overwhelming dish that we could not finish, but looking forward to the leftovers. Grade: B+
Veal Saltimbocca – very good- thinly pounded, and not sinewy as veal can be. Angela made a point of telling us that the she had the best cuts of veal. The prosciutto, cheese, and sauteed spinach with the mushrooms and sherry sauce was light and delicious. If the veal was breaded at all, it was very light. I was offered a side of pasta but asked for a plate of sauteed garlic and spinach which was not problem and the spinach was excellent. Grade: A-
Sides- Sautéed Spinach
2 bottles of “nice” Chianti
Dinner for 3 with tip …. $240
Al Dente Restaurant
109 Salem St Ste 1, Boston, MA 02113
Al Dente is probably my favorite go-to place in the North End. It also happens to be the first place I ever ate at in the area when I first moved here in 2003. I got lucky on the first try.
I adore their vodka sauce. I've personally never tasted better. And I super excited to try the gorgonzola cream sauce next time I'm in there. Husband and I were in Venice a few years back and stumbled upon a restaurant in a super back alley where all the gondoliers were taking their lunch break. Nearly half of them had a plate of gnocchi with the house gorgonzola sauce. I ordered it and fell in love- still hoping to find a decent replica here in the states.
I also love Al Dente's atmosphere- especially during our cold, snowy winters. It's homey and warm and there's plenty of wine. Not much more you can ask for.
Al Dente Restaurant
109 Salem St Ste 1, Boston, MA 02113
while i am on a "roll" i am going to recommend a place in the North End ... yes the North End which I believe is overrated along with most of the neighborhood "little Italy's" across the country ..including NYC ... tourist traps if you ask me... but , this place was pretty good and I think my post is entertaining ...enjoy!
7months is a roll?
Do you really expect the CH's here to thlnk think that a doorman at a major known restaurant greets.you at the door with a "piece"....which I take to mean a gun? to shoot or scare off potential customer w/o res,
and then you post again about the restaurant 7 months later??....and your little treatise about your NY friends. I.m sure that motivated the chefs.:)
Keep on dining..:)
I'd reco that you try Limoncello and request Antonio as your waiter.They have an octo app and a pasta with proscuiito and cream saucuce that are vey good.
Veal entrees are comparable.