City Girl Cafe - fantastic, easy Italian in Inman Square
I've been using these boards for a long time but never really contributed, and I'd like to start being a more active participant. Last night I had dinner at City Girl Cafe in Cambridge for the second time in about three weeks and was again impressed by their excellent, consistent execution. I was never that eager to eat there, even though it's very close to where I live, because the menu seems kind of dull, but now I think it's one of the best places in the neighborhood, especially for nights when you decide at the last minute that you just don't want to cook, but you don't want to spend a lot of money, and you want something a little nicer than takeout or pub food.
We got there around 6:30 last night (a Saturday) and the place was mostly empty, though they had a sign on the door saying they weren't making pizza, perhaps because of the extreme heat - so maybe that turned some people away. The last time we went was a Thursday evening and we didn't have to wait then either. We each had a sangria to start - theirs is fruity and strong without being too sweet. Very refreshing. We split a special watermelon gazpacho that was fantastic - cool and tasty with just a hint of sweetness from the watermelon, along with I think some yellow peppers. It had the consistency I like in a gazpacho, not too chunky but with distinct small pieces. Next we had the meatball sliders (2 to a plate), which I thought stood out among others I've had. The meatballs were very flavorful, with little raisins that added a little sweetness without disrupting the texture. The tomato sauce was also very tasty, and the bread they came on had a perfect crunchy exterior, with a garlic rub on it. Arugula was a nice addition. Then we had the fettuccine verde with spinach, asiago, pine nuts, and garlicky oil. My only complaint of the meal was that the fettuccine was quite oily, with puddles of oil left behind (though I didn't mind sopping it up with bread), but the flavor was delicious and the texture of the fresh pasta was perfectly chewy. Finally we had the pumpkin bread & vanilla ice cream panini, on the waitress's recommendation. It was much bigger than I expected - more like a pumpkin cake with a thick layer of ice cream in the middle - but it was delicious. The cake was dense and spicy and satisfying, and the ice cream was perfect on a hot summer day.
The total including a third glass of sangria was $51 for two (before tip). Service was incredibly friendly and I appreciated that they brought out our three shared dishes as separate courses, in a leisurely way but without making us wait long for anything. I plan to return regularly.
Thanks for the report - keep 'em coming.
Have not been to City Girl in a while, so will have to revisit. Last time I was there, thought that the pizza is one of the most underrated pies in the area - it was really great. Can't say I have tried the rest of the menu, so thanks for putting it on my radar.
Thanks for the review, I forgot about this place. I usually go to Basta Past, but I'll have to give City Girl a try next time I am in a "too lazy to cook even pasta, but I want pasta" mood.
I'm so glad someone else is singing its praises--it is one of my favorites in a restaurant-rich neighborhood and I am always impressed by my meals there. Definitely never boring, they often do interesting bruschetta, have clever gourmet pizzas, and do a lasagne of the day as well. I always think its the kind of place that could probably do some really interesting fixed special menus, the talent seems to be in the kitchen. Actually, I think they did do a special prix fixe for Valentine's Day a couple years ago after their renovation, but I didn't go.