Marie's - Chatham
Nice review of Marie's Italian Specialties in the NYTimes: http://tinyurl.com/MariesChatham
I'm not surprised; Chef (Carl) Ruiz can cook! Sorry to say that I haven't been over there yet, but co-workers love it.
While the pulled pork with broccoli rabe sandwich is ok, (I found it a little too salty and over garlic-y and a bit messy), my meal companion had a "turkey club sandwich" that came with prosciutto, mozz, red onion and a ceasar dressing. The Turkey used was that processed/molded blob you find at supermarket deli's. The Italian dishes we tried on a subsequent lunch visit were meh. It's fine for a lunch place, if you avoid the sandwiches that do not include deli meats, but for an Italian dinner, there are several other Italian restaurants close by that are far superior.
I visited Marie's about two weeks ago with high hopes and was a very disappointed. I was there in what I assume is their slow time, between lunch and dinner. The restaurant was empty, save for myself. I sat down at a table and waited. After about eight or ten minutes I got up and walked to the counter and asked the people behind it if they were open. Now you have to understand, this place is very small; it's hard to imagine that you can miss someone sitting at one of the tables for the amount of time I was there unless you're trying to ignore them. I was told to have a seat and someone would be with me shortly. Again, I'm the only person there and it seems to me that the three people behind the counter are just chatting, so this annoys me more. Despite this, I had driven about 30 min to try this place, so I stuck with it. I had planned to have a full meal, but the attitude and wait had put me off, so I just order the rice balls in vodka sauce which sounded very good and seemed to be a house specialty. I figured if that went well I'd order more. After what I thought was a very long wait, considering the emptiness of the restaurant, the rice balls appeared. Sadly, they were cold and the vodka sauce was barely warm. The waiter offered to heat it up, but that just caused the rice balls to turn into rice mush. I had really wanted to try their "Sacred Swine" pulled pork sandwich, which sounded very good, but I just wanted to get out at this point, so I just paid and left. I may try them again, but not for a while.
I went there back in February. A few friends had told me about it and of course it was Guy Fieri's DDD show on the Food Network. That said, it was on my watch list for quite some time.
I remember the visit well, so the experience is still vivid. I know I was hungry and very much looking forward to trying this place. I wanted to go with friends, so we could get more variety, more dishes, etc. -- but it was only me and one other person. So be it, LOL.
The menu is a mix of ecclectic comfort food, with a home-like Italian flair, spin on things. You have some basic comfort food, with a spin, but some of the other dishes are not so basic -- there's a lot going on in some of the dishes.
And, there's a lot there -- soups, salads, pasta, sauce, eggplant, chicken, beef, I remember pulled pork, and so on, and some interesting sounding and descriptive sandwiches.
As far as the food and what we had -- here's the short of it. The meatballs were very good. You can just see, and smell, all the seasoning. A lot of flavor. It was served in a very good sauce -- not a typical red sauce or canned sauce, more "fresh" and a good flavor to it.
I also had the sausage. I love sausage -- all kinds, so it's not like I was set up for disappointment or had certain expectations. So the sausage had some good flavor, taste, etc. -- but it was very salty. My friend agreed -- and said "way too salty". Maybe it was the batch, the day, etc., I don't know.
We also had a pasta dish -- rigatoni, which was served with sausage and meatballs -- and a brick-roasted chicken (which was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives show). The pasta was good -- al dente -- not too much or too little. The meatballs were as above -- very good -- and the sausage was also as above, too salty.
The chicken was very good -- tasty, good flavors -- and I remember it came with broccoli rabe and something else. Good portion size too and meaty.
We also got the infamous (I don't know if it's infamous, LOL) mac and cheese. I liked this. It was done a bit differently though -- with the small orecchiette pasta shells, and very creamy cheese! This was not a casserole type of mac and cheese. Regardless, I liked it.
If I was in the area, I would go back for another try. I wouldn't make specific plans and drive out of my way to go back though. If I wasn't more impressed next time, it might be my last as there are many other places on my "want to try list". It rates another try for me though. There's a lot there -- a lot to try -- so I'd go back.