24. June 2011 12:25
The Daily Catch in Boston’s North End is a case study in word-of-mouth. Absent the ravings of 2 respected fellow gluttons, a glimpse upon the menu, another upon the “dining room” and a final upon the “chef” would have kicked the flight response into full gear. And we would have missed Boston’s finest meal. You shouldn’t.
The “chef” wore a beat-to-hades Chicago Cubs hat – the hat a mere decade or so his junior, a disgusting grill-man outfit and a frown to end all emoticons (for the ASCII challenged: >:( ). The only item missing was an unfiltered, unashed Marlboro hanging from his lips. Oh, did I mention that he was Japanese? Not any one of the seven sons that the current owners spawned. Not Italian. Barely, it seems, even sentient life. And yet, this was the best pasta we have had in quite some time. Some of the best mussels. Great clams. Amazing calamari made better with the batter. And remarkable exhibits of macho Italian men strutting in their matching jumpsuits. Tell me, in the seed of Big Italy that spawned countless Little Italys – was there a peacock that mated with a housewife and produced a viable and fertile offspring satisfying the prerequisite for a whole new species? Did it then send it on a boat over to the new world? Because the old Italians strutting the streets of Rome, and even the ones selling suits in Burberry and Saks are not the same Italians masquerading as caricatures (of themselves) in countless Little Italys.
Although all of the pasta dishes had a Buca-level quantity of garlic, the quality of the pasta was like nothing else we’d had. We’re talking a pasta dish for $12 that would rival Chicago’s Pane Caldo and Spiaggia. Chicagoans do theirs with less of the asexual cloves. But for a lot more of your sexy dollahs. Indeed, you can eat your fill (perhaps even my fill) at Daily Catch and still have enough for some very special room service. Sexy indeed.
Daily Catch is known for calamari. This knowledge they deserve. I’m not sure what kind of oil they use to cook it but even Avocado oil, which smokes north of 500 degrees Fahrenheit, couldn’t produce a crisp so crispy while retaining a chew so chewy. Maybe they flash-freeze their stuff before they fry it – I don’t know – it tasted too fresh; whatever. Mine is not to guess how but rather say what. And this, The Daily Catch, is for sure one of Boston’s tastiest. Go there now. Or you see dis gauy? See dis gaauy? Heesa gonna come-a ovah dere and shove his jumpsuit up your outbox.
4. June 2011 19:33
Humans have been wasting time with flap-flight for millennia. But there is nothing flappy that would ever fly a human to say nothing of a jumbo-jet. And, for about the same millennia, we’ve been trying to scale great Italian food outside of the household cooking it. We can’t. And we shouldn’t. Exhibit A: A Tavola.
I like the fact that none of you have ever heard about this place. Luckily, no one reads past the Facebook “preview” paragraph. A Tavola, which means “to the table” in Urdu (I think) has survived in an unassuming neighborhood since 1995. That’s like a whole person who can drive. Compare that to the countless fizzles of Hubbard Street that can’t even clear the language phase of adolescence. Eat there and you’ll know why. And then go eat at A Tavola.
It’s so rare to find inspiring Italian. Rarer still to find it in Chicago. Yes: inspiring. Lots of chefs are inspired. But so few send you marching home wondering “How’d they do that?” Chicagoans have big shoulders, big appetites and huge and growing waistlines. We want PAAAAAAsta. TONS of it. Lasagna squares bigger than a Mac Mini and raviolis stuffed thicker than the alderman’s “bonus” envelope. If that is indeed what you want then go to Maggiano’s or Buca’s. If your expense account permits, go to Gene & Georgetti’s and eat all the gristle-flavored cow you can. Or better yet: get bent. I too believe in eating until exhaustion but in doing so at proper venues. Like Portillo’s.
At A Tavola we ordered all of the specials and absolutely loved them all. The sliced mushrooms were outstanding. Most places deal with the fungus’ default dirt flavor through salt or sauce castration. Not here. Their shrooms were significantly smaller than the dinner plates passed off elsewhere as portabella. They needed no disguise to know how flavorful they were even though the sauce was a lovely complement. The gnocchi about which others rave was good. But not THAT good. Instead, try the Pasta Bolognese. Truly excellent. The meaty Bolognese stood out. It reminded me of Tocco’s in that uncanny way. I wonder if the Prime Minister stole the recipe from A Tavola. But as with other statesmen, Bruno is impervious to questions of his past. The world will never know.
The road not taken for the evening was the sliced leg of lamb which was a special. I hope it is again. But being a polite diner (this evening) not long I stood and looked down the menu as long as I could until they were ready to toss me in the undergrowth. I ordered Short Rib and having perhaps the better claim for it was probably grass-fed and wanted wear. ‘Twas a house specialty. I am telling this with a sigh, almost exactly one week hence. That two meals screamed to me and I, took the one more eaten by. Specialty= all the time; special=never before. And two letters make all the difference.
Food, wine, service – all excellent. Even the pre-wine martini was made my way. “We have Kettle One; is that OK?” Is that OK??? Huh. Chef Bocik, Madame Server: your restaurant is a treasure and you just said Shibboleth.