When I entered Cafe Italia in New Bedford’s South End, I really felt I entered a popular Boston North End haunt. The entire experience was exquisite — from the charming waiter to the most delicate littlenecks I’ve ever tasted — and that’s saying something on SouthCoast.
You can read all about it in my review in Coastin‘:
It’s been a long winter and I was delighted to herald spring on Saturday with a perfectly executed meal at a local hidden gem.
My editor and fellow reviewer Joanna suggested Cafe Italia in the South End so I called Friday night for a 6 p.m. reservation Saturday. The nice lady who answered accommodated me in a 6:15 p.m. slot, warning me that I would get the small table by the kitchen. She also informed me that it was a BYOB restaurant, which I appreciated.
Despite great restaurants, good cafes and delicious food, there’s one thing the North End doesn’t have and Owner Donato Frattaroli plans to bring it to Lucia Ristorate. The idea is for a group of people to sit around a communal table and enjoy a special theme dinner.
At an invitees-only party for media showcasing the idea, the good owner and Chef Pino Maffeo hosted a group of 12 at a unique two-hour long polenta party, Italian style with lots of wine, jokes and merriment.
From the traditional antipasto featuring the tenderest of prosciutto to the juiciest lamb shank over a creamy polenta, it was a unique experience diners would definitely pay for.
Our journey started with the antipasto plate featuring a smoky marinated eggplant and roasted peppers next to the traditional meat and cheese – all exceptionally fresh and tasty.
The bruschetta came next – one with a bright green broccoli rabe and another with toasted mushrooms that I could’ve eaten a dozen of.
I had mixed feelings about an Asian-inspred shrimp dish with a tangy salty and sweet glaze that I found overpowering. I think a simple Italian olive oil base would have brought out the flavor of the high quality shrimp more.
A visit to the kitchen a flight below showed us the chef cooking a large pot of polenta in a surprisingly clean and spacious kitchen. The chef said they are one of few restaurants to have so much space and pointed to the two extra rooms they use for functions, aside from the main dining space.
Then came the polenta dishes and any doubts or self control vanished as we dug into a rich rabbit and truffle dish, a braised lamb shank so tender that it didn’t need a knife, lip-smacking pork riblets with a red sauce that must have simmered for days to reach that flavor and color. Continue reading
I had friends visiting recently and tried taking them to Neptune for oysters Sunday night but it was, of course, packed and we were starving. So we walked around and found a restaurant with a raw bar where we ended up staying for dinner.
Rabia’s is now on my to-go list for North End restaurants – both the food and service at was fabulous. The waitress even volunteered to step out in the rain to take our photos.
We started with James River oysters which were plump and flavorful, followed by an interesting soft shell crab app that proved to be a hit.
Our entrees were great picks because each dish had a totally different and unique flavor: a seafood medley, chicken and a veal dish from the menu. Highly recommended!
73 Salem St.
Boston, MA 02113