Sunday, September 9, 2007

Dining at Marcos in Boston's North end

I dined at a restaurant in the North End yesterday called Marco, which is the sister restaurant to Pigalle both owned by Chef Marc Orfaly. The entrance can be a bit confusing as it is a glass door to the side of another restaurant which is below Marco, which is on the second floor. I went on a Wednesday night at 6:30pm and was able to make a reservation for one just a couple hours prior. If the reservation had not been made however, I don't think I'd of gotten a seat if I came in much later as the dining room is very small, but not in a bad way. The bar is nice and looks into the kitchen, while the dining room has a very comfortable feeling, with its fireplace (candles in it for the summer), weathered brick walls, wood floors and open windows that allow the diners to see the passerby below. The tables are unadorned, basic dark wood, with no formal white table cloth, the chairs were a bit odd however, and not completely comfortable. The room seemed capable of holding about 40 people, although they might be crammed in the small dining room, there is the bar as well as mentioned earlier.

I had read some reviews stating that the restaurant is very contemporary, and not traditional Italian. I would have to disagree with them slightly as the dishes I had, and the others I read on the menu seemed very traditional. Perhaps they meant not traditional Italian-American ie. everything covered in garlic and tomato sauce. The menu is broken up into the different traditional Italian meal structures. I opted to eat a lot of food, starting off with the in-house-made salumi which was excellent, a variety of four items including pepperoni, sopresatta, along with some cured olives, grilled foccacia, peperoncini and pecorino, $19. I then went for the Clams Oreganato, which were four stuffed clams, made very traditionally and cooked perfectly. For a salad I went with the Caprese salad made with heirloom tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella. The presentation of the salad sorta brought me back to the 80's stacking thing along with a lack of seasoning, tomatoes really scream for a liberal usage of seasoning, especially salt.

I went with my server's suggestion for the 1/2 portion of Pasta Bolognese as it was one of the two hand-made pastas that they serve. Pasta was excellent, so often you get in-house-made pasta and it is cut too thin, this was not. The sauce was good, maybe a bit heavy on the meat, but because this dish may be eaten as a main course, someone might desire the larger portion of meat in the sauce. I went for the Veal Saltimbocca which was a bone-in veal chop with the traditional sage/ prosciutto and cheese layered on-top. It was served with mushrooms inside of the beautiful accompanying sauce. The chop was cooked perfectly and the flavors were great. I'm not used to this sort of interpretation of the dish,but I enjoyed it nonetheless. I also ordered a side of sauteed broccoli rabe, which was braised perfectly and had great flavor. For dessert I had a few small canolis that were probably some of the best canoli I have had in my life, great texture with the pastry and wonderful flavor to the filling.

As for drinks, I started off with the house cocktail, which was a sort of pomegranate martini with proseco, very tasty but a little sweet for my taste, but I could see how others enjoy it. The wine list is great, probably 20 mines by-the-glass that are certainly not your run-of-the-mill Italian wines, which was no surprise. I opted for a white for earlier and an incredible Barbera to go with my pasta and veal. The espresso served is Illy, which has become very popular. I wonder if Ferran Adria has anything to do with that as he promotes them. I wanted a shot of Sambucca in the espresso, but they were out. I did however have a pleasant grappa which I never drink and I was happy I got that instead.

My service was impeccable, attentive, not rushed or slow. I had read on some reviews that service can be slow, and I do not agree with that at all. Especially in this type of restaurant, one does not want to be rushed, cuisine should be enjoyed, not engulfed. All of the front-of-the-house staff was passionate about their job and knowledgeable about the menu and wine. The uniforms were casual, and matches the feel of the experience. I was dressed a bit formal possibly for the location, but I like to wear a tie when I dine in a good restaurant, but here it is not necessary and a jacket is not needed, if worn one might be uncomfortable wearing it.

When all was said and done, my bill was a bit pricey, but that is only because I ordered so much food and drink. One could easily order a $20 pasta dish or $20-$30 entree and a glass of wine for $9 dollars, but why waste the chance to try some really great traditional Italian dishes in a great restaurant with wonderful staff.

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