Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Terramia - a North End gem

Terramia Ristorante, 98 Salem Street, North End, Boston, 617.523.3112

This past Saturday night was the perfect night to hit the North End, Boston's beloved Italian neighborhood. It was warm enough for leisurely strolling, perusing the various menus and peeking into the windows of the Italian specialty food stores. The light snow fall made the restaurant entrances more picturesque and inviting than usual. It was one of those nights when you say, "Why don't we come to the North End more often?"

Saturday afternoon I got a serious craving for Italian food. I blame Mario Batali for that. I was watching the Food Network (imagine that) and he was showing all the fresh pasta dishes he was trying out for his new restaurant in New York. I was drooling. I just had to have fresh pasta that night. I started brainstorming with my boyfriend about where we should go. I went online and wrote down three picks - Taranta, Terramia and Mare. We hopped on the "T" and decided to scope out Taranta because we hadn't been there before. While it looked really quaint and the menu seemed wonderful, I noticed that they had entertainment, a guitar player. We really weren't in the mood to be serenaded. So we moved on to Terramia.

We have been to Terramia before (probably about this time last year). We enjoyed it very much and were hoping for a command performance. We hadn't made a reservation because we had headed out early. Luckily we scored a table without a problem. If you go out any later than 7pm, I highly recommend you make a reservation. While most restaurants in the North End do not take reservations on Saturday nights, Terramia actually does. In fact, you can reserve online at Open Table where you can see which time slots are available which is great.

Terramia is a small restaurant, probably about 10 -12 tables but it is this intimacy that makes it reminiscent of trattorias in Italy. Tables are close (but not too close) and the atmosphere is warm and cozy. Our friendly waiter had a thick Italian accent which always adds to the experience. We looked over the menu and instantly became even hungrier. Everything looked so good. But it didn't take long to make our choices. A few things jumped out at us.

For the appetizer, we split the Calamari Alla Brace - grilled calamari with basil pine nut pesto and beans, shaved fennel, citrus vinaigrette. We loved this appetizer. The calamari was grilled to perfection and was very tender (not in the least chewy). The beans and fennel coated with the citrus vinaigrette were absolutely delicious. The appetizer definitely exceeded our expectations. We easily cleaned our plate. It was nice to have a calamari dish that wasn't fried and where the taste of the calamari really came through.

For the entrée, Kemal ordered Terramia's signature dish, the Raviolini Aperto. It's an "open-faced ravioli" (one large rectangle of pasta under and over the filling - sea scallops, shrimp and fresh zucchini in a lobster mascarpone sauce). After that list of ingredients, do I really need to tell you how good it was? Amazing. It's actually much better than it even looks in the photo. The homemade pasta had the perfect consistency - not too limp, not too firm. The shrimp were cooked just right. Shrimp are often overcooked because they cook so quickly. The scallops were sweet and fresh. And the sauce - velvety and rich but not too heavy. Everyone should have the pleasure of tasting this dish at least once (if not twice or three times).

I ordered the Tagliatelle Bolognese. This dish consists of homemade tagliatelle pasta (wide spaghetti) accompanied by traditional veal, beef & pork meat sauce with a touch of mascarpone and parmesan cheese. Absolutely delicious and exactly what I was craving. The pasta was al dente and coated completely with the rich, chunky sauce; it's almost like eating a stew. You can't help but soak up the remaining sauce with a slice of their hearty Italian bread. You really don't want to leave any behind.

With a meal like that, dessert was out of the question (like most North End restaurants, they don't serve dessert). Will have to save the usual trip to Mike's Pastry for the ultimate tiramisu for another time. But if you can fit in dessert when you go, by all means stop in at Mike's and be prepared to fight your way to the counter. The place is always a mob scene but for good reason.

Terramia Ristorante, 98 Salem Street, North End, Boston, 617.523.3112

Mike's Pastry, 300 Hanover Street, North End, Boston, 617.742.3050


Anonymous ABT said...

This place sounds great! It helps to have some guidance to the North End. So many places - good to hear about the gems.

3:19 PM  
Anonymous Madeira Mama said...

The meal sounds heavenly and your photos add to the mouth watering descriptions.

7:14 PM  

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