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Boston Restaurant Blog -- January, 2009

Below are blog entries from January, 2009. Use the links in the left column to do a quick search of blog entries, or to see blog entries from other months. And feel free to use the "Comments" links under each blog entry to reply to us; your comments just might end up in our Boston restaurant blog! (Note: This page is part of our restaurant features section.)

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JANUARY, 2009

Wednesday, January 28, 2009
More Pizza: Rocco's, Wilmington, Leo's, Walpole

After having some excellent pizza at the Flatbread Company in Amesbury recently, I went on a pizza kick and tried some pizza at two more places over the past few days. The results were mixed--and surprising in some ways.

photo of Rocco's, Wilmington, MA Late last week a group of us went over to Rocco's Restaurant on Route 38 in Wilmington. I have probably been by this old-school Italian restaurant hundreds of times, but this was my first actual trip to the place. The restaurant is fairly spacious, with a sunroom off to the side and a cozy, comfortable dining area with a bar and a fireplace (didn't look like it gets used) in the middle of the place. We sat in a large booth in the middle room and ordered a number of items, including a spuckie, a couple of burgers, a pasta entree, and some pizza. I tried the eggplant pizza, was wasn't bad, though the crust was a bit thick and doughy, and the sauce had very little taste. But the bottom of the crust was nicely charred and there was a good amount of cheese on top, making up a bit for the sauce, taste-wise. The eggplant was breaded, but a bit soggy, and some of the pieces were rather bitter. To me, it was an average pizza overall, and a bit disappointing, as I know that Rocco's is known in part for their pies. Service was definitely a big plus, however; our server was about as good as you'll find, as she was friendly and always nearby when we needed her. Prices were pretty good as well, and the atmosphere was nice in an old-fashioned kind of way.

Last weekend I was at a party that included pizzas from a little sub shop and pizza place called Leo's Pizzeria. I had never heard of this place before, and frankly, when I saw the rather generic-looking place from the road as we were picking the pizzas up, I wasn't too optimistic. But was I ever mistaken; the North End-style pizza here was fantastic, with thin, gooey slices that were easily foldable and had a variety of cheeses on top, adding a tremendous amount of flavor. The pizza reminded me a bit of Regina's in Boston (though not quite at that level) or perhaps Bianchi's at Revere Beach. Overall, excellent pizza that is probably the best I've had in the Walpole area (and I've had many pies around there).

If you would like the address for Rocco's in Wilmington and Leo's in Walpole, here they are: Rocco's Restaurant, 193 Main Street (Route 38), Wilmington, MA, 01887. Phone: (978) 657-7361. Leo's Pizzeria, 1363 Main Street (Route 1A), Walpole, MA, 02081. Phone: (508) 660-0141.

Related Blog Entries: Italian restaurants, pizza places, Walpole restaurants

Thursday, January 22, 2009
Wood-Fired Pizza at Flatbread Company, Amesbury

I have been trying to get to the Flatbread Company in Bedford for quite some time now, as I have done takeout from the Amesbury location a couple of times and really loved the wood-fired pizza there. And while I still haven't had a chance to get to the Bedford location of the Flatbread Company, we happened to find ourselves near Amesbury earlier this month and decided to do an actual sitdown meal there for the first time. The verdict? Excellent pizza once again, and terrific atmosphere to match.

photo of the Flatbread Company, Amesbury, MA The Flatbread Company in Amesbury, which is their original location, is located in an old mill building along the fast-moving Powow River behind the center of town. The part of the building that the restaurant is in has been beautifully restored, with brick walls, a high ceiling (complete with exposed pipes and beams), hanging lights, wooden tables, and a concrete floor. A wood-fired oven sits in the back, adding to the coziness of the place. Because of the layout, the noise level is probably an issue when crowded, but when we were there it was mostly empty, so it was not a problem at all.

We started with a couple of beers (including an excellent Tuckerman Pale Ale), then looked at the menu, whose covers, by the way, have drawings done by children--a nice touch. We ordered a Caesar salad, which was fresh and has a very good dressing, then waited for our pizzas to come out of the oven. One of the pizza makers soon brought them over, and we dug in. Both the sausage pizza and the basic cheese pizza were delicious, with high-quality ingredients used and a nice, crispy crust from the wood-fired oven. Some of the pizzas at the Flatbread Company are made without tomato sauce, but we opted for their organic sauce on both pizzas and it turned out to have a fairly mild but overall pleasant flavor.

The Flatbread Company in Amesbury is an easy place to like; the staff is friendly and laid-back, the food is terrific, the prices are reasonable, and the atmosphere is rustic and appealing. About the only negative I have about the place is that they need more than one bathroom and it needs to be, well, soundproofed a little better. But other than that very minor quibble, the Flatbread Company definitely gets a solid thumbs-up from us.

If you would like the address for the Flatbread Company in Amesbury, here it is: Flatbread Company, 5 Market Square, Amesbury, MA, 01913. Phone: (978) 834-9800.

Related Blog Entries: pizza places

Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Outstanding Bagels at Rosenfeld's, Newton

It has often been said that there are no good bagel places in the Boston area. And while I am a fan of the bagels at Kupel's in Brookline, Iggy's in Cambridge, Bagel Rising in Allston, and, in the past, the now-closed Zeppy's in Randolph, I can't really say that I have ever had a Boston-area bagel that has matched what I have found in New York City. That is, until now; after finally getting to Rosenfeld's Bagels in Newton Centre, it is safe to say that I no longer have to drive 200 miles to get my true bagel fix anymore.

photo of Rosenfeld's Bagels, Newton, MA Rosenfeld's isn't all that difficult to find, but unless you know where it is, you may never know that it actually exists. It is technically located on Centre Street, but it is back (and down) from the road in the lower level of the Piccadilly Square building near where Centre Street and Union Street meet. The shop is tiny, with very little room to maneuver, and even if there are only five or six people in Rosenfeld's, it can get a bit claustrophobic. (Needless to say, this is a place where you get your bagels and get out as quickly as you can.)

When we went to Rosenfeld's about a week and a half ago, it was just crowded enough to be aggravating, especially since not all of the people ordering bagels were polite. But we mostly overlooked that, knowing we would only be in there for a couple of minutes. We ordered about 20 bagels total, including a couple to eat in the car. My poppy seed bagel was exquisite, with a crisp exterior and a soft, chewy interior, and while I did have mine toasted with butter on it (both acts considered a cardinal sin by some bagel purists), this bagel was so good that it could have easily been eaten untoasted with no butter or cream cheese on it.

Over the next couple of days, I tried some of the bagels I had gotten at Rosenfeld's that day, including pumpernickel (very tasty) and plain (good, though obviously not as flavorful as the others). They definitely would have tasted better had I eaten them fresh, because with well-made bagels such as these, they do tend to go downhill pretty quickly.

I am glad that I finally got over to Rosenfeld's. But I am definitely kicking myself for not having gone there until now, since I believe that they probably have the best bagels in the Boston area.

If you would like the address for Rosenfeld's, here it is: Rosenfeld's Bagels, 1280 Centre Street, Newton, MA, 02459. Phone: (617) 527-8080.

Related Blog Entries: bakeries

Tuesday, January 6, 2009
New Year's Eve at Campanale's, Braintree

It has been a really rough winter weather-wise so far, and New Year's Eve was certainly no exception. For awhile, it looked like there would be no plans at all, the way the snow was coming down, but it ended just in time for us to head out to a restaurant to celebrate the New Year's. And it turns out that our destination was Campanale's Restaurant in South Braintree, an old-school Italian restaurant that, while quite inconsistent at times, can also be very good.

photo of Campanale's Restaurant, Braintree, MA After giving them a quick call to make sure they were open, we slowly drove over to Campanale's and walked in to a restaurant that was perhaps half-full. We were seated at one of the more comfortable tables near the front door and started out with a couple of drinks, including a "scotch and soda" for me that was mistakenly made as an 8-ounce scotch on the rocks (not that I was complaining about it at the time). We then ordered a Caesar salad that frankly was not very impressive, as some of the lettuce seemed limp and the dressing was bland and watery. It was really disappointing to me, especially since I have had some outstanding Caesar salads over the past few months.

Fortunately, the main dishes more than made up for the subpar salad; the chicken panino (battered chicken layered with roasted red peppers, prosicutto, and mozzarella cheese) was simply delicious, with all the ingredients working well with one another to make for a very flavorful dish, while the the chicken and sausage larossa (boneless chicken, Italian sausages, gorgonzola cheese, mushrooms, and marinara sauce) was every bit as good, with the sausages being sweet and delectable and the "gravy" being as good as always here (their red sauce really is quote good). For dessert, we shared a tiramisu that was a bit underwhelming, but not all that bad.

The place remained fairly quiet the whole time we were there (undoubtedly due to the weather), although about midway through our meal, a loud blast of "Hell's Bells" by AC/DC rumbled through the dining room, making us feel, just for a moment, like we were at a Patriots game. Service at Campanale's was very good overall, with our waitress checking with us constantly (though not overly so) and the prices, especially for New Year's Eve, were very reasonable.

Campanale's was not our first choice for dining out on New Year's Eve, but it turned out to be a satisfying one (except for the salad). I had been a little worried as to which form of Campanale's we would encounter--the mediocre one or the excellent one--and in the end, it was definitely closer to the latter than the former. Hopefully they can continue putting out this quality food more consistently in the future. If so, I'll surely be going there more often.

If you would like the address for Campanale's, here it is: Campanale's Restaurant, 88 Pearl Street, Braintree, MA, 02184. Phone: (781) 843-6966.

Related Blog Entries: Braintree restaurants, Italian restaurants, New Year's Eve restaurants

Thursday, January 1, 2009
What We Have In Store For 2009

Now that 2009 is here, we are ready for changes to the Boston's Hidden Restaurants site. And while some of the changes are still being looked into, we can tell you about a few of them.

First, while we will continue to feature new restaurants every week or two, we plan to increase user interaction by adding many more dining spots to our Unevaluated Restaurants section. There are currently well over 100 restaurants within this special feature (along with many reviews from our readers), with a lot more restaurants to come.

Second, we are looking into upgrading our Boston and New England Restaurant Menus section. At first we will be adding links to menus of restaurants that we have featured on this site; after that, we may expand the section even more, but this is still in the works.

Third, we will continue to gradually shut down our old (and admittedly cranky!) Boston Restaurant Forum while continuing to shift the focus to our Questions and Answers section. This section is a place where the founder of Boston's Hidden Restaurants asks a number of questions for folks to answer, and it is also a place where readers can post their own questions for others to answer.

2008 was a tremendously successful year for Boston's Hidden Restaurants, with increasing recognition by various media outlets in the Boston area. And of course, once again, we couldn't have done it without all of you. Thanks again for your interest in our site, and be on the lookout for these changes (and more!) in 2009.