It's been said before, but there's just not enough neon in the Greater Boston area these days. If you go to New Jersey, New York, or Connecticut, or so many other states along the East Coast or elsewhere in the country, the welcoming, familiar sight of restaurants with neon signs can be found nearly everywhere you turn. But Boston seems to be a bit more of a wooden sign type of city, with little in the way of garish, old-fashioned neon. And perhaps that is one reason why the Pleasant Cafe in the Roslindale section of the city is so refreshing, as the classic neon sign above this homey Italian restaurant seems to beckon diners to come in to enjoy the food there.
The Pleasant Cafe started out as an Italian market in the 1920s, slowly expanding over the next few decades, but it hasn't changed all that much over the past 50 years. Located southwest of Roslindale Village near the West Roxbury line, the restaurant has an out-of-the-way feel to it, since diners tend to go to the center of Roslindale to enjoy the many restaurants located there. But there is nothing like the Pleasant Cafe in Roslindale Village, or nearly anywhere else in Boston for that matter. Its wood paneling, well-worn booths, and long, narrow dining area give it the feel of a place stuck in time. Waitresses at the Pleasant Cafe are, well, PLEASANT, and seem to be longtime workers at this place. Running parallel to the dining area is a simple barroom, where folks can watch a game at the bar or dine at one of the handful of tables there, while in the back is a private-feeling dining area.
The food at the Pleasant Cafe holds few surprises, but the quality of the familiar dishes is better than that of many similar restaurants in the Boston area. Items worth looking at include the savory beef barley soup, which is one of their rotating soups of the day; a mountainous antipasto that comes with tuna; a chicken and eggplant parmigiana that's a true throwback of a dish; veal parmigiana that has thin, tender veal and is very reasonably priced; meaty pork chops; a huge prime rib that is offered on Saturdays; any of the pastas with tomato sauce (such as the lasagna with nicely-seasoned meatballs), as the "gravy" is a deep-red, hearty sauce that adds much flavor to the pasta; and the pizza (including pepperoni, sausage, eggplant, salami, meatball, mushroom, and hamburger), an old-school thin-crust pie with an oily crust and zesty sauce, and just enough of a char on the bottom. Indeed, there are some who say that the Pleasant Cafe makes the best pizza in this section of Boston, and it is tough to disagree with that assessment. Plenty of other favorites are on the menu at the Pleasant Cafe, including the usual steak, chicken and seafood dishes (the plate of broiled scallops is terrific, by the way, as is the classic hamburg steak dinner and the sirloin steak), and there are daily specials that include roast prime rib, turkey dinner, and yankee pot roast. Drinks include classic cocktails such as a Ward 8, a Harvey Wallbanger, a Tom Collins, an Alabama Slammer, Sloe Gin Fizz, and a Sidecar, to name a few.
While the Pleasant Cafe won't make you forget about some of the best Italian restaurants in Boston, it is special in its own way. It is what it is, as the saying goes; a throwback of a place with friendly people, cheap prices, free parking, and good food. Oh, and the neon sign out front. What more could you ask for? If you haven't been to the Pleasant Cafe and like old-time Boston restaurants, the Pleasant Cafe is a must.
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