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Ricardo Malocchio's Profile

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Naco Taco

Ouch on the crappy tortillas - to think those were the highlight of my visit! (My only complaint was that they were singles, though admittedly sufficient to handle the filling.)

This all recalls Dorado Taco's early problems with their tortillas. Which simply fell apart. Just crumbled in your hands. Since fixed, thankfully!

Dumpling Palace, recently opened in the Back Bay

croutonweb, I live in the area and just wanted to thank-you for continuing to review the various dishes you try! (I've only had the soup dumplings/juicy mini-buns so far.) Here's hoping you keep posting as you taste thru the menu!

Naco Taco

Stopped in for a quick snack on Sunday.

Service = excellent. Fast and knowledgeable, quick with a beer recommendation, and not shy about her favorite menu items.
Tortillas = among the best I've had in town, shame to only get one (but it was sufficient for the contents and held together well); I don't know tortas well enought to rank, but that was a delicious bun (shinshito and egg)
Guacamole = very nice, good balance between rich avocado and lime acid with just enough heat.
Fish taco = good, but I do prefer El Pelon by a rather wide margin. Love the idea of using smelt, but these were considerably smaller than, for example, the ones at Babbo. Good crunch, but not enough fish flesh. If I could get El Pelon's innards on Naco's tortilla (+1) I'd be getting close to perfection.

The patio was very nice, and I could see this as a favorite spot for al fresco dining.

Babbo Pizzeria. Enoteca

Nice write-up, Carty - I'm definitely getting the "all 5 pesce" next time!

My wife and I returned for a follow-up visit on Saturday, again mid-afternoon. Like Carty, this looks to be a regular spot for us, as well (so long as the prices - incl. wine - remain as reasonable). The dining room was less crowded than two weeks ago, but still hopping at this off-hour. I didn't notice the same folks from the NY crew this time, so wondering if it's all Boston staff now.

We loved the fritti so much last time that we again went with the oysters and pesciolini. Two orders of the pesciolini, in fact. Smelts again. Delicious again. Reminds me of my childhood catching perch and bream from the lake, cleaning it in the water so mom could fry it up. Just as simple. Just as beautiful. Still love the crispy chip that is the tail-fin best!

I wanted to try a pasta this time and went with the carbonara. Scallions? Um, ok. I'm a traditionalist, but concede that I love, love, love Coppa's carbonara with uni despite how much that sounds like an unnecessary gilding of the lily (at least it's not edible gold leaf!). And I had no problem with the scallions in Babbo's.

What struck me as odd, however, was the use of pancetta when there's guanciale on the premises. At best, pancetta just doesn't have that sweaty, hoggy, deeply porky flavor that guanciale brings. More than that, the pancetta barely registered as anything more than tiny, spongy pebbles - more an unpleasant texture than a flavor - whereas a proper version, whether pancetta or guanciale, should have pieces large enough to register on the palate and should boast a crunchy outer crust and chewy inner core. And should, of course, bring that piggy flavor!

I don't think I'm nit-picking as there are only 5 ingredients in a carbonara excluding pasta water but including black pepper (which here was too faint and too finely ground). Simple dishes like this require perfect execution. Different conceptions - like Coppa's with the uni - should justify the divergence from tradition by offering something interesting as well as delicious.

My wife ordered the pea agnolotti which had a terrific balance of flavors, but the pasta was very doughy, even tiresomely chewy. In fact, just as doughy and unpalatable as the gnocchi we had last time (again, the oxtail ragu on that gnocchi was delicious).

Upshot after two visits: the seafood fritti, pizza, contorni/verduri keep calling me back and I will return again and again (the all 5 pesce next time!), but the pastas have been much less successful and I doubt I'll be ordering again from this part of the menu.

Babbo Pizzeria. Enoteca

Ahhh Cappellano! Love that producer. Does a great Dolcetto, too.

I was also taken aback a bit by the "order everything at once" requirement. Not cool, and hardly Italian! I didn't mention it upthread, but it bugged me and is something they absolutely need to get past.

But here's what we did: put in a bunch of orders for small stuff - conterni, antipasti, a pizza - and then when the dessert menu appeared we asked so politely "we're still hungry; could we please order some al forno and pasta first?" "Absolutely!"

Babbo Pizzeria. Enoteca

I didn't get the name of the Franciacorta producer - I think it was being poured special as not on the by-the-glass list - but Quattro Mani and Antica Fratta seem to be the producers I see most in MA. This was tastier than I recall either of those being, but you know location, company, etc. can make all the difference!

And just in case you were asking about the Pelaverga, the producer was Ascheri. I've also seen GB Burlotto's and Fratelli Allesandria's round here, the former being my favorite so far. They seem to be all Verduno producers - really love the cooler part of the Barolo zone!

Babbo Pizzeria. Enoteca

I was kinda all over the place above, Bugsey - it was the Franciacorta that was being poured by the glass! The pelaverga was about $35 for the bottle, a downright steal these days and probably not even a 2x markup over retail.

Babbo Pizzeria. Enoteca

We had reservations at 4pm last Saturday and were seated immediately. It was packed. Any empty barstools or tables were quickly filled. My recommendation: get a reservation.

The wine list is as nicely priced as the menu with a fairly good selection of wines. I was surprised to find a Pelaverga from Ascheri - not the most well known of Piemonte varieties but a great food wine. I don't believe I saw this on the by-the-glass menu, but they were pouring a very nice Franciacorta (not sure the producer), which was great as the seafood fritti were some of my favorite items.

Namely the oysters and pesciolini, the latter turned out to be smelt and absolutely wonderful. If I were to register a complaint it would be that only 2 of those wonderful little fishies still had crispy delicious tailfins attached!

Another highlight was the pizza. Guanciale with egg. Really well cooked. The margherita served to the table next door looked like it could grace a postcard from Napoli.

We loved the oxtail ragu that was served with gnocchi, but the pasta itself was doughier and harder than we liked. Caponata also good, but served colder than I would have liked (was wonderful after awhile on the table).

The NY crew was doing an excellent job, and we somehow ended up with two servers. One seemed more attuned to the wine program and had a good knowledge of Italian wine (can't remember the last time I traded favorite Roero and Pelavergo producers with a server). Both were quite knowledgeable about the menu, and many thanks for the pesciolini tip (will definitely have to go back to try the panelle and bottarga).

Really a total win for us, and looking forward to going back.

Sunday brunch: Coppa or Aquitane?

Gretchen, it sounds like you're going for quality of food primarily, but you should know that the ambience of those two restaurants is quite different.

Aquitaine is stylish, comfortable, not too fancy, but slick. Never had brunch there, but like their regular menu.

Coppa is more rustic, relaxed, and tiny offering either a handful of stools at the bar or tiny plastic chairs parked around a few wobbly little tables. The brunch is quite good, with dishes far better than the usual bland, even sad stalwarts of the typical brunch menu.

Best place for seafood dinner

That said, I remain very hopeful about Select Oyster Bar's prospects and have added Row 34 to the top of my go-to list (thank you for the rec!).

Best place for seafood dinner

RETRO, while I do think Boston compares unfavorably to cities elsewhere - acknowledging that Tokyo and Barcelona certainly represent a very high bar - I'd like to think my criticisms are offered in the hopes of improving the situation as I'd love to be able to recommend - and enjoy! - at least one or two other seafood-focused restaurants in addition to ICOB or Neptune. I am, in fact, very interested in that conversation, and as such am disappointed to hear you say that "most people here don't feel the need for [that]".

I'll certainly grant you that tasty seafood can be found all over town in all manner of forms. At Taberna de Haro, at L'Espalier, at El Pelon (fish taco!), probably at Grill 23 (been awhile) and Menton or O Ya (would need someone else's bank account to confirm the latter). Atlantic Fish has it's clientelle, as does Legal's, and clearly someone likes the Barking Crab and No Name given their longevity, not to mention ye olde Union Oyster House. Forgive my prejudices or the putting on of airs, but I don't believe this puts us on the level of a city like Barcelona where superior and vastly more varied seafood can be had at a luncheonette counter at the mercado.

And surely you've noticed that ICOB and Neptune are typically the responses to the question asked here, nearly to the point of exclusion? In like a multitude of threads? As though we'd be something of a seafood desert without them? And, yes, I think we would be.

Best place for seafood dinner

Though hope springs eternal:

Best place for seafood dinner

ICOB, Neptune ... honestly isn't it sad that there aren't plentiful seafood places we feel good about recommending? I don't expect we'll ever reach the heights of Tokyo, Barcelona, and other great seafood cities, but we're so far below that level that it's almost a tragedy.

Don't come here expecting world-class seafood. We don't have that, and nothing even close.

inboston: Korean fried chicken and things

InBoston also has a location on Mass Ave in that little row of restaurants where Pho Basil is. Appears to have slightly different options than the downtown location, including unsauced pieces, and both the spicy and soy glazed pieces are considerably more sauced at this location that is reported at the downtown spot. I also like it, but my only point of reference is Bon Chon (which I also very much like!).

what is a good restaurant near Mass General hospital

Unfortunately had lunch once at Antonio's while my wife was at MGH. I'm suprised it's recommended at all, but if you want a good laugh (and inedible dish of food) order what they call "Carbonara".

You will be served a heavy bowl of thick, snow white, mushy goo. I'm guessing it's equal parts Elmer's and the pasta of your choice. No, there isn't guanciale, nor pancetta, nor anything resembling bacon in the goo. There isn't even black pepper. If there are eggs in that goo, I'll eat ... um ... lessee ... I'll eat a bowl of Antonio's carbonara!

Bar Boulud

I get it, too.

We went for a bottle of wine and charcuterie/terrine. On the plus side, our service was excellent with an engaged server who knew the food well. The wine service was also quite good. The bottle was at cellar temp, which is not as easy to come by in this town as one might think (I'm looking at you North End, and especially you, Mama Maria). The bottle was presented, uncorked, poured and then wisked away, presumably because we were sitting at those teeny pub table/banquette things. Though generally we prefer to pour our own, our glasses never remained empty, nor were they overpoured, nor was one drinker given a punk pour and the other the balance.

On the downside, the wine prices are at full markup even for the more expensive bottles. That means nearly three to four times retail price (again, not just for the cheap bottles). The by-the-glass was a tremendous rip-off at 4x's retail (that's usually 4x's wholesale/distributor cost). So, you know, bring money.

The wine list itself boasts some fine labels with a focus on Burgundy, Beaujolais, and the Rhone, but has little in the way of mature bottles. A few early maturing "restaurant" vintages were included which is what we settled for (an '07 Jadot Beaune 1er Avaux at $95).

The terrines were ok, well made with good textures, nuanced flavors, but none that I'd go back for. The saucisson was the blandest, tamest I've ever tasted. The Lyonnaise eat some funky, stinky saucisson, some even I might not touch, but this was practically Hormel.

The space was not much different than before, a bit more country and airy. A bit less formal. It felt like the interior of a hotel restaurant, I guess, but Eastern Standard/ICOB prove that it doesn't need to be this way.

It's just down the street, but we won't make a point of going back.

branzino - my dream fish!

Roasted whole under a salt crust. Practically fool-proof (say I from experience!), without any flavors detracting from the delicious fish flesh, and so, so juicy.

Recipes abound and are totally easy: whip egg whites to light peaks and fold in a ton of salt until you get a wet beach sand-like texture. Tuck some lemon slices and perhaps some fresh herbs inside the fish, place flat down on a metal tray on top of a light slather of the salt mixture, then cover the fish completely in the salt mixture and roast in the oven. Be careful when removing the crust (don't start wacking at it) so that it doesn't crumble and get into the meat (unless you want it really salty!).

Scissors and Pie Pizza on Newbury St.

Be sure to check out MyPie in midtown NYC if you find yourself down there! And if you happen to be in Rome...

Scissors and Pie Pizza on Newbury St.

The models for pizza al tagliOH! for me are Bonci's and Roscioli's pizza bianco. And I think MyPie is also in that league. But I didn't find Scissors and Pie's crust notably thicker than either of the above, but certainly less substantial. And I do think this is a significant issue for them. They're aware of it and claim to be working on it.

Retro, did you also find it to be lacking texturally? Like it's a bit too close to a softer Sicilian style? For me, I wanted a heavier crunch on the bottom, with swirling masses of knotty, chewy textures on the inside. A very old-school sort of bread, something quite rustic and substantial. S&P's crust isn't delicate exactly, but it's too much in that direction, and too consistent in texture.

(Don't get me wrong - I still found it delicious - but these folks are trying to achieve a particular perfection and it's not there. Yet.)

Since I'm dealing out (constructive, I hope) criticism, I have to ask ... why Newbury Street? A Pizzeria Uno would likely do better there. The rents are surely too high. The decor is simply too nice. At Pizzarium - even newly renovated - there's barely space for a small line, the counter, and a little fridge of Italian craft beer. And it's on a grotty little side street near a bus station. MyPie is very similar.

And I think Retro's point about the volume of customers is quite insightful. I know these guys have been dinged on the marketing end - and I'm certainly no expert here - but it seems to me that they've invested too much in the wrong location, in a too refined atmosphere, and on that slick, heavy stock menu/advertising sheet. It should be no frills like Galleria Umberto. And I'd like to see a beer & wine situation that leans heavily on local and Italian craft beer (I'm a hardcore wino, but not with pizza).

I want these guys to get it right and to succeed. I know it ruffles some feathers when people say it, but Boston is still something of a backwater on the food scene. I know we'll never aspire to be the next San Sebastian, but in Scissors & Pie we have a unique place attempting to bring a very specific product to this market. And they seem totally sincere and committed to doing it right.

And let's face it - there are very few Italian spots in this area that are doing much at all right (I don't mean Italian-American - we have plenty of that). I can't bring myself to criticize the Scissors folks when there are places that fail in the simplest dishes.

One example of total Boston failure: the "carbonara" at Antonio's on Cambridge St. This place somehow merits good reviews in the local press, Zagats, etc. But go order that Carbonara like I did that day when my wife was at MGH. As you marvel at this bowl of pure white goo, notice that it doesn't even have pepper much less guanciale (or even pancetta). I don't even think it contained eggs. Just a big heavy, soggy bowl of glue-spackled pasta. It is in my experience the worst excuse for Roman cuisine this town has to offer. And there are some awful examples out there. But this is the sine qua non of terrible Americanized carbonara. Zagat's rates Antonio's as "Excellent" and the Globe calls it a "treasure".

So, yeah, I hope S&P gets it right.

Scissors and Pie Pizza on Newbury St.

I should put up Elizabeth's Pt.2 piece on pizza al taglia toppings per the Bonci masterclass (great photos). Bonci is the standard against which all comers are judged. He elevated the style and is its best ambassador and teacher. This is what Scissors & Pie aspires to.

Pizza as canvas: http://www.elizabethminchilliinrome.c...

Scissors and Pie Pizza on Newbury St.

I think the notion that you're paying for dough - and thus getting ripped off - overlooks the immense quality of the ingredients. OpinionatedChef mentioned the mozzarella, and it is indeed nearly as good as what one finds in Italy. It is shockingly difficult too achieve that level of creaminess and flavor. Many have tried, all have come up at least a little short:

I doubt they're seeing this thread, but it would be wonderful if a couple of our finest Italy focused Hounds - namely Elizabeth Minchilli and Katie Parla - could taste the S&P al taglia. I'd love to hear their thoughts!

As for myself, the crust needs to improve. The very best versions are highly inventive with the combinations and very selective of the ingredients, but the crust has to be right. The pans are certainly important (as are the ovens, etc.), but the dough itself and how it's worked is apparently just as key as noted by our fellow boardmember, Elizabeth Minchilli, after a class with Bonci:


Scissors and Pie Pizza on Newbury St.

Wow, the negativity. Is it me, or is there maybe one person in this entire thread who knows of Roman style pizza al taglia? (I mean you, BobB!)

Negativity + ignorance = I hope this place I don't understand fails. What is this, yelp?

I for one happen to love pizza al taglia. Gabriel Bonci is something of a hero to me, and his Roman joint Pizzarium perhaps the best reason to venture over Vatican way. There are perhaps a handful of true Roman style pizza joints in this country (maybe 5?), and this is surely one.

Are they as good as Bonci's Pizzarium? (Or MyPie in NYC?). No. At least not yet. I first happened upon this spot weekends ago. Met the chef (the younger guy with the ropy muscles, not the big guy) and tried an array of slices. I told him I'd met Bonci at Pizzarium and been to MyPie, and was quizzed as to what I thought of his rendition. I was full of praise, with one important criticism: the crust lacks that serious, rustic crunch that the best al taglia has. He nodded vigorously and the smaller woman with the short hair came over - they were in total agreement and quite obviously steamed at receiving the wrong trays from Italy for the second time. He insisted I come back within the next few weeks to try again. I will gladly do so!

But I'm frankly embarrassed by the lack of pizza knowledge on display in this thread. I mean, c'mon, Hounds! Pizza al taglia is not Chicago deepdish. It's not Sicilian. Nor is it's existence an insult to a NY style pizza lover or those who prefer the wonderful Napolitano. This is Roman style pizza and Scissors and Pie is a totally legit, totally committed version of that style. And, yup, it's cut with scissors and weighed just like this in Rome, too. In short, it's the real deal. Crust issues aside, and I expect that to improve. Perhaps they can also borrow Bonci's 300 year old Umbrian yeast starter (he's very generous with it).

I consider myself lucky to have a true Roman pizza al taglia spot in the neighborhood and I surely hope that certain hidebound preconceptions don't kill it before it has a chance to find itself and flourish.

What could be the problem with this wine?

Why not mention the specific wine? And, if not heat-damaged, were they prematurely oxidized?

As an example, I purchased a number of 2009 Loire reds in the same price-range as those you mention by Jean François Mérieau, specifically cuvees of Cot ("Cent Visages") and Gamay ("Le Bois Jacou"). When they were on, they were quite tasty for the level, but a shockingly large number (much greater than 50%) were totally oxidized. I blame the corks which had a very slippery surface and were often slightly depressed in the neck and feeling very loose, but I have no way of knowing whether they were the culprit.

But I do know that the wines exhibited high levels of prem-ox, and now I no longer purchase from the winery. A very high level of TCA contamination has caused me to not purchase from one winery, and I'm considering not purchasing any more Faustino due to Brett issues.

If you tell us what the wine is, we might be able to tell you if others have experienced that level of spoilage. And, at the very least, you should warn the rest of us if you're finding high levels of spoilage in a particular wine.

May 28, 2013
Ricardo Malocchio in Wine

My first Prezza experience: the wine is superb, the food and service not so much

I completely agree. The following day I looked up some photos, and I do not doubt that it was either a hairlike root or a dried-out example of those frond-like extensions that are usually more curved/rounded looking.

Credit where it's due: the waiter expressed his shock on first sight, spirited the dish away, comped the bill, and returned later with an explanation that honestly seemed as much a relief to him as to myself. In the interest of fairness, I hope that's also clear.

My first Prezza experience: the wine is superb, the food and service not so much

Yes, the moderators contacted me, explained the policy noted above, and asked me to rephrase for clarity. They could not have been more cordial or understanding.

I was glad to do so and pleased that they were very accommodating to my concerns, foremost among those the accusation of lying by another forum member (those posts were deleted). I was very concerned that altering my original post would obscure the fact that I totally accepted Prezza's explanation after the initial shock (shared by the waiter) and my colorful account of it.

Second, I wanted it to remain clear - or indeed make it clearer - that my criticism here was of a carelessly plated dish. Whether it's a fish scale in the bouillabaisse, a random collection of tiny bones in the filleted Dover sole, olive pits, or hairlike pea tendril roots, such carelessness and lack of execution may not always lead to a ghastly misunderstanding like the one I originally described, but is nonetheless below the standards of any restaurant that proclaims itself to be "fine dining". I was pleased that Chowhound's policies do not prevent calling a restaurant out for these sorts of errors.

So let me be absolutely clear: this is a photo of a pea tendril root and not anything more concerning. But I hope you can understand the initial response to it, ours and the waiter's.

My first Prezza experience: the wine is superb, the food and service not so much

Perhaps so. But bear in mind that I'd already set up the original bottle an hour or more prior to our reservation time, and ordered the second bottle immediately upon arrival. We were first-timers, but had already spent over $200 on wine before placing our first food order.

That said, there are nights when I'd prefer to order only an inexpensive Barbera or Dolcetto or the like, and wouldn't want to be treated as second class for doing so.

BTW, the "well rehearsed routine" you noticed on the wine switcheroo reminded me just a little of the shut-down response Devra First received when she was brusquely dismissed for complaining about the ravioli. Sounds like hey'd heard it before.

My first Prezza experience: the wine is superb, the food and service not so much

I completely agree on Troquet. It is still the most special place in town for wine lovers and Chris is simply the greatest host, keeper-of-the-cellar, restauranteur, you-name-it. I've never seen anyone but him opening the bottles at Troquet, taking care that each is showing well for his guests.

I also love the food, but not all chowhounders are similarly moved. I think it's brilliantly designed to accompany wines, though I'm usually back and forth between the duck and the pig. And anything that might have truffles on it.

Prezza's margins, like most places, are greatest with the cheapest wines. Wine-searcher doesn't show any listings for the bottle I drank, but surrounding (lesser) vintages are at auction for approximately 50-60% of Prezza's price. Unfortunately, a 2x's markup is quite reasonable for US wine-lists, but that's a rant for another time...

My first Prezza experience: the wine is superb, the food and service not so much

My wife took me to Prezza for my 45th birthday on Saturday, our first experience there. We've wanted to go here for a long time, stymied recently by the fire. To say we wanted to love this place is an understatement. We expected to love this place.

I took an early peek at the menu and wine list, and was very impressed by both. After going back and forth on the wine, I settled on one of those great old vintages of a particularly well-loved Chateauneuf. There are many on the list, it wasn't the '78, but I"m not eager to share the exact producer/vintage as I'm hoping against hope that there may be another bottle in Prezza's wonderful cellar for a future visit!

Suffice to say this 30-or-so year old bottle was pristine and the wine was one of the most sensual and profound I've drunk all year. Fill was excellent, just above base-neck. The cork was soaked through and came apart upon opening, the bottom portion ending up in the wine, but fortunately in more or less one piece with only larger chunks floating about. The fire last summer clearly did not impact this bottle, and I was told that the cellar was unaffected save some slight water damage to a few labels, and remained cool even as the fire raged back in the kitchen.

As I said, I will return, if for nothing else than the wine list!

Which brings me to the other part of our experience, the food and service, both of which were lacking for any restaurant that would pride itself as among the class of the city (Prezza is clearly not going for world-class, Michelin star status). From the start, we were surprised to be on the receiving end of some serious table-turning pressure. I consider this totally unacceptable for any restaurant other than a cafeteria, and there wasn't even a second-seating issue here. Our reservations were at 9pm.

I'll chalk up the pestering, the interruptions, the snide comments (well, I have two of your courses, maybe you won't keep me in suspense any longer?) to an overzealous server attempting to be helpful and funny rather than annoyingly intrusive. But I'm being extremely generous here. My wife is not nearly so generous, and unfortunately for him she was paying the tip.

We started off well with a tuna tartar and some only slightly overdone tiger prawns. The latter dish is difficult, the shrimp wrapped in philo and fried which often leads to hard, stringy flesh. But this preparation was only mildly overcooked, and certainly within the bounds of a successful dish. Both paired well with our white choice for the evening, an '09 Droin Chablis 1er Vaillons, available at a reasonable restaurant price. The wine list scores again!

Our next courses were completely unsuccessful. For me, it was the "famous" (??) Ravioli di Uovo. Again, let me concede: a difficult dish to pull off. Prezza did not pull it off. The presentation is unappetizing, the beige upon beige of brown butter sauce on a very flat, wide lipped ravioli disc was not the slightest bit appetizing. And a slice of the fork was all it took to note before tasting that this was an exceptionally hard pasta around the rims. The yolk drizzled out as a very faint yellow (no Paolo Parisi deep orange here). The flavor? Tasteless. No yolkyness. No butteryness. Not a hint of the promised sage. And the texture was terrible. A total failure. I see that a recent Boston Globe reviewer had the same reaction:

Devra First:"“How is the ravioli?’’ our waiter inquires one night. Well, the wrappers are still hard at the edges. “Yes, those are very difficult to cook properly,’’ he says, walking away. While we appreciate that bit of insight, we’d be even more appreciative if he had taken them off the bill or seemed even vaguely apologetic."

I only wish I'd read this review before ordering the dish. It should be perfected or removed from the menu. I might have commented, as well, but another issue quickly arose and took precedence...

That other issue was my wife's dish, the Pea Raviolini, which contained an extraneous object that we discovered to our relief to be a pea tendril part. It's appearance was ghastly as you can see in the photo below (post the photo), but I fully accept the waiter's explanation after returning it to the kitchen and conferring with the staff. It was part of the pea tendril root system and should have been removed in prep. However, its appearance was so unappetizing that it's not unlike finding what appears to be a toenail clipping in your fish dish, freaking out ... and then realizing, oh hey, it's only a fish scale. Not nearly so ghastly, and yet unworthy of a self-described "fine dining" establishment. Here, it was emblematic of the inconsistency of preparation that marked much of the meal.

Finally, I had the veal Porterhouse, and my wife ordered the gnocchi Bolognese. Again, I fared better in that my only complaints are that the veal was overcooked (or my idea of medium rare being at least faintly pink in the middle of even the most done portion is not Prezza's notion), and the "risotto" (their term) was a thick, gelatinous pile of mush. My wife's gnocchi, on the other hand, were to my mind even worse than the "pea tendril parts" of her raviolini. Tiny, dessicated, chewy strings of what they have the unmitigated gall to refer to as "gnocchi", all drowned in a bland, forgettable sauce of red. The appearance and presentation suggested the dish was pre-digested. Except for the dense chewyness of the - oh ok - "gnocchi", for which a bit of pre-mastication may well have helped.

Um, we passed on dessert. Not that we weren't already being rushed out after the quickest two-bottle meal of my adult life.

SO, HELP ME, HOUNDS! There are only a handful of wine lists that are in the same league as Prezza's in this city. I want to give full credit where it's due here. And I want to return and have an overall experience more befitting the quality of the wine program. What should I have ordered instead? Should I avoid weekends? Sit at the bar? Go against my nature and make earlier reservations to avoid the table-turning bumrush?

Let me note in conclusion that the restaurant refers to itself as "Prezza - Fine Dining". And, indeed, the wine was very fine.

Island Creek or B&G?

Neptune is ICOB's only competition.

It's been so long that I can't even remember when B&G was actually considered good. I know I've regretted my last two visits over the past 4-5 years.

Still, even at ICOB it's all about what you order. Despite appealing to me GREATLY on paper, I don't like the famous short ribs and lobster roe noodles. And I love short ribs, lobster roe, and noodles.

I generally prefer one of the daily specials to any of the longtime house specials, as those tend to be very fresh, very seasonable. When ramps are in season - are we there yet - those tend to show up on the specials plates, too. Likewise softshell crab, etc.

The raw bar is - of course - highly recommended. Except for the lobster. Don't bother.

And the honeyed biscuit is an absolute favorite of mine, often a dessert.

Any good restaurants near the Berklee Performance Center?

My wife and I live really close, and we love the Vietnamese side of the Pho Basil menu.

For Thai, we prefer Bangkok City a short block up Mass Ave.