Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Carlo's Cucina Italiana, Allston

Years ago I was looking for a great first date spot to suggest to a man that I had recently met. I wanted something cute, unassuming, and easy. My friend immediately suggested Carlo's Cucina Italiana in Allston. While my love affair with the gentleman was short lived, my love affair with Carlo's is still going strong. In fact, it hedges for one of my favorite Italian spots in the city.

Carlo's doesn't look like much from the outside. On Brighton Ave in Allston, if you aren't boasting a diverse beer menu, or cheap beer, the general population over looks you. But Carlo's quietly stands strong, offering delicious Italian meals, complete with homemade pasta, and servers that make you feel like one of the family.

Last week I had the opportunity to return to Carlo's after about a year and a half hiatus, walking back through those doors made me feel like walking back home. We were seated and our server was the daughter of the owner, who Ive had numerous times before, and is both informative, and welcoming.

My dinner for the evening is my long time favorite- Fusilli con Salsiccia & Broccoli Rabe which is basically homemade fusilli pasta with sausage and broccoli rabe in a light garlic and oil sauce, that I swear is slightly enhanced with a broth. Parmesan cheese is liberally sprinkled over the top and the dish comes together beautifully. There is something about homemade pasta that just makes me happy- the clean taste of it, the lack of preservatives, and the softness of it, is just wonderful. I also have this idea, and I'm happy to be wrong, that it absorbs the flavors of its accompaniments better. So the delightful peppery spice of the rabe is nicely imparted along with the garlic of the sauce. Maybe that's just me though. However I can say that the portions of pasta, broccoli rabe and big chunks of sausage are perfect in the dish. I often find that some places over use sausage and the resulting dish is incredibly heavy. The use of the nice light sauce, and the slightly bitter rabe offset the heaviness of the sausage so it all comes together perfectly.

I have to say, every meal that Ive had at Carlo's has been stellar. I have had several conversations with Irene, who was our server this time as well, and the love that goes into each dish is clear. The place has been in her family's hands for decades, with her father making lasagna on Sundays as the special, some of the pastas being made by hand, and her mother making the Tiramisu. The restaurant is small, but it produces some of the best Italian food I've had, and the biggest amount of heart.

If you haven't made the trek to Allston, no not for the beer, but for this absolute gem of a whole in the wall- you should. Immediately.

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