I love breaking out from the rut don't you? Of course, I love the restaurants that I fall back on as my go-to's: the ones where I know the menu backwards and forwards, I love the dishes that are made, I know I'm guaranteed a good meal. Those spots are wonderful in my mind, but sometimes you just have to break out of the rut so to speak. You have to branch out and find a new spot-who knows maybe that new spot will enter into your normal rotation!
The other night, John and I decided to head out for dinner in the North End after having a few cocktails at our favorite water front bar. As we walked towards Hanover Street to head to one of our usual spots, we took a turn down North Street, and while debating whether we should check out how long the wait was at a near by spot I've been meaning to check out, we turned and saw a spot that seemed to be calling our names. Ricardo's Ristorante perches cheerily on North Street with, in this lovely weather, the window's wide open, flower baskets abounding and bright colors to celebrate the season. We quickly read the posted menu, and were greeted immediately by the host who made us feel right at home. Within moments of entering Ricardo's we felt like regulars- treasured guests to the management, and to our fantastic server.
We ordered a bottle wine that our server highly agreed with, and set to work with our menus, and contemplating the wonderful sounding specials that were available. After I debated far too much, I finally decided on a menu selection of Sauteed Mediterranean Sea Bass with cherry tomatoes, basil and extra virgin olive oil. The basil got me- I really wanted basil. John chose their Veal Parmesan to complement the kick of it he's been on recently, and we decided to start with their rather indulgent appetizer of, what boiled down to, fried mozzarella with marinara. Sometimes you just can't resist fried cheese!
We were served bread and olive oil to start, but these were really nothing to write home about, leaving plenty of room for the main attractions. The large pieces of fried cheese was served promptly, crispy and golden brown surrounded by a moat of marinara sauce. Fried Mozzarella, I find, is one of those dishes that can so easily vary from delicious, to painful if not done correctly. Sometimes the cheese isn't warmed properly and it isn't completely melted making for odd texture, sometimes it's too hot and burns the mouth. Ricardo's version was perfect. The cheese was cut to the perfect size, ensuring that the whole piece was perfectly melted, oozing hot cheese that was the exact right temperature. The breading created the lovely texture combination that you look for, and the marinara sauce cut the creaminess of the cheese very well with its bright, acidic flavors. This was a great way to kick off the meal!
My Sea Bass was also delicious. The fish was sauteed lightly so the only hint of oil came from the rustic sauce of tomatoes and basil served with it. The Bass had fantastic texture and flavor on its own, but with the sauce- it was an absolute hit of great flavors combining. I, being the basil freak that I am, wish that there had been a bit more basil to the dish- maybe a sprinkling of raw basil across the completed dish? Just a thought. The fish was said to be served with grilled vegetables- and that night it was served with beautifully grilled slices of zucchini, full of robust smokey flavor from the grill, but maintaining their own delicious natural flavors.
John's veal was really amazing. Two large cutlets of veal, pounded thin, were breaded and pan fried, and topped with cheese and marinara sauce, served with perfectly al dente pasta. I don't often order any type of "Parmesan" dish as I feel as though it's something I can easily make at home, this however, this was fantastic. The veal had robust natural flavor to it that was only enhanced by the herb ed breadcrumbs they had coated it with. The cheese mixture on top was cooked to the point of browning on top- a feature that I love with cheese. Somehow slightly burned cheese- or well done cheese is even better than just melted cheese- I don't even know how it's possible! I can this much about the Veal Parmesan-John has the innate ability to stop eating when he hits full- he just stops-no matter how good the dish is-when he's full- he's done. This is a skill I'm hoping to learn from him. Anyway-this Veal Parmesan was so good that he polished off a good 75% before he even realized it. That is a rock star of a dish in my opinion.
100% satisfied when our server returned to the table we quickly waived off any ideas of dessert, but he encouraged us to stay and enjoy the remainder of our wine and the beautiful evening as long as we liked. When this is said as sincerely as it was to us, it can escalate the restaurant eons in my book, not that it needed it here.
Ricardo's Ristorante- you have made me break out of my North End rut- and now I cannot wait to return to try more of your fabulous dinners, and enjoy the wonderful atmosphere.