Monthly Archives: August 2018

Sure, it’s in the name, but seriously, these clams are awesome

Bob’s Clam Hut first opened in Kittery somewhere around the time man discovered fire (okay, it was really 1956). They have since become famous and been heavily lauded for their food, and most of the accolades revolve around their fried clams and lobster roll. Last month, they opened a second location on Cumberland Ave. in Portland, bringing their goods a little further north for people who don’t venture to or stop by the southern tip of Maine very often.

The smallish restaurant is only counter service. Inside, there is a large, easy to read menu on the wall to the left, and to its right – a quarter of a head-swivel away and directly behind the counter – are specials on chalkboards. There is a nice seating area both inside and out and a convenient window to the outside to pick up food. We pulled up to order, giving eyes to the menu for a couple minutes before we were ready.

I liked the size of the menu. There were rolls, sandwiches, burgers, tacos, chowders, baskets, salads, combination plates, and sides. There was something for everyone. I eyed the combination plates thinking big…a Seafood Basket with clams, scallops, and fish might work or maybe just a combo plate with the first two. I also considered the Oyster Basket or even some Fish Tacos.

With Mrs. Portlandeater prodding me to finally make a decision, I settled on the Whole Clam Basket (who eats clam strips?) served with French fries and coleslaw. She ordered the Lobster Roll served with French fries, grilled roll, and pickle – and also a hard cider. Then we found a beautiful spot to sit outside that wasn’t covered but also wasn’t too sunny.

Just about everything we needed was located conveniently outside – napkins, water, ketchup, mustard, vinegar, hot sauce, and salt and pepper. We gathered the necessities and our food was served up through the window in a short time. I was offered a couple tarter sauces which I gladly accepted and accepted again when offered a third because I realized the containers were only half full.

My clams mostly hid the slaw and fries underneath. Her lobster roll was quite full. With my fork, I stabbed a clam and ate it with some tartar sauce. It was wonderfully crispy, perfectly tender inside, and preposterously fresh. The crunchy, fried outside was seasoned to add some flavor but not enough to divert from the natural deliciousness of the clam. I could have eaten the clams plain, but the house tartar sauce was also superb, so I used plenty of that.

Once I got to where I could see the fries and slaw, I tried both. I wouldn’t say I was blown away by either, but I was certainly satisfied. They were more than just an afterthought and I felt each was a truly suitable companion to my clams. I thoroughly enjoyed the combination. My wife felt good about the lobster roll and loved the outdoor seating area. I didn’t try the roll, but I’ve had it before and I can confirm that they are of a quality appropriate for Maine.

We finished our food, leaving nothing behind. When we went to dispose of our garbage, we saw a sign on the compost barrel that stated everything used at Bob’s Clam Hut is compostable. We threw everything in there and happily, but not hungrily, made our way out. Our two meals were about $43 plus tax (not including the cider). I really loved the food and I think you will too. Go now and love the lobster roll, savor some scallops, and claim your clams. It’s the right thing to do.

111 Cumberland Avenue
207-536-7608
noah@bobsclamhut.com

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Restaurateurs keep it real with authentic pizza and more

The owners of Portland Italian mainstay Paciarino have opened a new pizza shop just a hop and a skip away. The aptly named Pizzarino features authentic Italian pizza, salads, risotto/risotto balls, and a number of beverages and desserts. I went with a buddy, hoping to get the feel for what they were serving and how things were going only days after their doors opened. We were seated at the far end of the restaurant right next to the kitchen.

About the time we sat down, a gentleman prepped a dj booth, introduced himself, donned a fedora, and began performing karaoke, starting with Sinatra and moving on to other crooners. It was a little odd, though I suppose it probably fit the scene. I was initially concerned that the volume might make conversation difficult, but since we were at the other end of the room, it turned out to be fine. If we had been closer, it may have been an issue.

Dual beverage pairings were offered on the menu with each food item. We ignored those and I stuck with water while he ordered a Coke. After a lengthy thought process with the food, we decided on our meals, cutely ordering the same items. Each of us would have the Insalata Milano – Arcadian Salad topped with red onions, tomatoes, and parmesan cheese dressed with daily-made vinaigrette – followed by the Prosciutto Cotto Pizza – mozzarella, tomato sauce, prosciutto-cotto-ham, extra virgin olive oil, basil.

I thought the salads could have come out a little faster, but they did eventually show up. They were large – delivered in a metal bowl with handles on either end – of which we were informed in advance. The greens were bright and fresh with a fair amount of grated parm on top. My first bite was quite pleasant. The housemade dressing was stellar. I felt it was among the more well-seasoned Italians/vinaigrettes in town and combined magnificently with the parm to create a truly flavorful salad that was the perfect prep for pizza.

With the veggies done, we waited for the pie and again, they were just a little slow to be delivered. They arrived as “single-serving” (10in?) uncut saucers that were the same size as the plates underneath. Upon asking we were informed that we should simply eat them with a fork and knife. I fogot about all the other times in my life I ate pizza (by the slice) and got to cutting a piece.

The meat and basil looked a little sparse. However, with the first bite, I better understood what was going on. The whole wheat crust was thin which made it easy eating, but toppings were doled out proportionally. More toppings would have been overpowering. This wasn’t an extravagant, gargantuan pizza; it was traditional Italian simplicity.

We finished the pizza and I probably could have had another, though I think most would find the size more than satisfactory for one. We decided not to stop there and grabbed a dessert to finish the meal, as large, hungry people sometimes do. There were a fair number of choices including dessert pizzas and tiramisu, among others, but we decided on the Sorbetto al Limoncello – Sicilian lemon gelato swirled with Limoncello sauce.

Our frozen finale came in a tall, thin glass that was probably a little too romantic for our man-date. It was not exactly what I expected, but quite tasty. It had a creaminess to it that was surprising and went down a little slow since it was so cold. Warming it with my hands helped soften it a bit and I eventually made my way through it, savoring its swet and sour citrus flavors.

With two Cokes, two each of the three items we ordered, and a pizza to take home to Mrs. Portlandeater, the tab came to about $97 after tip. I was really impressed with the salad and thought the pizza was good enough to add to my rotation, especially if I wasn’t looking for just a massive pie and nothing else. My only hope would be that service would speed up slightly, though it wasn’t that bad considering I was there on their sixth day. Head there soon and check out a pizza place that’s Italian through and through. Pizzarino adds another to Portland’s list of pizza eateries that have a style all their own.

505 Fore St.
207-536-1189
pizzarino.portland@gmail.com

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Don’t miss out on the pesto at this Italian restaurant

Solo Italiano’s menu changes daily and it might just have been what we ordered that day many moons ago when we first went, but I didn’t feel like it was a great value. However, while on our recent food tour we stopped by and were quite impressed with our tasting. It made us want to get back immediately to see if, and how, they had progressed.

We had reservations and were seated at a familiar table – the one we had occupied for a short time just the week prior. I didn’t really have anything to compare the menu to since I hadn’t had a meal there in so long, but at first glance, the selection did strike me as more interesting than on my initial visit. My wife ordered a Rose from the ample wine list and we began discussing the menu.

There were a number of apps and entrees available. Among the starters were some raw items, focaccia, salads, and more. Entrees included both pasta and non-pasta dishes. I was in the mood for a salad and some pasta though I had to work out which ones from the numerous options. I also wanted to coordinate with Mrs. Portlandeater so we didn’t order the same items.

She went with the Insalata di Granchio – Jonah crab meat, chilled carnaroli rice, cucumber, heirloom cherry tomato, lemon, chive – to start. Her main course was Mandilli al Vero Pesto Genovese – handkerchief pasta tossed in an authentic Genovese basil pesto (from the food tour). I chose a starter of Barbabiettole – organic roasted beet salad with Stonecipher Farm beets, gorgonzola dolce, Dandelion Spring Farms baby arugula, dressed with honey, lemon, olive oil, and sea salt. My entree was Lasagne al Portofino – Genovese Lasagne, speck, basil pesto, bechamel, farm potatoes and fava beans, Parmigiana-Reggiano, pine nuts.

The starters were both very attractive and well-plated. Their size was strong for appetizers. My salad had lots of beet bites and three dallops of the dolce on top of the arugula. A little lemon zest was sprinkled on the side of the bowl. I tried a bite and loved it except that that the dolce was really strong and needed to be spread throughout. I hadn’t had beets recently, but they were excellent and the sweet, acidic dressing was a great compliment. It was a tasty, hearty salad.

Her dish was listed under the raw choices, but I wasn’t sure what was raw about it even after having had a taste. I loved that it had plenty of crab while the rice and vegetables added a base that didn’t remove any of the flavor. It was sushi-like – relatively light and refreshing while having serious seafood deliciousness. We cleaned our plates and had high hopes for our entrees.

I think it’s fair to say that I didn’t know what to expect from a green lasagna with no red sauce. The fava beans and pine nuts were on top, the speck on the bottom. The rest of the ingredients were mainly within the dozen or more thin layers. I took my first bite and really liked the crispy “overcooked” edge. The pesto was brilliant as it had been the week prior. The speck added a really nice touch that was different and more exciting than a traditional meat sauce.

Since I had eaten the handkerchief pasta she had just recently, I knew it was excellent, but a few more bites of it just reinforced that. The astounding creaminess and up-front basil left nothing behind in terms of flavor and overall feel in the mouth. And it wasn’t just the pesto that made it so good as the squirrely pasta was so light and delicate, it felt almost like it could be consumed without chewing (though I wouldn’t recommend that).

When all was said and done, our food came to $112 including tip. It was certainly a better experience than we had there the first time in that the meals just felt more complete for the price. I was quite impressed every step of the way. You can’t go wrong with the pesto, so I highly recommend that, but I enjoyed everything we ordered. Solo Italiano is definitely worthy of a visit and I recommend trying as many items as you can handle, or maybe even more.

100 Commercial St.
207-780-0227

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Hungry for more? Get notified whenever Peterpeterportlandeater releases a new blog entry by clicking the “follow” button on the right side of this page after entering your email address directly above it. Seriously, do it. What are you waiting for?

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