After a few years of looking for dated, old style American-Italian north of Boston in a non-tourist, with original decor and original clientele, I think I've found it.
I was driving along Rt 1 in Saugus and saw the "Continental," with its rambling 60s-est stone exterior, heavy wooden front doors, minimal windows (stained glass ones at that!), and big-haired women 60+ with their husbands.
The intuition me and my friend had was right on. The main dining room and side room are dimly lit, were packed on a Friday night. The hostess scowled at us as if to say, "aren't you in the wrong place?" We didn't get to sit in the main room, which had dark, heart-shaped buttoned booths and amazing atmosphere.
Food was OK--but I wouldn't be quick to judge. I ordered the Boston cut sirloin, which was a lean cut and thus had a "burned" tasting crust akin to what the NYC Palm can have when there isn't too much fat on whatever their standard cut is (I've forgotten).
The trouble is, I like a nice even layer of fat all around my steaks, for flavor. A small bowl of white-sauced bean salad was served. Complimentary salad was reminiscent of family restaurants--not a hallmark of the "fine" but of the homey--though they did have minced pickled peppers on top, which gave the salad what it needed.
We had a half-bottle of a Pauillac for $20, a feat if you are used to dining in NYC. The most expensive bottle is $47, the cheapest $19. The sommelier was jovial, and wore something around his neck that looked like it should be used to hold a bottle of wine. I don't know what is was. Wine was on a separate bill from dinner! Any idea why?
But we weren't there for the food, nor the wine. We were there for the atmo and the clientele. Think early sixties, electric candles on the wall, mottled red rug, just like a funeral parlor. Ditto with the general population. But that's what we LIKE it. Because there are no hipsters there (which is why we got such bad reception from the hostess and from one waitress, though our own waitress was friendly).
If only we had dressed up! And if only I knew better what to order!
Has anyone else been there?