I posted last week asking for suggestions near Franklin, MA and was asked to write back.
We tried INCONTRO in Franklin which several people said they'd been meaning to try.
BRIEF SUMMARY: It's a renovated mill and Bill Bradley is executive chef. IMHO, it was a very cool space with perfectly prepared (though somewhat bland) food, average entree price $25. Because I was out there anyway, I'm glad I tried it, but as someone living in Boston, it's not a destination restaurant. Also you should know they don't take reservations so expect to WAIT!!!
ABOUT THE PLACE: The concept includes a dining room downstairs with a brick oven and a fancy cocktail lounge upstairs. Upstairs, a big bar is the central focus of the space. This side, the "metropolitan lounge" is filled with comfy banquettes and chairs/cocktail tables. The other side contains a "refined" billiard hall... eight tables, maybe more (quotations are from their web site). Part of the billiard side was hosting a private party. They definitely serve appetizers up here, not sure if you can get the full menu. It'd be a great space for a function/party.
The dining room downstairs seats about ~100 people and offers a mix of large, leather-clad booths (seating six or more) at the edge of the room and 2- and four-person tables filling the interior space. The decor is dark wood, stone walls and nice alabaster-like light fixtures. In both spaces the ceilings are high, but the sound level isn't bad. The brick oven is behind the small bar which has ten seats and a view of the goings on at the brick oven, and into the kitchen in some spots.
OUR EXPERIENCE (SATURDAY):
First, they don't take reservations.
We came at 5:30 to beat the rush (which I'd been told when I called ahead, starts at 6) and to make our 8 PM engagement. We were told the wait would be AN HOUR AND A HALF!! We were lucky to get the last two places at the bar (which has ~10 seats).
I enjoyed watching the pizzas being made and skillfully cooked in the oven. From our seats we had a direct view into the kitchen and the dynamics there -the chef calling for the orders, garnishing and checking them before he set them out.
THE MENU is Italianesque... with an average entree price of about $25. For two people, one glass of wine each, our pre-tip total was under $80.
They start with a basket of good, dense, but room temperature bread. It is served with a small bowl of a white-bean puree covered in olive oil. It was fine, but bland and with that brick oven I was expecting hot bread. I probably would have liked the bean concoction more if it had a hint of garlic or sage or something.
APPETIZERS: We shared a carpaccio-type appetizer ($12 or 14) - spice-cured beef tenderloin with arugula, pear, balsamic dressing and a mild roquefort(? i think) gelato. This was my favorite dish and I would have liked to have a crock full of the cheese "gelato". I wasn't sure why it was called gelato though - it was a room-temp cheese spread. But it all went together nicely.
I noticed many people were ordering the fresh mozzarella bruschetta and the fried calamari with lemon aioli. The former didn't look too impressive (three pieces with one little cherry tomato on each)... but the squid looked nice (these were maybe ~$8 - 10).
THE MENU also had salads, brick-oven pizzas (these looked very good, especially the ones loaded with caramelized onions), pastas, main plates (i forget the name in Italian), side vegetables and then the final page allowed you to choose your main (lots of beef, some lamb), a sauce and two sides (like roasted asparagus, spinach with raisins and pine nuts, mashed potatoes) for ~$25 - 45.
WE ORDERED two of the "plates".
1) Mine was a wild sea bass with parsnip puree, wild mushrooms (wood ear) and spring radishes garnished with pea shoots (I think). It was served in a small tagine and was very brothy. The fish was excellent... but I wasn't expecting everything to be swimming around in a broth. With the puree at the bottom of the bowl it ended up being almost a soup with a partially submerged piece of fish. The flavors were good and very "spring"... but it was all kind of sweet... so it didn't really knock me out.
2) The other plate included seared scallops, a risotto (with peas and onion) with a dollop of a citrus salsa in the center of the risotto. The presentation was nice, garnished again with pea shoots with an overall spring-green look. My companion really enjoyed this dish... the scallops were perfectly cooked. But for my taste it was again too much sweet and no savory counterpoint -- sweet scallops, sweet peas and onions... and the citrus stuff didn't have much gravitas. He also ordered a side of roasted asparagus which was cooked perfectly.
Didn't look at the DESSERT menu or WINE LIST carefully but they have creme brulee and tiramisu and there were about ten of each white and red wines by the glass (avg price $8).
IN CONCLUSION, the place has good ambiance, the food was really high quality, perfectly prepared... it just didn't grab me. Maybe I would have been happier with a meat dish - or the homemade gnocchi with squash that sounded good - or even a pizza. I'd never drive an hour from Boston just to eat there, but if I was in the neighborhood I might give it another try. But if I had to wait an hour and a half for a table I'd just as soon drive to Boston and eat somewhere that takes reservations!