Select Cafe in Belmont. Generous sandwiches made with heartfelt ingredients. A light pesto set the stage for some good, fresh and honest mozzarella and tomatoes in a sandwich. In another, a lavash like bread embraces lettuce, tomato, smoky eggplant, and a soft hummus, rich with clear olive oil. Sis tells me the owner is very picky about what he puts in his food, and it shows, right down to the dense but fluffy bread.
Daily Catch on Hanover in the North End. (we had a squid fest!) Minced squid gave the meatballs a lighter bouncier texture that is wonderful. Calamari salad is one of the best I've had: a perfect balance of resilience and tenderness in the squid and equally impeccable tuning in the dressing -- just the right amount of acid and oil. Fried calamari is good not great; it's cooked just right, but not as dry and crispy as other exemplary versions I've had.
Calamari stuffed with breadcrumbs is also exceptional, and the perfect linguine and red sauce that supported it represent simple yet undeniable delights.
Big Dog insisted in an e-mail that I try their squid ink pasta olio e aglio. Thank goodness I did. There's a beautiful oily gloss on the dark and right on the money al dente fettucine that is full of savorous flavors. Bits of springy chopped calamare dot the dark sea of the fettucine like a crowd of reflected stars, each tiny minced piece carrying and echoing the savory flavors in the oil and garlic. After each mouhful, a faint spark of garlic heat remains, enough to tickle right before it fades.
I like this place a lot for the tight packed tables, and fuss-free eating. It was hectic, but our server took good care of us. My favorite seat, in the back next to the kitchen where one can watch all the action and holler compliments to the chef. Potential minus: harder to see the menu from that vantage point.
Pizza Regina in North End. I'm glad this place is in my nabe. The crust is thin enough in the middle to make a wonderful crispy statement, even though it fattens out rapidly in a doughy/bready manner as one eats towards the edges. The cream-loaded cheese on the pizza holds exceptional texture, hot and curd-like instead of simple gooiness that characterizes that in lesser pizzas.
A seat at the left side of the bar affords a view of the oven and the pizza making process.