HOW DID I MISS SAM'S: An Italian byob in Woburn MA
I would have sworn that I knew every single legal (or no-so-legal) byob restaurant within an hours drive of Boston. But a wine buddy found Sam's thanks to Google, so we decided to check it out...
Sam's Kitchen (named after Sam, the chef/owner, who used to cook in the North End since the late 90's), is a tiny ~29 seat neighborhood red sauce-plus Italian restaurant on a busy street in Woburn that opened in late 2016 (used to be the Aldonlina's). Not unattractive, but I wouldn't call it cute either. The sort of place you walk by and ignore, unless you are like us and mad about wine and living in the byob-wasteland that is Massachusetts.
Parking is probably relatively easy on the street out front, but I grabbed one of the 5 private parking spaces behind (see pic; just don't park in the 2 spaces reserved for the apartment upstairs).
A couple of wroth iron benches outside are probably popular for walk-ins waiting to get a table on Saturday evenings, because the place was ***completely full*** by 7PM on a Monday night. Yes, on a Monday night in Woburn! However, we had a reservation for 5:15PM, and were the second group of the evening, so we grabbed one of the two window tables (very convent to put your wines on the window shelf, since the otherwise comfortable tables are a little small).
We were greeted by the Chef's wife Suamy (they are both Brazilian) and a single server. Service was friendly and absolutely perfect all evening long (they even did a couple of things for us that I wouldn't have been surprised if they had refused to do). Noise level when full was quite energetic, but we could still carry on a conversation (the ceiling is partially covered with sound absorbing tiles).
As far as the food, to go with our two red Cabernets (I brought glasses, but their's are pretty decent), we ordered:
SPECIAL: Shrimp and scallops, in an orange sauce...simple, delicious, and the seafood was perfectly cooked. I actually wonder if the shrimp were sous vide, they were so perfectly tender and succulent
LOBSTER RAVIOLI: With lobster cream sauce ($21 for appetizer)...All the 3 or 4 pastas are house made, and these ravioli were perfectly cooked, with chucks of lobster inside rather than a puree like many restaurants. In a lovely creamy, buttery sauce, although I though the sauce was a little on the salty side. They kindly split the appetizer into two plates for us
RABBIT: Slow-cooked, with red wine mushroom sauce, creamy polenta, goat cheese, green squash ($29 entree)...tender, flavorful rabbit with a lovely sauce, and deliciously creamy polenta. Delicious flavors, went really well with the Meritage. However, little bits of pancetta seemed a bit too chewy and distracting to me, and it was somewhat salty again, so we mentioned this to the server and the follow course was fine. Again, they kindly split the appetizer into two plates for us
BOLOGNESE: Pork/beef/pancetta, normally served with house-made penne, but they substituted linguini for us ($23)...An nice mild, meaty sauce, with perfectly cooked pasta. We asked for some extra parmigiana reggiano on top. Again, they kindly split the appetizer into two plates for us [I forgot to photograph this dish]
A large basket of tasty, crispy garlic bread was provided gratis.
All in all, it was a really enjoyable meal, and it's so nice to be able to bring some good bottles from home (no corkage) for my pre-birthday dinner.
Who would have thought that there was such a wonderful little byob in Woburn? 4 stars for the food and 1 star for the byob! I would rate this better than the famous Rino's in East Boston. Probably better than 300 Saratoga Cafe too (which is also byob). Up there with favorites like Carmelina's and The Daily Catch in Boston's North End. The Boston Globe agrees, calling it a "Hidden Gem":
So what are you waiting for? Grab a bottle and go (but be sure to get a reservation)!