Category Archives: Italian

Baked Eggplant Tomato and Mozzarella

This recipe is courtesy of my sister Katie. We went to Sowa Market today and bought fresh vegetables, and more gluten free spinach fettuccine, my new obsession. We spent the majority of our walk home talking about what she should make for dinner using the eggplant she just bought. She lives in the North End and has the luxury of fresh cheese and Italian spices right at her finger tips – yes we should all be jealous. So when she got home she picked up a few more ingredients and made a layered baked eggplant dish with tomatoes, spinach and mozzarella, our take on eggplant Parmesan without breadcrumbs, and then put it on top of fettuccine to make the meal complete.

Ingredients:
1 eggplant, sliced into 1/4 inch thick pieces
1 large tomato, sliced thinly
Mozzarella Cheese ( or whatever kind of cheese you prefer)
Fresh Spinach
Spices: Basil, Oregano, Garlic
Your favorite marinara or pasta sauce
Olive oil
Gluten Free Spinach fettuccine

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix garlic, basil and oregano with the pasta sauce.
Spread pasta sauce on the bottom of a baking pan. Layer eggplant, more sauce, cheese, spinach, and tomato. Drizzle olive oil and spices over the top of each eggplant stack.

Cook for about 25 minutes or until the eggplant is soft and starts to brown.

Use the leftover pasta sauce in the pan to mix with the spaghetti, then place the eggplant layers on the pasta and enjoy!  

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Artu

When my sister turned 23 a few weeks ago we had a big family dinner at Artu in the North End (they also have a location in Beacon Hill). We all loved it. The food was great; everyone thoroughly enjoyed their meals. We went on a Sunday night and had the upstairs space all to ourselves.
I loved the ambiance here, semi modern but with the traditional Italian restaurant feel. Located on Price Street, right off of Hanover Street, it was little quieter than other restaurants right on Hanover.
Jeremy ordered the Veal Piccata was a flavorful dish of thin slices of veal, capers and mushrooms in a white wine lemon sauce. The veal was not breaded or coated in anything and was gluten free, as was the sauce.
I had the Frutti di Mare with gluten free penne. It was delicious! The penne was cooked to perfection, had great taste and texture.  The portion size was just right, not too big, and full of shrimp, calamari and little necks in a light tomato sauce.  The only down side is that they charge extra for the gluten free pasta but don’t tell you this ….until the bill comes, and it’s on there. But it was so delicious that this time I wasn’t too upset (and I wasn’t paying!)
My aunt also ordered gluten free pasta with her eggplant parmesan, which they made special for her without the breadcrumbs. The kitchen was very accommodating and I highly praise them for this.
My cousin ordered the Maple Glazed Salmon special served with mixed greens and balsamic vinaigrette. It was also deliciously, slightly pink in the middle, just the way we like it! He devoured his plate

My only complaint is that after telling the waitress we had two gluten allergies and talking with her about the menu options, we ordered 2 orders of the Mussels appetizers. The broth had flour in it. I was very surprised she didn’t tell the kitchen to omit it. She also told us she “thinks” the veal was gluten free, so of course we asked someone else to confirm this. She wasn’t the greatest waitress I’ve ever had, to put it nicely.

We brought our own gluten free chocolate cake ($35) from Modern Pastry. It was delicious! No one could tell that it was gluten free, and almost everyone ate their entire piece. One of the other waitresses came up to sing happy birthday and she was a riot! She was this little older Italian lady with such a great personality, I wish she had been our server that night! We even gave her a piece of cake! Just an FYI, they do serve a $2 cutting fee per person, but since this was a special occasion – and they won’t bring a knife to the table (so I’m not sure how else you could do it) – my mom did not mind paying for this extra service. 

Modern pastry also has gluten free muffins, whoopie pies, and biscotti. What they carry in store week to week varies.

Website: http://www.artuboston.com/
Location: 6 Prince Street (North End) and 89 Charles Street (Beacon Hill)

Nebo

I heard about Nebo last year from a coworker of mine who has celiac. I’ve also heard other people rave about it and saw it on the Chronicle or Date Line last year. So when there was a Living Social deal last month I bought it without hesitation. I had been dying to go and last night I finally went.
I was not blown away. The flavors were amazing, so fresh and so bold. But I was let down by the over price menu and extra chargers for gluten free substitutions.
We started with two appetizers; the olives and timballo de melanzana. The olives were served warm in oil with orange zest and rosemary. This was delicious. I loved the warmth and citrus flavor mixed with the saltiness from the olives and and contrast from the rosemary and other spices they used. The Timballo de melanzana is eggplant and mozzarella timbale with fresh tomato sauce. In cooking, timable can refer to both a type of baking dish and to a type of food, usually prepared in and served in the baking dish of the same name. This timable was layers of eggplant, mozzarella and fresh tomato sauce and it was delicious. I highly recommend this dish. It is served hot in a timable and the eggplant was so tender.
Timballo de melanzana

We also shared the baby arugula and Parmesan salad. The arugula was so fresh with a slightly bitter taste and paired nicely with the lemon vinaigrette. It was easy to tell that the Parmesan was freshly shaved and it was delicious.
Everyone ordered gluten free meals so we could share. Well actually if I’m being honest, they did it because they are extremely nice and wanted me to be able to try everything and feel bad when I am left out.
Jeremy ordered the “Bobby Flay Throwdown Winner” zucchini lasagna and it was fantastic. This was layers of zucchini, homemade ricotta, mozzarella, romano and marinara sauce. It was light and noodle-less (and vegetarian).  I highly recommend ordering this, it was just amazing.
The Gluten Free Pizza was great. We tried the margherita and the scampi. We all preferred the scampi. But both were delicious. I could taste the freshness of the basil on the margherita pizza, it was like it was just picked straight out of my garden. The scampi pizza had much more flavor, from the garlic and parsley, and the crust didn’t get as soggy in the middle as the margherita did. I think this happened because of all the tomato sauce, and once it had been sitting for a while it started to get a bit soggy in the center where it was already softer to begin with.  I absolutely loved the crispy outer crust. I just wish they didn’t charge an extra $4 to make it gluten free. It was great but not great enough to pay $21 again for a pizza!
Margherita Pizza

Scampi Pizza
I was super excited to try the gluten free pasta. It is still not something I find very often on restaurant menus, although it is starting to show up more and more, but when I find a restaurant that offers it I get so excited! The gluten free pasta comes with only one option; spirals. It is not homemade, don’t be fooled. It is made and packaged in a gluten free factory, and Nebo charges an extra $3 for it. Maybe it’s just me but I think it’s ridiculous when restaurants charge extra for gluten free substitutions – bread, pizza, pasta. I understand the price of gluten free food can be more expensive, but why not try to find one not as expensive? It especially makes me mad when it’s not homemade and even more frustrated when it isn’t even good. Nebo isn’t the only restaurant that does this, so I’m not trying to pick on them, but the upcharge here is one of the most expensive I’ve seen. My pasta was way undercooked and it was so inconsistent. One piece would be semi undercooked, another completely hard and one spiral every now and then would be about 95% cooked. The taste was fine but the texture, not so much. We were going to send it back but by the time the waiter eventually came over to our table to ask how it was we were too hungry and had already begun eating it. It was such a disappointment because I had been looking forward to this and not to mention the sauce was delicious. So, I used the sauce instead on the lasagna – which I thought needed a little more sauce anyways.
Shrimp with slow roasted spicy tomato sauce with gluten free pasta
We had a living social voucher for $50, which in addition to wanting to try it for so long was the main reason we are here last night. Over all it was good but not for the money. I enjoyed the pizza crust, but the middles were a little doughier and softer, and the pasta was under cooked, both certainty not worth the $3 and $4 upcharges. The lasagna was great but was a little pricey at $21. The décor is very modern, not the place to go if you are looking for a traditional Italian restaurant. It was also a bit loud, great place for a big group, as it had a fun atmosphere, but not the most desirable for eating out with your boyfriend and his parents. I’m not sure if I’d go back. I might if there is another deal because I want to try the gluten free calamari, which the table next to use ordered, and it looked really good. If I had another deal I would go back for sure, but I’m not so sure I want to pay so much extra just so I can have a gluten free pizza. I know plenty of restaurants that make pizza just as good, if not better, for less money and no extra charges.
The online menu does not mention the extra fees for gluten free pizza and pasta, and I don’t think this is right. It’s kind of like luring you in on false pretenses.
I did like that the maître d’ and the manager both came to see how we were doing and if we were enjoying our meals. Our server was very nice, but not very attentive.
Location: 90 North Washington St., North End Boston

Marco

We took my dad to Marco last weekend for his birthday, and we had such a good time & great meal!
 (unfortunately that piece of chocolate cake is not gluten free)
Marco is a charming little Italian restaurant located on the 2nd floor above Bricco on Hanover Street. We were seated by the window (best seat in the house) and across from the cozy little fireplace. The restaurant has 10, maybe 12 tables, and a small bar that seats 5 or 6 people in the back.
If you have a gluten allergy, Marco does a fabulous job of catering to you. Almost any dish can be made gluten free. Call 24 hours ahead of time and let them know you are coming in and request the gluten free bread. This is the best gluten free bread I have ever tasted. It was served warm and was so delicious! It was soft and slightly dough, my dad and sister liked it better than their bread!

The bread is served with olive oil and a mixture of peppers, onions, eggplant, olives and capers. It was SO GOOD. So TASTY..I was eating it by the spoonfuls!
We started out with the antipasto appetizer, and it was HUGE!!  It was big enough for at least 4 people to share. We had a very interesting assortment of delectable bite size treats. There were stuffed peppers (very salty), anchovies (reminded me of the ones I had in Spain), tuna salad, 3 different kinds of cured meats/prosciutto, buffalo mozzarella, caper berries, garbanzo bean salad, pickles, olives, eggplant and roasted red peppers. I wasn’t a huge fan of the meats, but then again I’m not a big salt or meat lover. Nevertheless, I tried everything on the plate. The lighter colored meat was sweet, and I actually liked one (under the garbanzo beans). The third I was not found of at all, it was too waxy. I feel like I am being a little too picky here, as my dad and sister both loved the meats.
We also started with a salad – Insalata di bietole – with roasted beets, herbed goat cheese, frisee, hazelnut vinaigrette. This salad was amazing! The Beet were layered with delicious goat cheese, red onions and toasted hazelnuts topped with frisee. The vinaigrette was nice and light and just the right amount was drizzled over the top of the lettuce. I loved everything about it! I 100% recommend ordering this.
For dinner we shared three dishes (way more food than we needed). We had the Tagliatelle alla Bolognese: house-made tagliatelle, classic Bolognese. We ordered the Bolognese with gluten free penne pasta (our other gluten free options tonight were spaghetti and fettuccini – so impressive that not only do they have a gluten free pasta option, but 3, every night!!) The Bolognese was creamier than I’ve ever had it before. When I eat pasta I overload on the sauce, this goes for any dish really (especially gravy), but even as an over-saucer, and being a bit critical here, I think this dish had a little too much cream in the sauce. I did enjoy it very much, but I could not eat that much of it; it was just too much creaminess and sauce for one dish. It was also a bit too salty. I hate salt. I never ever add salt to anything I make and I could taste the salt in this dish. The penne was cooked al dante and was so good, my dad said if he hadn’t been told it was gluten free he would not have known. 
For our second dish we ordered the Saltimbocca Vitello – veal, prosciutto, sage, fontina, mushrooms and marsala. The veal was great, but the sart of the dish were the mushrooms! They use oyster, crimini and other more “exotic” mushrooms I did not recognize. It was topped with a large piece of prosciutto and melted fontina. The fontina had a pungent taste and odd smell, it totally turned me off (Note: I do not like many cheeses, especially not fontina). Luckily the cheese was only on top of the prosciutto and was easily pushed off to the side, and onto my dad’s plate. The veal and the mushrooms were delicious, I think this was the best part of the entire meal.
The third dish we ordered was new to the menu and the name is slipping my mind at the moment, but it is very similar to a cioppino. It came with little neck clams, shrimp, calamari, white fish, potatoes, carrots and celery in a tomato broth (order with no croutons to make it gluten free). It was delicious, not spicy at all. I cannot put my finger on the herb used but it was good. There was a generous amount of seafood in the dish and I’m glad I saved a piece of the bread so I could dip it in the broth.
The only gluten free dessert option was a blueberry sorbet. I would recommend this to anyone! It was the prefect way to end the meal; a fruity and light sorbet.
On Sunday nights Marco serves family style dinner in addition to the regular menu. The pasta dishes come in half portions & full portions. The full was a generous size and we left plenty full with leftovers.
The food was all good, some items better than others, but not the best Italian meal I’ve ever had. The pasta was the best part, which for us gf girls (and boys) is a huge plus. Some of the other pasta dishes looked good too and if I go back I would try another one. I do have to say that this is one of the most accommodating restaurants I’ve been to in a while for people with gluten allergies. The waitstaff is so knowledgeable about which dishes are 100% gluten free and which can be easily accommodated to be gluten free, and which you just can’t have (luckily we didn’t run into this problem.) Next time I go, and I will, I will just make sure to mention that I do not like salt and ask for no extra salt to be added to my meal. 

Location: 253 Hanover Street, 2nd floor, North End, Boston, MA 02113

Da Vinci Ristorante

It is Restaurant Week in Boston, so my friend Molly and I decided to check out Da Vinci’s for the  $33.12 3-course meal. This is a good value for the quality and quantity of food we got.  The restaurant is beautiful, very romantic and elegant yet most of the people in there were not couples (including my friend and I), I definitely thought it would be a majority of couples and we would feel out of place, but it was not like that at all.
(picture from DaVinci website)
Da Vinci’s is fabulous for a gluten free diet. The gluten free penne can be substituted in almost any pasta dish. I’m not sure what kind of pasta it was (soy or corn maybe) but it was delicious; it tasted just ‘’like the real thing’’.  Almost all of the entrees can be accommodated and changed slightly if needed, to be made gluten free. The only appetizers that have gluten are the Arancini, Indian Fusion Shrimp Salad and the croutons in the Caesar salad.
The interior is one large open dining area and an open kitchen. I love open kitchens because you get to see all the action!  We sat near the kitchen and were able to catch a glimpse of many of the meals being served, each one looked better than the next.
What I liked about Da Vinci’s over the Italian restaurants in the North End is that we didn’t feel like we were sitting on top of the people next to us; we had plenty of space between our table and the next. In the North End you are usually elbow to elbow with the table next to you and your can hear every word of their conversation.
Since it was such a beautiful night (85 degrees in March!) they had the big doors open and seating on the outside patio.  I would definitely go back in the summer time just to sit outside, not that it has a great scenic view but I love al fresco dining. 
The food was absolutely delicious. We both started with the Organic Green Salad; organic greens with red grapes, sliced almonds and shaved Parmiginao Reggiano (a.k.a. Parmesan), tossed in a moscato vinaigrette. It was delicious; I loved the dressing! It was light and sweet yet had a bit of sourness to it. I looked up a recipe (below) and I cannot wait to try it myself.
For my entrée I really wanted the Indian Fusion Masala Ravioli, and I was so disappointed that they did not make gluten free raviolis; but still quite happy that I could eat anything on the menu and have pasta. The Indian Fusion Masala Ravioli is a house made Indian-Italian fusion ravioli stuffed with ricotta cheese, English peas, and ginger then coated in a spicy tomato cream sauce and finished with a curry leaf pistachio pesto. I know, your mouth is watering just reading that right? Well this just sounded so good I asked if it was possible to use penne with this sauce and pesto, with ricotta on the side and they were able to do it. Granted it was not the true dish but it was to die for. They didn’t have ricotta that night (bizarre since the food is made fresh daily and it is in the dish…). Instead I was given fresh shaved Parmesan. The best part of the dish, which I would go back just for this, was the pistachio pesto. It was the best pesto I have ever had. The combination of Indian and Italian sauces left me craving more when it was all gone. I wanted to lick my plate. 
For dessert we both had the Chocolate Mousse. It was very light and flavorful. It was a small portion, but I was pretty full from the meal anyways so the size was just right. Everything was perfectly portioned and beautifully presented.
The food was fantastic, the décor is elegant and the service was wonderful and so attentive; top notch. The water glasses were never empty. We weren’t rushed at all, we had a nice leisurely meal and we were there for about two hours. By the time we left at 8pm the place was packed; not an empty table in the entire restaurant.
They also have a very nice wine list, with very reasonably priced bottles. It’s nice to see such a variety of wines and prices available, especially for those of us who are young and can’t quite afford the $80+ bottle of wines, let alone the $50 bottles. I tried a glass of the Santa Marina Pino Grigio ($8/glass). It was light and refreshing with a note of fruit, pear maybe. I liked the fruity and citrus flavors yet it wasn’t too sweet and not too dry.
The entrees range from $22 – $26 for the pasta dishes, and $29-$39 for the fish, chicken and meat dishes. I would go back any day and try another pasta dish. The prices for the pasta dishes are very reasonable, especially compared to the traditional North End Italian Restaurants, and the quality of food, not to mention the impeccable service, beats most of the restaurants of been to in the North End.
Moscato Vinaigrette: recipe from this blog.
¾ cup Moscato vinegar (if moscato vinegar is not available, white balsamic vinegar is a good substitute)
1 teaspoon shallots, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 teaspoon Dijon (or whole-grain) mustard
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and black pepper
Combine the first four ingredients in a mixing bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Season to taste.