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Restaurant Review: Enoteca Bricco

This is truly restaurateur Frank De Pasquale’s masterpiece venue. (De Pasquale’s other works include Il Panino Express, Tratoria Il Panino, Umbria and Mare, opening on Richmond Street in the summer of 2005). Enoteca Bricco’s 50-person capacity dining room exudes warmth with its mahogany-adorned al fresco fa‡ade and open concept kitchen dressed with hanging copper pans. The Enoteca (wine-bar) is off to one side of this small establishment, featuring an eclectic mix of 30-somethings drinking Italian wine and martinis. To the other side, the dining room – softly lit and very cozy. It is Monday, and there is little room to move at this very popular North End dining hot spot.

If non-mainstream Italian is your thing, Enoteca Bricco will not disappoint. Bricco’s executive chef, Marisa Iocco, offers a menu of extraordinary choices that pique the interest of any inquisitive cuisine enthusiast, from creative pastas made on the premises using only the freshest ingredients to unique meat and seafood selections offering combinations of pork with chestnut and pomegranate, to salmon with wild boar and fennel.
As we wait for our starters, we indulge on fresh crusty Italian bread accompanied by a cannellini bean spread that resembles a light hummus, as well as roasted cloves of garlic immersed in olive oil. A petit amuse arrives – silky fois gras pate and a small crisp crostini.

Bricco stakes a claim on our taste buds from the very start. The house-cured wild boar sausages, dry sausages that are robust in composition and flavor, are served with thick shavings of parmesan that have a strong bite. A flaky pastry tartlette, filled with a duette of beluga and ivory lentil salads, is a subtle accompaniment. To complement the very artistic presentation, a grid of lightly saut‚ed artichoke hearts is placed off to one side of the plate.

Equally palatable is the crab and prawn caponata. Fresh, hearty crab meat is mixed with morsels of prawns and served molded into a cake, alongside three Wellfleet oysters and a celery pinziminio, lemon truffle condiment – truly a seductive trio. The oysters are brimming with flavor, slightly salty and able to act as their own stand-alone antipasti. The condiment perfectly accents the dish, adding a subtle complexity that seems to be distinctively Bricco. Our server pairs these starters with a glass of 2002 Tamellini Superiore from Soave and a glass of 2002 Aglianico Rubrato Feudi di San Gregorio.

Mains continue to impress. The brodetto di cod is chic cuisine couture at its best. A large and tender seared loin of cod is served over full florets of lightly browned cauliflower and rests in a saffron broth. The generous portion of fish is surrounded by scallops served in their dainty shells and parsley-tinted pasta pouches filled with saut‚ed prawns. Its presentation is beautiful, as is the combination of tastes.

The lamb loin and scottadito comes out cooked to the desired medium-rare, accented by a very light, yet thick, truffle reduction. The chanterelle, mozzarella farro risotto cake is a grainy and hearty accompaniment, and the slightly bitter taste of the rapini offers a good balance. The lamb dish is nothing as impressive as the cod, but fulfils its mission successfully. Again, we ask for a pairing for each entree: 2003 Falanghina (Terradoro) and a 2000 Primitivo, Vecchia Torre from Salento.
But the true showcase of talent is the grand finale – a dessert sampler boasting the exceptional skill of Boston-renowned pastry chef Lee Napoli. Each of the five selections we sample is unique in flavor and presentation. The espresso chocolate chip ice cream is richly inviting with its large chunks of dark and rich morsels. The millefoglie, with a tinge of lemon, is light and flaky, filled with a vanilla-soaked cake and surrounded by a persimmon sauce (the persimmon adds a tart, but refreshing contrast to the pastry). The bread pudding is likely the smoothest pudding I have ever eaten, better than any I have tasted in the Commonwealth – its origin. Wrapped in a brandy snap shell and perched within a light caramel sauce, its texture resembles velvet on the tongue. The flourless chocolate espresso torte in blackpepper cranberry sauce is a sinfully heavy and rich fusion of sweet with savory. But the highlight is the apple budino – almond cream reminiscent of fluffy whipped marzipan, over an amaretti crust that is soaked in a cider reduction and accented with candied spiced walnuts. The pyramid of caramelized sugar encases the dessert and not only adds beauty to the presentation, but deepens the intricacy of its texture.

The best part of the evening? We discover that Iocco changes her menu every two months (leaving ongoing signature dishes as favorites, such as the “Big Night” timpano and her Kobe beef offerings). Enoteca Bricco’s cuisine sophistication is a pedigree that is unmatched in the North End and will certainly draw us back for many happy returns.

Details:
Dinner for two with moderately priced wine ~ $160
Complimentary Valet Parking Available
Late night dining and bar – only venue in North End open until 2am
Thursday night DJ playing old-skool, retro, and other music

Enoteca Bricco
241 Hanover Street
(North End)
Boston, MA 02113
(617)248-6800

February 7, 2005
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