Reviews: Pizzarino, Cong tu Bot, Isa, Mami

The Maine Sunday Telegram has reviewed Pizzarino,

Pizzarino, the sister business of Portland’s Paciarino, aims to do just a few dishes and do them well. It succeeds with its wholemeal-crust pizzas, especially when they’re topped with prosciutto or a quadruple-whammy of imported Italian cheeses…But elsewhere, Pizzarino cuts too many corners with its heavy reliance on pre-bought, packaged ingredients imported largely from Italy. There are sticky, under-flavored gnocchi; rubbery mushrooms and metallic-tasting black olives; and most egregious, an entire range of refrigerated and frozen desserts that come ready-to-serve – no added work required. There’s room on the Portland dining scene for a great Milanese restaurant. Here’s hoping Pizzarino ditches the ready-made food and puts in the work to become just that.

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the Portland Phoenix has reviewed Mami

Whether or not co-owners Austin Miller and Hana Tamaki realized they would fill a mostly unexplored niche in the Portland dining scene back when their first okonomiyaki came off the truck in 2015 is unclear. Stop into their brick-and-mortar to warm up for a bit on a snowy winter evening, though, and you’ll be hard-pressed to argue that they haven’t.

The Bollard has reviewed Cong Tu Bot, and

On cold, prematurely dark evenings, I suggest the Cà Ri Chay ($16). It’s a velvety coconut curry with subtle spice and long, wide rice noodles perfect for slurping, topped with a few marinated and caramelized mushrooms. Next, cut the richness with the Goi Cai Bap ($8), a salad of cabbage, carrot and onion, soaking in a sweet, vinegary dressing and topped with crunchy fried onions, finely diced bird’s eye chilies, and a tangle of cilantro. Careful with that salad, though. Those little red chilies pack a punch (a bird’s eye chili is ranked about twenty times hotter than a jalapeno on the Scoville heat scale).

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Peter Peter Portland Eater has reviewed Isa.

Isa has a number of qualities that make it special. They’re incredibly consistent with the food and drink, the menu has plenty on it for all tastes, and the warm, casual atmosphere is brilliantly comfortable. You can be sure when you go, you’ll find a good meal, but most of the time it will be much better than that, often even great. Head to Isa if you haven’t been and definitely consider making it one of your regular stops, because it’s really that good.

45 Years at Mellen Street Market

The Bollard has published a feature article on the Mellen Street Market and the Nappi family which has owned the establishment since 1973.

Tony’s younger brother, Joseph Jr. (Joey), soon joined them, “and the three of us worked together for all these years,” Tony said. (Joe Sr. passed away in 2012.) “It worked out great. We never argued, because my dad was always right!” He laughed. “So we didn’t argue with him. … He went into the Marine Corps at 17, so he’d been around the block. Eighth-grade education. He made it — just hard work, hard work, hard work, hard work. Put the hours in.”

Hush, Hush Redux

In a throwback to their early days launching the Hunt and Alpine Club, Andrew and Briana Volk are holding a series of evening pop-up events called Hush, Hush in the Little Giant Market space on Clark Street.

The late-night bar will be open 9 – 11 pm, one Tuesday a month December through May: December 18th, January 15th, February 12th, March 12th, April 9th and May 7th.

They plan to serve natural wines, beer, tinned fish, caviar, burgers, calamari, disco fries and olives.

Verdisco and Team Hired by FCC

Chef Nick Verdisco and key members of his former Bolster Snow team have all been hired by the Falmouth Country Club.

  • Sarah Miller, Pastry Chef
  • Tyler Dederick, Grill
  • Chris Papp, Sauté

Verdisco will be starting his new position as the Executive Chef of FCC as of January 1, 2019.

The speed with which Verdisco found a new position is an indication of his talent and the tightness of the restaurant labor market in general. It makes me wonder if, as Portland is in the midst of Closing Season, we’re likely to see more teams hired as a group.

This Week’s Events: Go Sweet, Seinfeld, Oxbowzakaya, Matt James Art, NYE List

Monday – the 2nd Annual Go Sweet for Hunger event is taking place on Thompson’s Point, and there will be a Banded Horn beer Dinner at Sur Lie.

Wednesday – Eaux is holding a Seinfeld Dinner, the 7th annual Oxbowzakaya is taking place at Pai Men Miyake, and there will be a Musar tasting at Old Port Wine Merchants.

Thursday – Casco Bay Artisans will be hosting a gallery opening featuring the art of Matt James, co-owner of Standard Baking Co. Oxbow Brewing is hosting a party for Candy’s, the cafe/coffee shop, bar and queer community hub under the construction in West Bayside. Students from the USM Tourism and Hospitality Program are holding A Taste of Culture.

Friday – there will be a wine tasting at the Brighton Ave Rosemont.

Saturday – there will be a wine tasting at LeRoux Kitchen, and the Winter Farmers’ Market is taking place.

SundayTwo Fat Cats is leading a holiday cookie decorating class.

New Year’s Eve – restaurants have begun announcing their NYE dinner options:

  • Blue Spoon – 4-course with champagne toast, optionan wine pairing $60 per person.
  • Central Provisions – 7-course dinner with pairings, $150 per person. Two seatings at 6 pm and 10 pm.
  • Lolita – 6-course dinner for $110 per person (tax and tip included).
  • The Honey Paw – is serving a dim sum menu all night.

For more information on these and other upcoming food happenings in the area, visit the event calendar.

If you are holding a food event this week that’s not listed above, publicize it by adding it as a comment to this post.

Reviews: Root Wild, Maine Oyster Co, A & C Grocery, Sapporo

The Blueberry Files has reviewed Root Wild,

My friend G. and I tried several 2 oz. samples of the different flavors, and I was really pleased by them all. The hopped tasted a bit more beer-like than UFF’s version does, and the fruit flavors are bright and pleasantly balanced. I was impressed by how thoroughly the added flavors came through.

Portland Magazine has reviewed Maine Oyster Co.,

Styled on a tray of ice, the oysters are easy to identify, served clockwise in the order they appear on the menu. Accompanying mignonettes are subtle enough not to mask the nuances of this delicacy. Reading flavor descriptions of oysters posted at the bar is helpful, especially if you’re only looking to try one or two. We can testify that The Wolfe’s Neck, for example, is “briny, with a smooth, milky finish,” though we didn’t notice the “sugar or watermelon” in the Chebeague Island. We did encounter a saltier kiss from the sea than the more subdued Birch Island, however, which boasts a firm texture. If we had to pick a favorite, it might be the toothsome Blackstone Point from Damariscotta or the Nonesuch Pearl from Scarborough, with its superb balance of brine and sweetness.

the Portland Phoenix has reviewed Root Wild and A & C Grocery, and

A&C’s egg sandwich, served with either ham or tomato on a soft English muffin, is world class, the eggs folded omelet-style over gooey cheese. A three-cheese grilled sandwich — pressed thin, funky and chewy with dark crust — pairs nicely with fizzy light kombucha. The cheeseburger is expertly done with sharp pickle and a tangy sauce. The Italian suffers from a bit too much soft roll.

Press Herald has reviewed Sapporo.

Back at the office, I used the chopsticks my server at Sapporo had kindly packed for me (along with a fork and a spoon) to pull up the buckwheat noodles and big chunks of white chicken meat. The noodles were squishier than I like, and I wished I’d ordered the firmer ramen instead, but the broth was exactly what I was after: flavorful but also clean tasting. The opposite of muffaletta really.

Also, The Maine Sunday Telegram has reviewed No Coward Soul In Bath.

10 Years Ago in December

Here’s a look at the top stories from a decade ago in December 2008:

    • In their list of 2009 food trends Epicurious declared “Portland (Maine) is the new Portland (Oregon). Abundance of great chefs, restaurants, and local foodies? Check, check, and check. Want examples? Visit Five Fifty-Five, Hugo’s, and Fore Street to start.”
    • In response Portland Oregon blogger Patrick Alan Coleman wrote “I’m challenging Portland, Maine, to a fight. If they want our gold leaf coated, slightly salted, smoked chocolate crown, then they’re going to have to come over here and take it! I dare ’em!”
    • Portland clocked in at #7 on a list of beer towns with 1 brewery for every 15,706 people. I imagine the ratio is a lot smaller now in 2018.
    • Mims Brasserie and The Kitchen both closed.
    • After a very long time under construction, Corey Jones opened Loco Pollo. It was located in the space currently occupied by Terlingua.
    • Maine Roasters Coffee and Freaky Bean Coffee Co., which merged their operations in 2007, went their separate ways.
    • The Phoenix named Emilitsa the Best New Restaurant of 2008.