The Perfect Bite
St. Johns Magazine's exclusive reviews of Local Restaurants by Local Foodie Lori Allen
by Lori Allen
So us Northerners like to discuss (ie argue LOL) who has the best Italian restaurants, Little Italy or Boston’s Northend. There has never been an agreement on which one prevails but we are always looking for places that mimic those great Italian places. Well Enza’s Italian Restaurant I think is one of those that is close as it gets in our area. From the quaint piano in the corner to the long winding inviting bar you feel like you have just been transported back up North. You are greeted by warm friendly faces and if you are lucky you will even get a special welcome from this wonderful man in a pin striped suit that makes you feel just like family! If this isn’t typical Boston Northend I don’t know what is!
So tonite for us was family/framily nite and we brought the kids and decided to try whatever sounded good on the menu. For Apps we started off with some of their calamari, fried ravioli and meatball (this was a special for the evening). Normally when you think of fried ravioli you think of some crunchy pasta filled with a filling that’s kinda bland and then some kind of red sauce to dip it in. But I was so impressed with these tidbits of flavor. Our waitress (Edna-she was awesome!) suggested that we try both the cheese and the meat ones and get them cut in half which was a great idea for sharing. The meat ones were stuff with what tasted like ground veal and lots of seasonings and the cheese ones had some nice fresh ricotta in them. The breading wasn’t that heavy kind it was light and they were soft to bite into not crunchy and stiff. To dip them you got some super fresh marinara that was so vibrant with fresh tomatoes, basil and garlic flavors you wanted to dip more and more.
So on to the meat ta ball (think like..Now that’s’ ah meat ta ball in your best Italian impression) because this thing really calls for it. It is huge! The meat mixed with all those Italian herbs is so tender you can cut it with a fork. It comes with this rich creamy ricotta oozing down the sides of it sitting in a plate of some of that fresh marinara sauce that makes you just wants to lick the plate!
The Enza salad is a meal in itself! It is filled with roasted red peppers, tons of olives; green, Kalamata, black you name it they are in there! Then they cover the fresh greens with this slightly sweet garlicky homemade vinaigrette along with the fresh crumbled feta. Your mouth is just is filled with garlicky, roasted red pepper, olive and so much more flavor. For those that don’t like vinaigrette they make their own Blue cheese dressing. It’s well worth a try and of course I had to get side just so I could dip some of my salad in there for total mouth bomb of flavor!
For the main dish my son went for their homemade Alfredo. I have just recently introduced him to the creamy goodness a change from the usual mac n cheese. Well this one I fear has spoiled him from many others. Once you’ve had the best ..just sayin…. The heavy cream, tons of parmesan and creaminess of the sauce had him protecting his bowl so that Mama could barely get her fork in there! But once I did oh man the creaminess and cheesiness of it was so good! My hubby gets the same thing every time we go to an Italian restaurant and Enzas didn’t disappoint him. As a matter of fact they far exceeded his expectations. He said it was the best lasagna he has had in a very long time. You could taste their tangy homemade sauce mixed in with fresh ricotta, beef and mozzarella – mozzarel is how the Italians say it..layers upon layers of gooiness goodness.
Our framily had the Shrimp Francesca, and after all the appetizers this was the perfect meal. Big tender shrimp light battered in an egg type batter deep fried and then served with a lemony tarty sauce. YUM.
I of course had to have a sampling of pastas. I had their carbonara which is my personal favorite and theirs was awesome. Fun Fact: This dish forms part of a family of dishes involving pasta with bacon, cheese, and pepper, such as spaghetti alla gricia. And it is very similar to the southern Italian pasta cacio e uova, dressed with melted lard and mixed eggs and cheese. The pasta is cooked and the pork is fried in fat. Then a mixture of raw eggs, grated hard cheese, and ground black pepper is combined with the hot pasta away from direct heat to avoid curdling the egg. Then the fried pork is added, and the mixture is tossed which creates a creamy sauce. Guanciale is the most commonly used meat for the dish in Italy, but pancetta, prosciutto and bacon is used as well. For the cheese Romano, or occasionally Parmesan is used. I am not sure what version Enza’s uses but their pasta is so luscious from the egg, salty from prosciutto and very creamy. Yes its decadent but OH so worth it!
On the lighter side I also had some Spaghetti aglio e olio (garlic and olive oil) which is a traditional Italian pasta coming from Naples. Enza’s tossed in some sun dried tomatoes and some marinated artichoke hearts which really gave it an earthier flavor. I always ask for angel hair pasta for this because its keeps it nice and light for me. For those that want a lighter option get a side of this along with Enzas salad and call it a day. You won’t be disappointed!
There are so many homemade dinner options on the menu I am sure you will have a tough time choosing. For the grand finale we got a tasting of a cannoli and tiramisu which was my favorite desert here at Enza’s. Tiramisu which typically is mascarpone custard layered with whipped cream and rum and coffee soaked ladyfingers. It was so light but just enough of the sweet that you are craving. There was not a drop left at our table that’s for sure. Mangiare!
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Lori Allen is a local who moved from the Boston area to attend Flagler College and never left. She is a family person that loves the beach, football, working out and finding new places to try. Her love for food comes from her northern background and her love of cooking as well as meeting new and interesting people. She has never met a stranger nor has she ever been afraid to try an intriguing place. (Check out all her reviews on stjohnsmag.com)