Panza – North End, Boston

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There’s nothing better than Italian food and, luckily enough, Boston is home to some of the best Italian restaurants this side of the Atlantic. We recently took a trip to Boston’s historic North End with our friends (and visitors from Washington, DC) Nicole and Jasmine in tow for some authentic Italian food at Panza.

Panza is located right in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Hanover Street and its small storefront makes it easy to walk right by it.  That, however, would be a big mistake since Panza — a cozy, relaxed, and homey space with mismatched plates on the wall and an open kitchen — has a menu full of classic (and reasonably priced!) Italian dishes that will satisfy pasta lovers, meat lovers, and seafood lovers of all varieties.

I went with the Butternut Squash Tortelloni — oversized, handmade dumplings filled to the brim with a slightly sweet and delectably savory roasted squash purée and topped with a rich brown butter sage sauce. The tortelloni had just the right ratio of pasta to filling and the sage butter sauce — which was flavorful without being too heavy — had an undertone of cinnamon that complemented the savory creaminess of the squash stuffing.Nate got the Potato Gnocchi Bolognese — small potato-filled dumplings in a classic beef and pork ragu. The gnocchi were flavorful and light (despite the fact that the combo of pasta and potato can sometimes make for a rather large post-meal food baby, these gnocchi had just the right amount of starchy goodness) and the meat sauce enhanced the flavor of the pasta even further.

Nicole and Jasmine both gravitated toward the poultry portion of the menu and went for the Chicken Saltimbocca and the Chicken Parmesan, respectively. The Saltimbocca came with salty prosciutto, creamy mozzarella cheese, and roasted veggies, all topped with a light and flavorful white wine sage sauce.  The Chicken Parmesan was exactly as expected — the chicken was slightly crisped and smothered in gooey cheese and delicious homemade red sauce.Both dishes came with a small bowl of pasta that was not wholly necessary considering the large portions, but was nonetheless greatly appreciated because, let’s face it, who doesn’t love pasta?

We left totally full but still completely in the mood for dessert, so we stopped for cannoli at Bova’s (which, pro tip, has amazing cannoli but never has the same long line as the more touristy Mike’s Pastry or Modern Pastry). We shared a cappuccino, chocolate chip, and classic plain cannoli — all of which were perfectly crispy on the outside and deliciously creamy on the inside.All in all, a perfect Boston night in one of the city’s most uniquely fun neighborhoods.

TL:DR:  Panza is the perfect place for a traditional Italian meal without the high prices usually found in most North End restaurants. Be sure to make a reservation to avoid the long lines!

Amber Road Café – Canton, MA

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Nate and I recently found ourselves in Canton, where we decided to stop in at the Amber Road Café for some lunch.

The Amber Road Café is a homey, cozy spot located right in Canton Center — a bit of a drive from the heart of Boston, but definitely worth the ride. It boasts a large menu of breakfast and lunch options featuring a wide variety of fresh, creative, and seasonally-inspired gourmet dishes that make it seem more like you’re eating in someone’s home rather than in a restaurant.

While the lunch menu was seriously tempting — there were a plethora of salads, sandwiches, paninis, and wraps that I would have loved to try — the breakfast menu won out in the end for us. So, we decided to do our best impression of Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson and indulge in some breakfast-for-lunch.

Following the Golden Rule of Relationships™ (i.e. always share food), we decided to split two dishes:  the Nutella and Banana Crepe and Kristina’s French Toast.  The Nutella and Banana Crepe came deconstructed — the eggy, thin-as-paper crepe was flayed open with a pile of banana slices, a generous lump of Nutella, and plenty of powdered sugar all on top. 

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The DIY nature of the crepe was a pleasant surprise because it gave you control over how much of the precious Nutella was included in each bite (and, as anyone who has ever eaten Dunkaroos can tell you, the ratio between the savory base and the sweet topping is of tantamount importance). Because of the inclusion of bananas, the crepe was a perfect “breakfast” for someone who is clinging to the idea that fruit makes everything healthy but who really wants to be eating dessert.

The highlight of the meal was Kristina’s French Toast, a house speciality at Amber Road. It’s two slices of thick-cut, old-fashioned French toast stuffed with gooey brie cheese and topped with a homemade apple-cranberry-walnut chutney.  

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There really are no words for how good this dish is.  The French toast is buttery and sweet and the melted brie in the middle gives it a dynamic and unique flavor that is utterly satisfying. The homemade chutney — which I could eat a pound of on its own, that’s how delicious the combination of the sweet cinnamon apples, tart cranberries, and toasted walnuts is — sinks into the top layer of French toast and makes it slightly soggy, slightly tart, and wholly delicious. I think Nate would agree with me when I say that they should throw a ticker-tape parade in Kristina’s honor and quite possibly declare a national holiday celebrating the contribution that this French toast has made not only to the world of breakfast foods, but to society itself (is that an over-exaggeration…? I don’t think so…)

We resolved to try something off the lunch menu the next time we stop in, but I have a feeling that Amber Road might become my mainstay for all-day breakfast.

TL;DR: The Amber Road Café has a large menu filled with creative options sure to satisfy any customer who happens to find themselves in Canton!

@Chilli Thai Bistro – Brighton, MA

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If there’s one thing that Nate and I love, it’s Thai food. It’s flavorful, it’s light, it has a ton of variety, and, most importantly, it’s centered around our favorite thing in the entire world — carbs.  Since we’re almost always craving Thai food, we decided it was about time we try @Chilli Thai Bistro, a cozy spot on Commonwealth Avenue in Brighton, right near BC’s campus.

@Chilli has a huge menu featuring everything from classic Thai restaurant staples (chicken satay, dumpling soup, Pad Thai, etc.) to more inspired fare that thinks slightly outside the box (like the Thai beef jerky or the Som Tum, a Thai street food-inspired salad with green papaya, shrimp, carrots, tomatoes, and crushed peanut all tossed with a chili lime dressing).  Many of @Chilli’s signature dishes have some sort of spicy kick to them (appropriate for a restaurant named after Prik Chi Fa, or the Bird’s Eye Pepper, a mainstay of Southeast Asian cuisine with a heat level similar to the most pungent jalapeño peppers), but there are also plenty of options for pickier eaters like me who can’t handle spice.

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We decided to share an appetizer and two dishes. We started with the Golden Puffs — four giant crispy triangles filled with a deliciously aromatic blend of potatoes, onions, scallions, and curry powder.  The outer shell was thin and crispy, the perfect complement to the gooey, savory, curry-infused paste on the inside.  The Golden Puffs came with a slightly thick, very sweet chili sauce that further enhanced the flavor and consistency of the puffs.

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We also ordered Nong’s Fried Chicken — Southern Thai fried chicken topped with fried garlic and garnished with fried shallots.  Thai fried chicken is a popular street dish in many areas of Thailand, and after one bite of @Chilli’s version of it, I can understand why.  The chicken was crispy, juicy, and tender with a pleasant garlicky undertone that puts most Southern BBQ joints to shame. Plus, portions at @Chilli’s are huge — we got a small order of the chicken thinking that we’d both just get a taste to see what it was like, and the order came with a half-chicken on the bone, fried to perfection and smothered in garlic and shallots.

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We closed the meal off with Pineapple Fried Rice, which came with shrimp, chicken, egg, grilled pineapple, and a melange of vegetables (including onions, peas, carrots, and sweet corn). The rice came tossed with curry powder, which gave the dish a slight, but perfectly manageable kick.  

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The sweetness of the pineapple combined nicely with the savory flavor of the rice and veggies and further helped to prove my point that the addition of grilled pineapple makes literally everything better.

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We left there satisfied and extremely full, and justified the fact that we had no leftovers by saying that we were burning calories by walking home instead of taking the T (#logic?)

TL;DR: If you’re looking for authentic and delicious Thai food that strays from the beaten path of most Thai restaurants in the area, then @Chilli’s Thai Bistro won’t disappoint!

P.S. – If you’re looking for a great place in Brighton, Tasca Restaurant is right down the road on Comm Ave!

Putterham Grille – Chestnut Hill, Newton, MA

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If you’ve been craving Greek food, you’ll be impressed by the food and service at Putterham Grille in Chestnut Hill. Putterham has authentic Greek cuisine for either counter-serve take-out or dine-in. In my opinion, Putterham Grille is a really underrated spot that I presume flies under the radar because it’s in Newton and not Boston. But it surely worth the drive if you can get out to Newton – or if you live in Newton, lucky you! You have a new restaurant you’ll want to go to.Samantha had been once before, and she seemed to enjoy it, so we decided to go taste test it.. and to write about it! When we arrived at the restaurant, it was pretty crowded, but we were seated right away. The sit-down part of the restaurant is very nice, boasting a calm vibe. The dinner menu featured a rather large amount of items to choose from including a nice mix of entrees and appetizers that sounded unique and authentic to Greek culture.We opted for appetizers to share and sample instead of order entrees. One was the Teriyaki Glazed Chicken Tenders served with a sesame ginger crème on the side and mandarin oranges. The tenders were so good – they were juicy and the teriyaki sauce that was glazed over them was sweet and perfectly complemented the sesame ginger crème and mandarin oranges. You can also order the chicken tenders as a meal, and after tasting them, we kind of wished we did that. Oh well, hindsight’s 20/20.The other appetizer we split were stuffed mushrooms. They were just as good as the tenders, and bonus points because it looked artsy AF when they were served to us. There were five generously-sized stuffed mushrooms drizzled in a balsamic glaze, which was also artfully dripped on the plate. In the middle of the circle of stuffed mushrooms were greens and shredded carrots, which added to the appeal of the plate. The mushrooms tasted just as delightful as they looked. They were savory and satisfying and had a nice consistency.

TL;DR: Putterham Grille boasts a great menu with a wide selection of unique Greek dishes for anyone to enjoy. The beautiful interior and relaxed vibe make it great date spot if you can get out of the city!

Article 24 – Brighton, MA

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Nate and I recently found ourselves hungry and in Brighton, so we decided to stop in at Article 24, one of Brighton’s newest and coolest restaurants.

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The restaurant is worth checking out for the ambience alone — exposed brick walls covered in trendy pop art by local artists, songs you’ve never heard of but would like to hear again playing from the speakers, multi-colored ceramic plates that go together specifically because they don’t match each other. In short, Article 24 is trendy with a bit of a hipster vibe, but in an unpretentious and approachable way.  

The menu can be described in the same way:  it’s full of classic pub food, sandwiches, pizzas, tacos, and other familiar dishes that all have a decidedly modern twist.

We decided to start with a bar snack and got an order of Pigs-in-a-blanket. These weren’t your average frozen cocktail franks, though. Article 24’s take on the classic hors d’oeuvre consisted of a perfectly grilled, all-beef hot dog wrapped in a flaky, buttery phyllo dough and drizzled with a satisfyingly spicy dijon mustard.

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With five “pigs” on the plate, they were perfect for sharing (or for shame-eating an entire plate on your own…no judgment here).

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Then came the entrees. I went with the Papas Tacos — two overstuffed soft-shell tacos filled with crispy home fries, corn salsa, and a generous portion of some of the best guacamole I’ve had anywhere in Boston. The tacos were fresh, flavorful, and filling (but not overly so — it was a perfect portion for lunch). To top it all off, they were accompanied by a small ear of Mexican Street Corn, AKA my favorite thing in the entire world, which was grilled and slathered with cheese and a light, tangy cream sauce.

Papas Tacos at Article 24

Nate got the Tuna Tartare Sandwich, which came topped with spicy green beans, whipped avocado, and fried oysters on grilled wheat bread. It sounds like one of those how-do-those-ingredients-even-go-together type of dishes, but Nate described it as the most unique sandwich he had ever tasted (which is one of the reasons he picked it in the first place). The fried oysters gave the sandwich a dynamic, interesting flavor that combined with the spicy green beans to complement the tuna in an unexpected, yet wholly satisfying way. He kicked the entire sandwich up a notch by adding Sriracha sauce, which brought the dish to another level (and made it so I couldn’t have a bite…thanks, Nate). The sandwich was served with choice of potato — traditional fries, sweet potato fries, tater tots, or waffle fries — or, if you’re totally boring, mixed greens. Nate went with the sweet potato fries, which were the perfect amount of crispy, salty, and savory.

Tuna Tartare at Article 24

We left full, contented, and excited to go again and try more of what Article 24 has to offer.

TL;DR: With nightly events — like karaoke, bar trivia, live music, and weekend brunches accompanied by in-house DJs — and delicious food, Article 24 is a welcome addition to Allston-Brighton’s growing landscape of restaurants and bars and definitely worth a visit.

The Boston Eat Party takes it on the road!

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In our opinion, the great thing about traveling is seeing what makes each city unique in its own right. That is the point of traveling after all — to broaden your mind through experiences you may not find elsewhere. Oddly enough, the same thing goes for food.

Forget different areas of the world — there are tons of cities in North America that boast great food culture that you might not otherwise realize by just staying in Boston. Every city or state has an iconic dish or type of food to offer.

So, we took the Eat Party on the road and set out to try some of the most iconic foods in North America, spanning across Upstate New York, the Midwest and Ontario, Canada. Here is a map of our route and all the delicious, weird, and very unhealthy foods we ate along the way.

Finger Lakes, NY

Food to Try: Cheese

History: The Finger Lakes region is well-known for its wine trails, but a lesser known trail in the Finger Lakes is the Cheese Trail, which features a collection of local farms and creameries producing artisan cheeses that range type and age. The Finger Lakes Cheese Trail is a recent addition to the region, founded in 2010. It was a collaborative effort by local farms to bring bolster tourism in the area.

Where to go: Muranda Cheese Company seems to be the top choice in the region. We were fortunate enough to stumble upon it after doing a wine tasting. There were 16 different types of mouth-watering cheeses sampled.

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Not only were the samples delicious, but the tasting room was a renovated barn that overlooked a farm full of cows.

Muranda Cheese CompanyA few other notable cheese tastings on the Finger Lakes Cheese Trail are Engelbert Farms and Kenton’s Cheese Co. It’s also crazy cheap to go – it was only $3 for a tasting, plus they hook it up with free samples of jelly to put on pretzels afterward!

Buffalo, NY

Food to Try: Buffalo Wings

History: The Buffalo chicken wing was invented in 1964 by Teressa Bellissimo, the co-owner of Anchor Bar.Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NYThe story is that their son came in at 11 pm with a posse of college friends, drunk, demanding food. Teressa needed a quick way to serve up food. At the time, chicken wings were generally used for soups, but Teresa took it upon herself to create It was then that she came up with the idea of deep frying chicken wings and tossing them in cayenne hot sauce.

Where to go: If you ask any Buffalonian, they will tell you it’s a debate between the Anchor Bar and Duff’s Famous Wings – and it’s NOT both – it’s one or the other. Due to the amount of history tied to it, we went to the Anchor Bar, which is well-known nationally among tourists and outsiders (hey, that’s us!). Duff’s is more popular among the locals who hate tourists and have to prove them wrong by saying Duff’s is better. In their defense, Duff’s has a more expansive list of wing sauces, while The Anchor Bar’s flavors were limited mild, medium, hot, death-wish and BBQ. Still, I’m glad we tried the buffalo wing where it originated.

Buffalo Wings at The Anchor BarWe could see and feel the history inside of the Anchor Bar with endless memorabilia hanging on the wall including autographed pictures of famous people who have popped in (and also one strangely placed portrait of Christopher Columbus for reasons unknown).

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If you’re a tourist looking to get a sense of Buffalo (like we were), it’s a really good choice in my opinion – plus top quality wings. We will have to try Duff’s next time to compare the tastes and flavors.

Cleveland, OH

Food to Try: The Polish Boy

What It Is: Grilled Kielbasa or hot dog in a bun, and covered in layers of french fries, a layer of southern style barbecue sauce or hot sauce, and coleslaw on top.

History:  Unlike the stories behind some of the other foods we tried during our trip, there isn’t much to the history of the Polish Boy.  The first version of the sandwich dates back to the 1940s, when Cleveland restaurateur Virgil Whitmore, owner of Whitmore’s Bar-B-Q in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of Cleveland, created a kitchen sink sandwich consisting of a smoked beef sausage and a bunch of ingredients he had on hand, including coleslaw, French fries, and his homemade barbecue sauce. Other BBQ restaurants around the city followed suit, and the Polish Boy made a name for itself as a Cleveland culinary staple.  

Where to go: We wanted the authentic Cleveland experience, so we headed over to Seti’s Polish Boys, a food truck located in the Ohio City neighborhood of Cleveland and the best place in the city to get a Polish Boy.

Seti's Polish Boy TruckLauded by celebrity chefs like Rachael Ray and Michael Symon, Seti’s take on the Polish Boy is a true Cleveland classic (and it’s an incredible value — $7 for a heaping portion that will keep you full for hours). Served on a perfectly grilled all-beef hot dog and generously topped with French fries and coleslaw slathered in the most flavorful sweet BBQ sauce I’ve ever tasted, I can safely say that Seti’s Polish Boy is literally one of the best foods you’ll ever try.

Polish Boy in Cleveland, OHPlus, we got to meet Seti (who makes each Polish Boy to order) and his wife (who runs the truck) — two of the nicest people we ran into during our trip.  Despite having gone to both an Indians game and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame while we were in Cleveland, I think Nate will agree with me when I say that this sandwich was definitely the highlight of the Ohio leg of our journey.

Detroit, MI

Food to Try: Coney Island Dog

What It Is: It’s an all-beef hot dog plopped on a steamed bun and topped with chili sauce, chopped raw onion, and a squiggle of yellow mustard.

History: While the hot dog itself got its start in Coney Island, New York (with the first hot dogs being sold at the amusement park as early as 1867), the Coney Island Dog is a staple specific to Detroit — over 500 diners in the Metro Detroit area alone serve some variation of the Coney Dog. The Coney Dog made its way from New York to Michigan in the early 1900s as hundreds of thousands of Greek and Macedonian immigrants traveled to the Midwest after arriving at Ellis Island.

Where to go: Several Detroit diners claim to be the true originator of the Coney Island Dog. We decided on Lafayette Coney Island, a no-frills diner located in the heart of downtown Detroit.  Lafayette Coney Island in Detroit, MITheir version of the Coney Dog came smothered in a slightly spicy chili. The raw onions gave the otherwise soggy chili dog a nice crunch and the yellow mustard added a nice, tangy flavor that brought the whole sandwich together.Coney Dog in Detroit, MI

The Coney Dog was an enjoyable variation on the classic chili dog, but it was a little plain — a little cheese, or perhaps a higher quality hot dog, would have improved the experience.  Simply put, Detroit’s Coney Dog was good but was really nothing compared to Cleveland’s Polish Boy.

Toronto, ON

Foodie Neighborhood to Visit: Chinatown

History: Toronto doesn’t have a specific dish per se, but because it is such a diverse and multicultural city, it boasts a wide variety of authentic international cuisines. Toronto is home to one of the largest Chinatown districts in North America — in fact, there are six Chinatown neighborhoods to explore in the greater Toronto area. Old Chinatown, which is the main Chinatown district located in the heart of the downtown, has no shortage of restaurants to get an order of noodles, dumplings, or any other kind of Asian cuisine you can think of.

Where To Go: There are literally hundreds of restaurants in Chinatown, serving food from China to Korea to Vietnam and everywhere in between. After deliberating for what seemed like hours (but was probably closer to minutes), we decided on Ka Chi Korean Restaurant, where we indulged in traditional Korean noodle dishes. I got the Bulgogi — sliced sirloin marinated in a traditional sweet sauce and served over thick, gummy noodles and steamed veggies.

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Nate opted for a spicier dish — the Bibimbap (rice) served with spicy Bulgogi and squid. Both dishes were served on stone hot plates.

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We also shared an order of steamed beef dumplings, which came with a myriad of sides, including steamed noodles, spicy kimchi, steamed greens, roasted potatoes, and a sweet soy sauce for dipping. We left full and satisfied, happy with our choice but also dying to try to some of the other restaurants on the street (there’s always next time, Toronto).

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Because You Always Leave Room for Dessert:  While traveling from Chinatown to the Rogers Centre (where we were going to watch the Red Sox beat the Blue Jays, naturally), we stumbled across a small cupcake shop called Cutie Pie Cupcakes, where we tried what can only be described as the greatest dessert you will ever eat — the Unicorn Twist Ice Cream.  It’s amazing — pink champagne and blue vanilla soft serve piled in a rainbow waffle cone, topped with your choice of sauce (I went with dark chocolate, Nate went with Cherry Coke), dry topping (I went classic with confetti sprinkles, Nate went with cotton candy crumbles), and homemade mini whoopie pie (I went with a rainbow swirl because it was SO PRETTY, Nate went with cookies and cream).  The end result was a customized version of Heaven that made me very much wish I lived in Toronto and could visit Cutie Pie Cupcakes on the regular.

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Rochester, NY

Food to Try: The Garbage Plate

What It Is: The “Garbage Plate”, a highly-caloric plate that includes basically combines every type of food you could ask for in a cook-out – either hamburger patties (with or without cheese) or hot dogs, thrown on top of some combination of beans, fries (or home fries), mac salad, along with meat sauce, chopped onions, and mustard.

History: In 1918, Alexander Tahou opened a restaurant in Rochester called Hots and Potatoes. On the menu was a dish that included just about everything the kitchen could cook — meat and potatoes with a few other things thrown in to make a one-plate meal. Alexander’s son, Nick, took over the restaurant operations and updated the name to Garbage Plate. The dish has long been popular among college students in the area. Legend has it that long-ago college students asked Nick Tahou for a dish with ”all the garbage” on it. So, he concocted the garbage plate.

Where to go: When we arrived at Rochester on a Sunday, many of the hots restaurants were closed, including Nick Tahou’s. We settled for Mark’s Texas Hots, which was great, but they only have garbage plates with hamburgers and hot dogs. The size of the plate was pretty big at Mark’s Hots, but honestly no bigger than any other place. For a more expansive menu, try Henrietta Hots or Nick Tahou’s.

Garbage Plate in Rochester, NY

Fun Fact: The University of Rochester’s Sigma Phi Epsilon has a charity event called “the garbage plate run” that starts on campus, and involves running 2+ miles to Nick Tahou’s, eating a garbage plate and running back to campus. Many people actually tag team it, with one or two runners and one eater, but there are “iron men” that actually do it solo.

Basil Restaurant – Medfield, MA

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Families have traditions, and sometimes those traditions involve annually eating at the same restaurant. Our new-ish tradition is having dinner at Basil Restaurant for Father’s Day. When I say “new-ish”, I mean this has only been a tradition for a few years – but a tradition has to start somewhere, right?

Google categorizes it as an American restaurant, but it’s really more Italian-centric with American dish options. Basil is an interesting and unique place, which plays into its charm. The restaurant exists in the middle of a residential neighborhood in Medfield, MA and the restaurant itself looks like it was a small house at one point in time. Upon entering, you realize that the restaurant is really a lot bigger than the outside looks. The interior is charming and surprisingly upscale.

Lucky for us, we have the same waiter all three years we have been. His name is Victor, and he is not only the most attentive server I’ve encountered but the most entertaining! It really helped enhance our experience at Basil Restaurant. But it’s not only Victor – Basil boasts a great reputation as a restaurant that has personable servers, which sets the tone for family gatherings.

The food is just as good as the service. Samantha and I perused the menu, and to us, everything looked pretty good, so it was hard to narrow down the choices.

I went with the slow-roasted duckling topped with an orange marmalade sauce. The sauce added a refreshing taste to the roasted duckling, which was crispy on the outside, and roasted to perfection. The duckling came with sauteed spinach, peppers, and sweet mashed potatoes on the side.

Samantha went with the ravioli sampler because she loves ravioli. The sample is a great way to sample all of the ravioli dishes Basil has to offer. The type of ravioli includes butternut squash, chicken and walnut spinach, and lobster and shrimp ravioli topped with asparagus. There were six generously-sized kinds of ravioli; 2 of each of kind.

For dessert, we split the brownie sundae. It looked beautiful – a scoop of vanilla ice cream sandwiched between two brownies, with hot fudge spilled over the top brownie. The plate was garnished with fresh raspberries and topped with whipped cream. I can’t even describe how delicious it was – it hit the spot after the dinner!

Located in a residential neighborhood in Medfield, Basil is an ideal choice for family gatherings, no matter how large your family is! The service and food will make you want to come back year after year. It really is a fantastic experience on all fronts.