It starts with the more than friendly greeting at the door and the warmth of the space. The decor includes floor to ceiling, tied-back curtains in tasteful and subtle colors. It’s like being in an elegant, yet reserved European drawing room. Yes, the halogen lights were a bit harsh at first – think interrogation room. But eventually they were dimmed and it rounded out the warmth of the ambiance.
Our service, from the start, was top notch. Our primary waitperson was lovely, engaging and knowledgeable. Everyone we dealt with smiled and was almost too nice, if that can be believed! The bread man was ever-present, and while he may not have necessarily understood or appreciated our lust for the olive bread, he was certainly accommodating.
The bread was for dipping in olive oil or a white bean dip (nothing remarkable on both points…) And there was Sfizi – the Italian version of Tapas. We ordered marinated artichoke hearts, ricotta with pomodoro sauce and basil oil, grilled zucchini squash with garlic and toasted breadcrumbs and an assortment of olives with rosemary and orange zest. It was a delightful array of tasty treasures and they were, well, fun!
For the first course, we decided on grilled octopus and Caesar salad. Both were fine and tasty versions but the freshly marinated anchovies were outstanding. These were so delightful, almost like marinated herring in flavor, but so tiny, white and delicate. They bore no resemblance, whatsoever, to their canned counterparts. I actually asked for more and took some home! This version is all too rare and not to be missed. One note: ask if the will shave some Parmesan on your Caesar. The way it is presented currently is pre-grated and served from a bowl – not at all on par with the food or the type of establishment. As for the octopus, it was grilled to a nice char on the outside, but was melt-in-your moth tender and delicious.
Next, an epiphany! Preface: I do not eat pasta regularly, and safe to say rarely as an entree unless it is extraordinary – and it was. All the pasta is freshly made on the premises. On the recommendation of our wait person, we split an order of linguine with mussels and clams in a white sauce. I don’t believe I have ever eaten a pasta that left such a lingering impression on me – lovely, tender little ribbons of the lightest pasta intermingles with petite clams and mussels in an incredibly yet delicately flavored sauce. We were hard pressed not to drink what was left over in the bowls. Needless to say, bread solved that problem.
The first main course was an organic, crispy roasted chicken. “Order roast chicken out?” you ask. You would do well to try it here. The chicken was wonderfully crispy and tasted like, well, chicken! Nowhere to be found was any overstuffed, antibiotic fed, solution injected freezer fowl. Next was the grilled skirt steak served over a bed of arugula tossed with balsamic vinegar, shavings of Parmesan and portobello mushrooms. It was cooked to perfection, tender and tasty.
On a subsequent visit, we ordered the oysters to start with. The chef likes to offer at least one variety from each coast but there are usually 3 types on any given evening. This, alone, is a treat for oyster fans who have an all too difficult a time finding restaurants that carry multiple varieties, much less anything other than the Blue Point. They were icy, briny little tidbits that needed no embellishment.
We followed that with a bowl of steaming mussels in a fragrant, white wine, garlic and tomato broth. Due Mari uses Mediterranean mussels instead of the usual P.E.I mussels found in most restaurants. There is a marked difference in the two varieties with the Mediterranean ones consistently plump and succulent and just the right size. When thinking back on P.E.I.’s, the word that came to mind was anemic in comparison. I have been thinking about these mussels ever since.
And finally, we tried the clam chowder. It was “New England Style” but was nothing like what is served in many places- thick, white, starchy and often flavorless. This base was creamy but lightly so and herbed to perfection with the addition of saffron. Little pieces of potato weren’t slimy and overcooked – each little dice could be felt on the tongue. And there was a sufficient number of clams to actually call the soup clam chowder. How often have you been served a bowl of it only to find nary a clam in the mix? Not so here.
We made yet another pilgrimage to Due Mari with a group of 5 people. Once again, I found myself ordering a pasta dish, this time the squid ink tagliolini with scallops, calamari, tomato, basil and herbed bread crumbs. Oh, how fickle I am abandoning my passion for the linguine I had the other night for this incredible taste sensation. I could hardly believe this was a pasta dish with its silky textures and subtle mingling of tastes. It is haunting my memory. Three of my companions insisted upon the Robiola cheese ravioli with butternut squash in a brown butter, sage vin cotto. The reviews were rave for the nicely puffed , tender pasta packets with an element of sweetness to the flavor. Equally as delicate were the little pillows of ricotta gnocchi in fresh tomato sauce with torn basil leaves. The special for that evening was an over-the-top flavored duck breast , grilled to perfection, perched atop a bed of lentils with julienned carrots and apple and doused with consoumme. It was nothing short of spectacular.
We all found the portions perfect and the flavors delightful. The wait staff all seems to possess not just a lot of knowledge about the food but a love for it, as well. Two of my companions form the last visit have already made reservations to eat there this weekend. Luckily for me, I live right around the corner. I can already hear the siren’s call…..