For Restaurant Week, my friends and I decided to try out Mare, an organic Italian seafood restaurant in the North End.  I’ve been wanting to go there since it opened a few years ago, so I was glad to finally make it there.

Here it is in a nutshell:

THE SETTING:

Not your typical North End restaurant — think sleek, minimalist decor.  There are cool videos of Italian cities on TVs in the corners, and I occasionally yelped out, “My school!  My apartment!” when scenes from Florence were shown.

The restaurant is small and the tiny “bar” only has four seats, so there really isn’t a place to hang out while waiting for your table.

THE SERVICE:

I should chalk it up to being restaurant week, but it wasn’t that good.  It took forever to get someone to acknowledge you, whether it was the hostess or the waiter.  Everyone was polite as long as they were at our table, but take these two instances:

  1. I asked the hostess if our table would be ready soon.  Her response: “Oh, yeah — they’re paying, but I don’t know if some of them are going to want to stay.  But we’re trying to make everyone nervous tonight.”  Great…to say that to someone who is apparently about to become one of those nervous people.
  2. The waiter brought our wine, saying to me, “Here’s your Montepulciano.” I said, “Oh, I actually ordered the Montalcino.” “Oh, yeah. That’s Montalcino.” “Is it really?” I asked. “Because they’re different…” (From two different Tuscan hill towns not far from my adopted city of Florence.) “Yeah. Montalcino.”  (For the record, the wine was delicious and they charged me for a Montalcino.  But still…

THE FOOD:

FANTASTIC.

I like octopus, and I’ve had it several different ways, but THIS was THE BEST OCTOPUS I HAVE EVER HAD.  It was steamed to the point of melting in your mouth — not the usual gumminess — and came with some delicious, flavorful, insanely fresh pesto.  I couldn’t get enough of it.

The main course was pappardelle with wild boar — a dish from San Gimigniano that I used to eat all the time in Florence, but I’d never had it in the US.  And they did it VERY well.  It didn’t blow me away the way the octopus did, but I was impressed nonetheless.

Dessert was tiramisu.  I’m pretty picky about tiramisu — I like it soupy and with as little cake as possible — and though this was cakier than I preferred, I enjoyed it immensely.  Best of all was that there was a little SALTY CHOCOLATE BALL (not kidding) served with it that acted as the perfect counterpart.

My friends enjoyed their meals as well, sampling everything from salmon to gnocchi to Chilean sea bass.

Would I return?  Yeah, if someone else were paying!  I probably wouldn’t go to Mare if I had to pay out of my own pocket.  The prices are on par with some of the pricier restaurants (but not the priciest) in Boston.  But it’s a perfect bargain for the $33.09 Restaurant Week price, and I recommend it.

But you MUST try that octopus!

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