Saturday, June 12, 2010

Scene Boston: Gennaro’s 5 North Square

The former North End Scene magazine is now known as Scene Boston, and will cover much more than just the North End. The contents will span all across Boston and the first issue has now been published. My restaurant review of Gennaro’s 5 North Square was published in this issue, and you will find a slightly different version below, what was originally submitted before being looked over by the editors of the magazine.

Some of the best restaurants are located off the beaten path, away from the popular and heavily traveled streets. In the North End, you will find several such hidden treasures once you leave the main tourist areas. One such treasure is less than a year old, and I almost hesitate to recommend it so that it can remain one of my special secrets. But I must speak up.

In May 2009, Gennaro’s 5 North Square opened its doors, under the ownership of the same owners of Caffe Vittoria and Florentine Cafe. They named the restaurant after their son. The building had once been a bank and had been a different restaurant before they took over. They extensively renovated the restaurant and did an excellent job.

The restaurant has two floors and the downstairs dining area is small and casual with floor to ceiling windows looking out into the North Square. The upstairs area is larger, seating about 65 people, and is more elegant with marble-topped tables, leather booths, and a mirrored wall section. There are large bay windows that look down into the square and you can even see the Commerce building in the distance. The upstairs would be a great place for a romantic dinner or to impress a client.

You might want to begin your meal with a cocktail such as a mojito or margarita. I would suggest though checking their wine list, which has almost twenty wines available by the glass ($7-$12). There are over forty wines available by the bottle, averaging in the $30s. Most of the wines are Italian, with plenty of good choices. I highly recommend the 2005 Rocca Delle Macie Chianti Classico Riserva, ($48/bottle), which is everything you want in a fine Chianti. It is rich, complex and a perfect match with food.

Gennaro’s is open for lunch and dinner. The lunch menu is very reasonably priced with plenty of options from antipasti to sandwiches. I would recommend their pizza, which has a nice, thin crust and plenty of tasty cheese and fresh ingredients. This is the type of pizza that really pleases me and it would be easy to eat the entire pizza on my own.

The prices on their dinner menu are also reasonable, with twelve choices of Antipasti and Insalate ranging from $8-$14 and 20 different Entrees from $17-$32. Most of the menu is very traditional, which is not a negative when the dishes are prepared as well as they are here. You won’t go wrong with anything you order.

Prior to your meal arriving, you can enjoy slices of Italian bread with a Tuscan white-bean dip. The dip also contains olive oil, rosemary, and lots of garlic. It is very creamy and both the garlic and rosemary are very distinctive.

Why not then begin your dinner with some antipasti? A perfect choice is the Prosciutto Roulade, a blend of golden fig puree, goat cheese, and toasted pecans rolled in prosciutto and drizzled with a balsamic glaze. These are absolutely delicious and addictive, a perfect combination of salty and sweet, creamy and crunchy. The Fried Calamari are very tender and served with marinara and sweet chili dipping sauces. The sweet chili sauce really delivers, with sweetness upfront and heat that builds in your mouth afterwards. I could think of many uses for that sauce.

The Antipasto is packed with roasted tomatoes, prosciutto, Italian salami, fresh mozzarella, marinated olives and mushrooms, grilled calamari, other cheeses and is drizzled with a balsamic vinegar. The freshness of the ingredients impressed me, as did the freshness in all of the dishes I tasted. Such freshness shows a concern and passion for the food.

The Seared Tuna is nestled beside spinach, sweet balsamic onion salad and sliced cherry tomatoes. The tuna is lightly seared and spiced on the outside with a raw interior, the quality tuna being silky smooth, melting in my mouth. The Eggplant Napolean is also very good, lightly battered and tender eggplant layered with ricotta and topped with marinara. I should also note that several of the dishes had a delicious, home-made balsamic glaze which added a rich sweetness.

Entrees are compelling, including pasta, seafood and meat dishes, something for everyone. Try the traditional Lasagna, which is thick and heavy, loaded with fresh pasta and ricotta. Even a simple dish like Spaghetti and Meatballs is delicious, with two, large and flavorful meatballs and a mound of pasta perfectly cooked al dente. Gennaro’s red sauce is very good, with just the right balance of sweetness and acidity.

Their white sauce, with white wine and butter, is also quite good. The Fruita di Mare comes with your choice of red or white sauce, and the white sauce was a perfect accompaniment to all of the seafood, including calamari, shrimp, mussels, scallops and claims. The sauce was clean, light and buttery. The Grilled Swordfish was moist and flavorful, served atop a creamy parmesan risotto with caponata veggies and a light tomato broth.

For the carnivore in you, opt for the Rack of Lamb, several roasted lamb chops topped by mint basil pesto with roasted potatoes and autumn vegetables. The tender, meaty chops were succulent, and the mint flavor was very subdued and did not overwhelm. This was a hearty dish, and perfect for a New England winter evening.

If you are not already stuffed from dinner, you can enjoy some dessert. There is a full list of after dinner drinks, including ports, grappa, coffees, and cordials. Dessert choices include items like Tiramisu, Cannoli, Spumoni, and Sorbet. The traditional Cannoli is a fine and good-sized choice, a crunchy shell filled with a creamy blend and accompanied by whipped cream and chocolate sauce. The Molten Chocolate Cake, moist and fudgy, comes with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream and could easily be split by two people.

Service was excellent, our server being personable and attentive. It is a family-owned business where the guests feel like part of their family. It is perfect for both a casual meal or a more intimate dinner. I heartily recommend Gennaro’s 5 North Square as a restaurant for reasonably priced and delicious Italian fare.

Gennaro’s North 5 Square
5 North Square
Boston, MA
Phone: 617-720-1050

Gennaro's 5 North Square on Urbanspoon

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