Friday, August 5, 2011

Tre Monte: A Taste of Italy in Woburn

If you find yourself in Woburn Center, you will not lack for sustenance as there is an abundance of restaurants compacted into a short distance. There is a strong international flair, and will find Brazilian, Indian, Mexican, Italian, Japanese, Thai, Chinese, Korean cuisine and more. For some more basic fare, you will find everything from roast beef sandwiches to all-you-can eat pizza. Within this collection of restaurants you will find Tre Monte, an unassuming Italian restaurant and bar which has been around since February 2003.   

This past Wednesday, I received a complimentary invitation to attend a special food blogger dinner at Tre Monte. Nine other food bloggers (some who I knew from previous events and some who were new to me) and I attended this event, and I believe our general impression of the restaurant's cuisine was fairly similar, as well as very positive.

We got to meet Chef/Owner Anthony Contarino, who also owns The Brickyard, a new pizza & burger bar (which I will be reviewing in the near future). Both of Anthony's grandmothers were from southern Italy, and they each cooked in a different style.  From his maternal grandmother, Anthony learned how to make pasta.  Interestingly, though he grew up with southern cuisine, he prefers to cook northern Italian. 

Anthony was formally trained at Johnson & Wales and has worked at other restaurants, including Tuscan Grill, La Finestra and Giovanni's Trattoria. On the menu, Anthony's two favorites dishes are the Stuffed Chicken and Bolognese. I found Anthony to be a personable, down-to-earth chef with a true passion for Italian cuisine.

It is a very casual restaurant, and a good place for small groups as well. There is somewhat of a homey atmosphere to the place, that traditional Italian hospitality. The restaurant has a full liquor license, so you can enjoy cocktails, wines or beer with your dinner. The wine list is primarily Italian, with a scattering of other regions such as California and Australia. With our meal, we drank the 2006 Grati Villa di Ventrice Riserva Chianti Rufina (a simple and pleasant, fruity red) and the 2009 Colterenzio Weisshau Pinot Bianco Weinburgunder (a bright, light bodied white with delicious flavors of melon, peach and pear). The Colterenzio was my favorite of the two wines, and it is a perfect summer wine.

The food menu has plenty of choices and is broken down into: Antipasti (10 choices at $7.99-$13.99), Insalata (5 at $5.99-$8.99), Classics (4 at $17.99-$18.99), Entrees (10 at $18.99-$28.99), and Pasta (9 at $16.99-$21.99). Entrees come with choice of 2 Sides (6 options) and some of the Entrees are daily specials, thus subject to change. Of the pasta choices with several of the dishes, you have the option of homemade fusilli, which I highly recommend. Prior to your food arriving, you will receive a basket of fresh bread with oil & herbs for dipping.

Our dinner began with an assortment of Antipasti, and then we were able to choose our own Entree. One of the Antipasti, which I did not actually taste, was the Melanzana ($9.99), breaded eggplant that is layered with tomato basil sauce and mozzarella cheese, baked and then served over a basil pesto Alfredo sauce. Those that did partake of the eggplant really seemed to enjoy it very much.

I had heard very good things about their Arancini ($8.99) so was glad we got the chance to taste them. The Arancini are rice rolled with ground meat and cheese, breaded and fried and then served over marinara. They did live up to the hype, with a crisp and crunchy exterior coating and lots of flavorful and gooey cheese within. The meat and spices added to the delicious taste and I would easily order them again on my next visit. They were also a good size, and not as small as you find in some restaurants.

The Sausage ($9.99) is a large and plump, grilled garlic and cheese sausage served over a bed of spinach and cannellini beans. The sausage was cooked perfectly, with that crisp skin that your teeth break before sinking into the meaty and moist interior, filled with plenty of garlic and bits of melted cheese.

The Shrimp Grand Marnier ($11.99) are egg battered shrimp in a sweet Grand Marnier sauce. The large shrimp were cooked well, and the sauce was sweet without being cloying. There was also a nice citrusy element to the flavor, and the batter added a little bit of crunch to the texture.   

The last Antipasti was a bowl of the Bolognese ($17.99), homemade tagliatelle pasta tossed in a Bolognese sauce that uses beef, pork and veal. The sauce is Anthony's own recipe, and one difference from many other Bolognese recipes is that he uses white wine instead of red. To me, Bolognese is an iconic dish, one that can be used to gauge the quality of an Italian restaurant. If they can make a killer Bolognese, then it is far more likely that the rest of their food is excellent as well. Bolognese is not hard to make, but it is hard to make it well.

I prefer Bolognese that is prepared from three meats, beef, pork and veal as I feel it provides more depth of flavor. Thus, Anthony's sauce scores on that point. As for the taste of the sauce, Anthony did very well, definitely one of the better Bolognese I have tasted. There was plenty of meat in the sauce, a good blend of tastes and the pasta was a nice al dente. I would like to see what it would taste like with red wine instead of white, but that it my own intellectual, culinary curiosity. I would highly recommend the Bolognese. 

For me entree, I chose one of the daily specials, Veal Saltimbocca, which is covered by prosciutto and melted cheese, atop homemade fusilli. There were two good-sized pieces of veal, in a light, lemony sauce and the salty prosicutto added a nice complement to the mild and tender veal. The fusilli were superb, thick and al dente, with such a fresh taste to them. Overall, an excellent dish.

Others ordered entrees like Chicken Parmigiana (a huge dish, and I did get a taste which was delicious), Swordfish, Ribeye and Potato Gnocchi. Quantity was very ample, and several people had to take home doggie bags. Everyone seemed very pleased with their meals, and I heard many compliments going around the table.

For dessert, we had large plates with a sampling of three different items: Tiramisu, Profiteroles, and Cannoli. The profiteroles are filled with imported cappuccino gelato while the cannoli are filled with sweetened ricotta cheese and chocolate chips. Their kitchen is too small for baking so they buy all of their desserts, importing some from Italy, like the tiramisu and gelato. I had just enough room to fit in some tiramisu, which was tasty, and not overly alcoholic. The flavors were balanced and should please most palates.

Service was very good and the overall experience was delicious, fun and satisfying. Prices are reasonable considering the quality and quantity of food. I will return to try more of their dishes, and it deserves my hearty recommendation.

Tremonte Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

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