Sometimes Your Lunch Finds You
A Tale Of Unintended Consequences
By The BaldOne
There are many things that a customer expects from a restaurant when they walk in. Prompt and polite service, pleasant ambience, a good beverage selection, and a solid menu that will bring delicious and well prepared food to the table. The objective of all restaurants is to achieve all four of those things every time. It is difficult, improbable, and virtually impossible. No place can manage to do it all of the time. There are always issues, both avoidable and unavoidable that can get in the way.
Adriatic Restaurant & Bar manages to hit on all cylinders more often than most. They strive successfully to achieve the kind of consistency in service, drinks, and food that cause them to stand out above many of their Salem competitors. Others who came into town with the same ”fine dining” concept have not survived. Adriatic has survived and thrived.
I visited the past Saturday afternoon looking for a quiet lunch with a cold beer. It had been a while since my last visit, but I still remember the rack of lamb from the last time with great fondness. My intention however, was not to lunch at Adriatic. I was heading down to Pickering Wharf to bother the staff at another establishment. As I walked past their patio I was beckoned by a customer who was sitting there with his wife. That customer was actually Vini, the erstwhile and personable Adriatic proprietor.
Now Vini knows who I am and what I do. Yet he was not afraid to lure me in with offer of a very specific cold beer, the elusive Dogfish Head Brewing Punkin’ Ale. Yes it is true, I was bribed with a beer. So into the lair of the clever Vini I went. Once at the bar I asked to look at a menu and in short order realized that lunch had found me instead of my finding lunch.
From that moment on, unbeknownst to Vini, this became a review situation, and beer or no beer the gloves were coming off. It is up to Vini and his staff to either put up or shut up. He will either get a good review, a decent review, or if the wheels come off no review at all.
The Dogfish Punkin” has a nice amber color, a little darker than some, and creates very little head. The aroma is mostly aleish with some pumpkin hints. It begins malty and then finishes with mellow cinnamon and other spices that I could not nail down. As far as pumpkin beers go, this is one of the better ones.
Hummus, made in house with toasted and spiced pita was the starter. Up until a few years ago it was tough to find hummus in Salem. Now it has become a common menu item. This serving comes in a small cup, and is drizzled with fresh olive oil, and sprinkled with a little paprika. Its texture has a mild coarseness that is pleasing to the tongue as it smooths out quickly. We did not detect a lot of lemon, but the taste of olive oil compliments the dish very well. This is an excellent hummus.
My entree, after much consideration of the options was the Fettuccini in tomato sauce with grilled meatballs. I had only tasted small amounts of the Adriatic red sauce in the past, usually with the eggplant starter, but have always enjoyed their meatballs. So this was a moment to try something old with something new.
Al dente pasta was the base in this bowl. The sauce was smooth with just a little sweetness that blended well with the taste of the tomato. A little garlic and oregano could be found in the sauce, but they did not overwhelm at all. The meatballs are the star in this dish. They are all beef and while they are not dry, they do not have a “juicy” feel. I would say that they are dewy. The key to these meatballs is the grilled searing of the outside. It seals in all of the flavor and enough of the juice to carry the flavor. A good drizzle of melted mozzarella added a little additional flavor and texture to everything.
So, despite the “gloves coming off” we congratulate Vini and his Adriatic team on achieving the most difficult of restaurant goals, day in and day out consistency and all around quality.
Adriatic is located at 155 Washington Street in Salem, Massachusetts. They feature meats, fish, and pasta, all inspired by the cuisines of the Mediterranean region. They also feature brick oven pizza and a wonderful wine list.