On The Menu

Grotto (JP Review)


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A co-worker of mine recommended Grotto in Beacon Hill to me a while ago. It was actually during restaurant week when my co-worker told me about Grotto and how he went and had a great meal and how the menu was not changed for the special week. When making reservations for Friday night, I looked at their online menu and they have a nightly fixe special: $35 for a three course meal of their entire menu. (Some entrees cost a few bucks more.) The menu looked really good, with various Italian classics like spaghetti and meatballs and calamari salad. After I booked the reservations, I decided to see what the general audience thought of the Grotto. Nearly all 4 star reviews. The only bad reviews were all during restaurant week. If you follow this blog, you know how it's tough to judge a restaurant during this city-wide celebration, so I took more credence with the non-restaurant week reviews. All talked about how good the food was, the large portions and the very romantic underground dining area.

(Side note: I understand that where our condo is, it's off the major streets of the South End, but when you call for a cab, and they tell you it'll be 5-10 minutes, you would still expect the cab to show up in 5-10 minutes right? After 15 minutes, we called the cab company again (not mentioning which company so we don't get blacklisted) and they told us that all the cabs in South End were picking up people on the street and that one should come for us in 8-10 minutes. WTF!?!?!?!?! What's the point of even calling if you are just going to allow your cabs to pick up random fare on the streets while people who called and have been waiting for over 15 minutes are left stuck? We said screw it, walked up the long block from our condo to the main street and sure enough we get a cab in less than a minute...no more calling from us, it's just way easier to wait in the rain on the corner than call. Anyway, by the time this cab got us to Beacon Hill (he had no idea where Bowdin street us...and I probably should have directed him, but was sick of being stuck in traffic so we got out and walked the last block and half) my phone was ringing and it was the original cab company calling to say they were outside. Let's see...you tell me 5-10 minutes and in actuality it takes 35 minutes. F-ing cabs...)

So we arrive to the Grotto and as we walk downstairs we see this very cute, intimate restaurant with really cool paintings hung on the exposed brick walls. There were a couple of 4 tops and 2 tops open, and we were seated immediately. We had reservations, and I'm not sure if it mattered or not...maybe it was the rain, or the early (7pm) dinner time, but I think we could have just walked in and gotten a seat. But I like to add up on my opentable credits, so no worries.

Abby's on a no drinking kick for a few weeks (thanks to weddings and various parties, we've been binge drinking way too much) so there was no need for us to look at the wine menu, which had a few wines by the glass and half wine bottles. Nothing too cheap though, but it's nice to see half bottles in a restaurant. It seems like a rarity these days.

The menu is a nice size about 6-8 items for both appetizers and entrees, and 4 or 5 dessert items. All "primi" items are $10, "secondi" are $20, and "dolce" are $9, this makes getting the $35 fixe a no-brainer.

I start with the fondue primi, the description is: Fontina cheese fondue, beef tenderloin, aged balsamic, truffle oil, portobello mushrooms. This was an extra $2 supplement, but it was well worth it. At first, I thought it would be slices of beef and mushrooms with cheese drizzled over the top of them. Instead it was an actually mini-fondue setup brought out with skewers to use to pick up and dip the meat and mushrooms. This was somewhat ironic because the other option for Friday night was the Wine Cellar in Back Bay, a fondue spot. The cheese was good and smooth, but a little bitter. The portobello mushrooms (I'm not the biggest fan normally) was excellent! Very "meaty" and and had great flavors on it's own, but when dipped in the cheese it created a delectable combination. The beef was well cooked and perfect on it's own. The "queso dip" added some to the flavor of the beef, but wasn't really necessary...however I dipped away seeing as I figured it was meant to be dipped. Once the meat and mushrooms were done, I had a lot of the fondue left over so the bread got dipped....eh...nothing special there. (Abby's appetizer was very good...a tomato and mozzarella salad...very light and tasty.)

While waiting for our main dishes, I suddenly realized my mistake in ordering. Looking around at the other tables, you get to see how tasty and delicious all the other items on the menu is, but most importantly you see how big the portions are. Therein lies my problem: I ordered heavy, heavy and heavy. Oh well, my bed was made, time to sleep in it. My gnocchi with short ribs come out and it looks great! The gnocchi was good, but not the best I've ever had. (That would be Monica Tratoria.) The short ribs shredded off the bone already and was tender beyond belief and melted in your mouth perfectly. I've been wanting to try braising some short ribs and make it at home one day and I hope I can make it taste half this good. The only issue I had with this dish was the Gorgonzola cheese: it was bitter and made the entire dish a little too salty. I ate for a whole 15 minutes without talking to Abby and I still didn't finish half the plate...incredible portions! I was getting full like no other and I still had my dessert waiting for me.

We had the waitress wrap up both of our entrees and we waited for our desserts. I had the melting chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream. Our desserts arrived and both of our ice creams fell off onto the plate and our waitress apologized for it, saying it melted off as she was bringing it out. I appreciate the fact that she did that. She could have easily not said anything, just assuming we'd not care that the ice cream already started melting and slid off the top of our pasties, but she took the initiative to let us know about it and that she was genuinely sorry it wasn't better presented. That's some points in my book. The cake was soft and delicious and the vanilla ice cream was the perfect complement. There are many places that have chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream for dessert, but not many really make it taste any more special than it needs to be...the Grotto however does, and it's a very good dessert. (Please pardon the photo, once it was delivered, we started eating immediately and forgot that we needed a pic for the blog.)

Overall, I'd love to come back and try other items on the menu. The service was good and most importantly the food was exquisite. I give the Grotto a 3 and 1/2 out of 5.

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