Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Stuff I Ate: A Mano Italian Kitchen and Pizzeria, Salem, MA

Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta
Hit A Mano Italian Kitchen in Salem on Saturday night. It's a new spot, which is always a tad scary in October, when Salem is swamped with Halloween hellraisers filling every seat in the city. Our plan was last minute, though, so we took a shot on one of the few tables available before midnight through Open Table. I'm so glad we did.

First off, it's NOT a new spot. It's a new concept by Antonio Bettencourt. It's in the same location as his very successful 62 Restaurant and Wine Bar but has gone through a transformation to create this slightly more casual, definitely more amenable to repeat visits location with the same solid staff and the same chef and BOH team. I'd say he nailed it.

The place has a great vibe. It's cozy but not too dark, lively but not too loud. I think you could bring anyone here and they'd be comfortable. I'd come for a date with my husband or on a girls' afternoon with my twelve year old and be equally as happy, for real. I went with my college roommates who live in the city and eat out a lot. We couldn't have been happier with the service (Meg was terrific), the wine list, the variety of the plates, every bit of the experience.

The menu is rustic Italian with just a dash of middle eastern to give dishes their signature flavors. The Arrancini have the tiniest hint saffron and are small bite size gems served in house made ragu with soft shredded cheese. The meatballs are stuffed with ricotta cheese. A table favorite was the chickpea fritters with date compote, though a tad bit of savory would have worked there, I think.  Brussels sprouts will bring me back for sure. In fact, we liked the small plates so much, we ordered two rounds of these, plus a lovely salad with prosciutto and figs and never made it to entrees or dessert. Sampling the artisinal pizzas and entrees are just an excuse to go back.

Chickpea Fritters with Date Compote
Check out A Mano before you can't get in. This place is bound to be a locals haunt, if it isn't already. Price point was really low for the quality and portion of the dishes, enough so that I suspect Salem natives will make this a multiple times a week venue. I know I would if I lived there.

A Mano is at:
62 Wharf St, Salem, MA. 01945
Website
Reserve online http://www.opentable.com/a-mano-italian-kitchen-and-pizzeria-reservations-salem

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