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By Bernie Whitmore
35 Solomon Pond Road, Northborough, MA
Proving that first impressions can be misleading, the first time we attempted dinner at Guiseppe’s ~ last January on a night so bitterly cold that the wind felt as if it were slicing right through our coats ~ we arrived to find the icy parking lot mostly empty (never a good sign) and were informed by the woman at the desk that they weren’t serving dinner that night. She was so apologetic that I thought she was going to fire up the stove and make us something herself…
Well, what a difference a few months can make! Right as the glorious warm weather arrived last month, a couple of friends called and asked me to join them for “dinner on the deck” at Guiseppe’s. This time there was barely enough room to park the car. But Lady Luck was smiling and we got both the last space and the last available table.
Although shadows were reaching out over the water, the sun was still strong when we were seated. Guiseppe’s is located on Solomon Pond ~ literally; their deck allows for seating right over the lily pad-dotted water. I was waiting for a duck to hop aboard and sit with us but perhaps pond-fowl aren’t too keen on the classic rock cranking out of the stereo. People at the other tables were certainly having a good time, though. Everyone was enjoying food, drink and conversation.
I needed a couple minutes to adjust myself to summer mode ~ happy, relaxed and warm. The calm descended quickly and then I was ready to focus on the menu and drink selections. A Wachusett Summer Draft seemed an appropriate way to start things off.
With a name like Guiseppe’s, it’s no surprise the eatery features a menu heavy on Italian, but there’s also a whole lot beyond pasta. Our waiter arrived and recited a list of specials that had no apparent end. We selected a couple of the menu’s regular appetizers, saving specials for later.
Soon we were rearranging the table to make room for the large appetizer plates. Roman Nachos ($10) got us started. These guys are big crunchy pita chips hot out of the oven and topped with shredded crabmeat, artichokes, chopped tomatoes, scallions and hot cherry peppers. We tore apart sections stuck together with melty mozzarella cheese and dipped them in sour cream. Adjectives that came to mind? Unusual, delicious and [a bit too] addictive; I had to be careful to save some of my appetite.
Our other appetizer was Soft Shell Crabs ($12). It’s interesting how regional some food is ~ growing up in Connecticut, we had the delicious creatures all the time (I like them in sandwiches). But in Massachusetts I had to explain, “Yes! You eat the whole thing ~ even the shells!” They were crackly-moist, lightly breaded, deep-fried to a light golden brown and served over two coleslaws ~ one was normal green, the other pinkish-red. Condiment hounds will appreciate the crock of zesty dipping sauce that accompanies the dish.
With the sun finally set behind the trees, the heat of the day was over but entrees had just begun. I ordered Guiseppe’s Pork Rib Special. The long strip of ribs flopped over both ends of the platter ~ the meat was tender and slathered with tangy-sweet sauce. But that wasn’t all; it came with a baked potato cracked open and stuffed with bacon and cheddar cheese ~ most excellent! A heap of coleslaw and an ear of tender buttery purple corn completed the eye and taste appeal.
Meanwhile, my friends were sounding just as pleased with their selections. One of them raved about his Shrimp and Scallops with Artichokes, served over a bed of noodles in a lemon caper sauce. The other was taking Guiseppe’s Tour of Italy, a combo-special featuring ravioli, sausage, meatballs, chicken parmesan and a big hunk of lasagna. Italy’s a big country, but this meal was even larger ~ a good portion of it was packed up to go.
Did I mention the warm chewy bread, hot from the oven with garlicky oil for dipping? As much as I love bread, Guiseppe’s portions were so large I barely finished a whole slice. Don’t tell the baker, but we had a great time tossing chunks to the turtles that paddled by under the water’s surface.
Guiseppe’s has a great location. And they’ve matched it with good food, service and value. I know that in the autumn I’ll look back longingly on evenings like this one.