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Restaurant Review: Carlo's Cucina Italiana

By Kate Samranvedhya
Staff Reporter

131 Brighton Avenue, Allston

254-9759

Carlo's Cucina Italiana offers simple northern italian fare at its best. It's cheap, and always packed on weeknights. As you enter this small eatery, you will most certainly find Mr. Carlo senior, no matter what day you visit his restaurant. His picture is right on the entrance wall in the Boston Herald review. Sometimes you will also find Mr. Carlo junior, the good-looking version of Carlo senior. This family-operated restaurant attracts the local with the simple menu and homemade pasta. Although it is in Allston, Carlo's is just five minutes away by car after crossing the Charles River by Double Tree Guest Suites.

They start you off with bread and two types of olives in olive oil. For an appetizer, I particularly like their la bruschetta, $5. Fresh toasted Italian bread is rubbed with garlic and topped with marinated tomatoes, sauteed peppers, capers, and black Sicilian olives. The toasted bread is crunchy, and blends well with the tartness of the olives and the saltiness of capers. Also try the calamari fritti (fried), $7, and the antipasto All'Italiana, $9. These dishes are my favorites at any Italian restaurant, including Carlo's.

If you order pasta, expect simplicity. A pasta side order always comes with entree, but if you want lots really good pasta, order the ones under Primi Piatti (le paste). All of the sauces are good at Carlo's. I especially like Fusilli Boscaoila, $9.94, served in plum tomato sauce with asparagus, onions, and mushrooms. But my favorite is Gnocchi Spezzatino, $12.95, coated in plum tomato sauce with cherry and sun-dried tomatoes, and mushrooms.

If you like seafood, order liguine con frutti di mare, $12.95, which, if you really liked seafood, you'd order even without my recommendation. It's a seafood dream, served with clams, mussels, squid, and shrimps in plum tomato sauce. The Secondi Piatti (chicken and veal dishes) offers eleven variations on how you can get your chicken or veal done.

Leave room for dessert, though. Carlo's has among the best tiramisu in town, with a little more rum taste and a little less mascapone than Caffe Vittoria. Or you can try the spumoni (watermelon look-alike pistachio and strawberry ice cream), or the truffles (ice cream in chocolate shell).

If there's no waiting, Carlo's would be the ideal place to have a nice, simple meal. Good food comes to you from start to finish. And while it get a little noisy - the next table might be only a foot or two away - these things come with good, cheap food.

There is no valet or specific parking. Takeout and catering are available. Vegetarian dishes can be found throughout the menu. Prepare to wait during peak hours.