restaurant review: LaGroceria Offers A Piece of the North End In Cambridge
Dessert Delights at Italian Restaurant Close To Campus
By Jillian Berry
853 Main Street
Cambridge, MA 02139
LaGroceria is a hidden Italian restaurant within walking distance of MIT. Although it’s next to Toscanini’s, I had neither heard of nor seen it before. While nearly every type of ethnic cuisine is within walking or a short bus ride away, there is a severe shortage of Italian restaurants near campus (Bertucci’s doesn’t count). Like many restaurants in the North End, LaGroceria is quaint, with two separate dining rooms reminiscent of an old neighborhood eatery.
Our group was seated by an efficient, if rather brusque, waitress who immediately asked us if we wanted an appetizer. We were a bit put off at being so quickly assaulted with questions. Once this episode passed, however, we were able to enjoy the meal in a relatively relaxed atmosphere.
As bread and butter were complimentary, we did not feel the need to order an appetizer. The bread infused flavors of onion and garlic well, but it would have been even better warm. For the main course, there was a variety of traditional Italian offerings ranging from chicken parmigiana to lobster ravioli. In addition, LaGroceria boasts four “classic” pasta dishes which come in half sizes for about half the price (a nice size for a lighter meal). One such pasta dish is the penne al volo ($6.95 for half size), which consists of penne topped with chicken, prosciutto (Italian ham), tomatoes, and shitake mushrooms. Although the chicken was a little dry and the tomatoes were a bit acidic, the dish was very flavorful.
Another pasta dish is the tagliatella vegetali ($11.95 full size), not nearly as heavy as a traditional fettuccini alfredo. Fettuccini and saut ed vegetables were topped with shaved parmesan cheese, and the fresh flavors of the vegetables stood out. In addition, lasagna pasticciata ($12.95) consisted of a large square of vegetable lasagna layered with smooth ricotta and mozzarella cheeses, spinach, zucchini, and leeks, and smothered with sauce. It was delicious, and had a subtle and mysterious sweet taste that none of us could identify.
Having seen the desserts when we walked in, we knew we had to have something. Rather than bringing a menu, the waitress returned with a tray of various desserts for our choosing. We decided on the chocolate mouse ($5.95) and the half baked brownie ($6.95). The former consisted of a layer of chocolate cake, milk chocolate mousse, white chocolate mousse, and a hard chocolate top. Delightfully light and cool, the mousse was neither too creamy nor too sweet, and it provided the perfect compliment to the latter. The brownie had a moist and flavorful exterior, surpassed only by the melting chocolate center — my tastebuds danced with excitement.
LaGroceria Restaurant provides a good Italian meal without a trip to the North End. Although the service was a bit rough, the food made up for it tenfold. With a variety of dish sizes, a convenient location, and a divine dessert selection, this is one restaurant you cannot miss.