Italian food is pretty easy to come by nowadays. Good Italian food, well, not so much. In Paris, there isn’t much of either, so now that I’m home in springy-New England, I want to put together light Italian fare brimming with onions, peas, rhubarb and fresh, young cheeses…
Having grown up in New Jersey in a family that originally came from Naples, I’m sort of picky about my Italian food. I grew up on red gravy simmering all day Sundays, homemade raviolis, squid salad served only at Christmas and the very best anisette cookies made by my grandmother by the bucket-full. Don’t even get me started on her handmade pasta, baked ziti and stuffed clams.
Quite full on all that Southern Italian food as a child, I craved something different when I was old enough to start traveling. My first visit to Northern Italy sealed my love for pesto, pasta dishes sans gravy, and white wine (not red) served at the dinner table. I was always a pizza girl, but now prefer it lightly topped with no more than three ounces of cheese and definitely without red sauce. I suppose the Southern Italian in me rebelled a bit, happily.
Today, I don’t typically dine out in Italian restaurants because, let’s be real here, most Italian restaurants can’t measure up to a family meatball recipe nor a special gravy made with a pork bone base. I just stay home and cook when we want Italian which is a blessing of sorts. But sometimes, I just want someone else to cook good Italian for me…
And then Mary Reilly entered my life. We met on Twitter and chatted off and on about food, as food enthusiasts tend to do on Twitter. When she finally opened her own Italian restaurant in Newburyport, Massachusetts, a tiny, lively ocean-front city near the New Hampshire border, it took me almost a year to visit. Shame on me.
And if you don’t trek up to Enzo Restaurant & Bar soon, shame on you.
Mary makes rustic Italian fare that looks beautiful, dishes that will definitely get me out of my home. Everything is made by hand, of course. Her pasta is light and billowy. Her cocktails are original yet familiar; the Cranberry Old Fashioned hits the spot each time. Her menu is just the perfect length, not too long to frighten you (long menus always frighten me) and not too short; there’s enough variety to tempt all palettes.
Do you want to know exactly how much I love Enzo? Let me count the ways…
1. I have the restaurant’s menus, both the bar and food menus, hanging up in the Eat Boutique offices, as inspiration. Really, every menu should be so poignant and descriptive, simple and authentic.
2. I spent this past Christmas Eve at Enzo for their Feast of the Seven Fishes dinner. Typically, I make all seven fishes at home. But running a small, busy gift box business in December makes for far less time cooking. I hate dining out on Christmas Eve, the quality isn’t always top notch, but Enzo made for one of our best meals all year. All year, people.
3. I don’t typically write restaurant reviews on Eat Boutique; I sort of loathe straight restaurant reviews in general and never feel that they do the restaurant or the writer justice. I prefer writing love notes and Enzo is so worth a little love note.
4. I am certainly a bit bias here, and I am not afraid to admit it (so there!), but when Mary shared 4 sweet glasses of homemade Irish Cream at the end of our meal, mentioning that she had used the Eat Boutique Homemade Baileys recipe as a base for experimentation, well, that was probably one of the sweetest things anyone had ever said to me.
Not solely because of the cordial connection, Enzo feels like home to me. I know that I’m not just welcomed but wanted there. When was the last time you felt truly wanted at a restaurant?
So visit them soon, okay? Don’t be surprised if you find yourself writing your own little love note to them as well.
When Mary and Dave were first starting Enzo, our contributing photographer Heidi Murphy took these shots for them. Thank you to Heidi, Mary and Dave for letting us post them on Eat Boutique.
Enzo Restaurant & Bar is an hour north of Boston and a lovely day trip from most spots in New England. The restaurant is at 50 Water Street, Newburyport, MA 01950. Reservations are recommended, but there’s often a spot at the bar most week nights, and bar spots are just the best spots.
All photos styled by Mary Reilly and Heidi Murphy and photographed by Heidi Murphy/White Loft Style.
Eat Boutique is an online magazine + market for food enthusiasts to celebrate the best pure, local + comforting handmade foods. We call it: food that hugs you back. Looking for the perfect gift? Eat Boutique sells gift boxes filled with handmade sweet and savory treats. Send a gift box of handmade food today.
Eat Boutique is an award-winning shop and story-driven recipe site created by Maggie Battista. After hosting pop-up markets for 25,000+ guests, Maggie is now focused on opening her first permanent Eat Boutique–a food-retail concept space with a new way to the very best food. Her second cookbook, A New Way to Food: Recipes That Revamped My Pantry & Made Me Love Me, At Last, will be published by Roost Books/Penguin Random House in 2019. Her first cookbook, Food Gift Love, features more than 100 food gift recipes to make, wrap, and share and is available wherever you find favorite cookbooks.