With a weave and a feint, Ken drove through the Old King’s Highway
intersection, rejecting the left hand signal of the Karnes’ car
following, maintaining full steam ahead on Malden Turnpike—nestling in
at Annarella Ristorante, an upscale Italian restaurant that had eluded our
dining radars until this summer.
The parking lot was nearly full as we entered the front door,
looking into a pastel blue room anchored by a right-angle bar with about
fifteen seats, a piano, and two or three tables with seating for about
twenty. Just as quickly, we were ushered into the main space—a 30’ by
40’, ringed with banquettes, with about fifteen tables filling the
AR’s menu hosts a half dozen appetizers, three salads, two soups,
more than a half dozen “primi,” more than a dozen “secondi,” and a
few “contorni” sides—all in Italian, with the helpful translations
showed off the AR’s range, and even the two steak-dependables chose
otherwise this evening. So, with a heavy borrowing from the web site:
==> Tonnarelli con Aragosta—thin
homemade pasta with lobster reduction, lobster meat and a touch of brandy
(Deb K, Kerry: very good to excellent, for both)
==> Pappardelle al Cinghiale—wide fresh
pasta with wild boar braised in red wine, juniper berries and herbs (Don:
a hearty sauce, tasty meat, with a flavor of distinctive herb, very good;
a good match for Chianti)
==> Lasagna al Ragu—traditional meat
lasagna with bechamel sauce and parmigiano reggiano (Ken, Kriss: both
==> Costoletta di Maiale—roasted pork
chop with roasted apple and fingerling potatoes (Deb T: quite excellent,
moist pork with the apple a fine complement)
==> Gamberoni e Fagioli—jumbo shrimp
with Tuscan style cannellini beans, tomatoes and sage (Chay: so-so,
probably a bit more bean than expected, with no pasta-which was not
==> Pollo al Limone--parmigiano Reggiano
crusted chicken breast in a white wine and lemon sauce with spinach
(Julie: very good)
A house salad
accompanied the entrées—a half-handful of greens, a half-handful of
fennel, coated with a light lemony dressing. Half of us thought it very
good or excellent or intriguing or inventive, with half of us judging the
fennel flavor and texture too domineering or unpleasant.
Deb K ordered the Insalata di Finocchi (fennel and orange salad
with black olives and radicchio) and thought it very good.
Preceding the salad was the presentation of two plates, each
containing four pieces of soft bread bruschetta, and a few pieces of
sliced Italian bread awaiting a choice of three hummuses from the separate
wood tray—a worthy introduction.
Desserts beckoned to
most of us, even though the orally delivered list was short.
Tartuffo—a ball of chocolate covered vanilla-chocolate ice cream
protecting its center cherry, presented in several slices (Don, Kriss, a
Quinn share: all excellent)
Lemon gelato—a tall goblet topped with a lemon cap (a Karnes share:
Vanilla ice cream with a set-aside shot-mug of chocolate expresso topping
(Deb T: good although she realized upon delivery that sipping the espresso
might not suit the evening’s sleep)
Sambuca, for Chay
nuttin’ for Ken
All in all, AR
gave a worthy presentation of Italian food, a welcome respite from what
usually passes as Italian.
The drink list consisted of a water, two sodas, and
two bottles of Salcheto 2012 Chianti Colli Senesi, a genial match for our
Service by Sarah was a
mix of very good and so-so, with the so-so parts mostly beyond her
She was attentive,
personable, informative, friendly. However, she could not overcome the
especially busy evening at AR, as was explained later by the manager, by
the evening of 75 diners when 40 is more usual. And that high volume
affected service time.
Salads were delivered at the 55 minute mark, with entrées at the
100 minute mark, a bunch later than most places we go to.
And the noise level affected Sarah’s ability to announce the
specials; she compensated by gathering at three different points of the
table to read the specials, since no one spot allowed all of us to hear
her. The din finally abated when the room half emptied.
To be noted was the attempt to deliver meals en masse, with the
help of another of the waitstaff, and that was appreciated. However,
drinks were forgotten, and one entrée was noticeable by it rather late
Not to be forgotten were the pepper mills – nearly a yard long.
Not necessary but quite memorable.
And the wait staff dress code—black pants, black vests, white
shirts—certainly sets a more formal tone, and one that is
stereotypically Italian (but admired also).
Ambiance has been hinted
at already. The noise level was one of the highest we have encountered.
The manager came around at meal’s end to check on us, and to explain how
busy they were this evening. And we know a Saturday evening at prime time
is bound to be the busiest time of the week. (An unusual note was an offer
for a drink on the house just as we were rising to leave.)
white-linened tables filled the center floor within the ring of
banquettes. A single votive candle, blue goblet water glasses, and
three-piece services marked each table.
Dark manufactured-wood floors matched the wide, tongue-and-groove,
diagonal wainscoting, with a beige-ish paint filling the upper half. What
appeared to be white soundproofing filled the expanse above but the noise
level defied the tiles’ effectiveness.
Lighting came from recessed lighting (randomly spaced, but
apparently deliberately centered above each table), as well as the Ulla
Darni-ish sconces on two walls, several ship lantern-ish metal-rib hung
globes, the metal work of which we admired.
A large ceiling beam, ending in two decorative columns gave the
appearance of two rooms but it was clearly one large space. A fireplace,
faux or real I could not ascertain, added to the ambiance. A maître d’s
podium, with one large light, fit the room’s opening.
The final bill, including all expenses, came to $100
per couple, a fair amount we thought for the quality meal we had just
enjoyed. Overall, AR held good promise, better if we could choose a less
The evening had started at the Monteverd residence,
with an initial clustering around the counter, as usual, but we were soon
lured onto the back deck under the awning on a pleasant summer evening.
Ken made sure the glasses were full with a Montepulciano, soda, or variety
of beer, while Kriss had prepared a plate of three cheeses and two
crackers, a plate of six fruits/vegetables, and the wooden pineapple bowl
of cashews, non-pareils, and, the crowd favorite, Krause’s chocolate
malt balls. (Why did we have to leave to go anyplace else?)
Topics from evening covered
more ground than I can remember but a starting point goes as follows: the
Monteverds’ new hybrid car (how it works, Kriss not driving it, etc.),
stuff about the Quinns (Julie retiring at some too-distant point, Kerry
enjoying another year at C-D, whereabouts of children, adventures of
offspring, the dogs, and more), the rest of our children, our surviving
parents, summer vacation almost half-over (isn’t every day summer
vacation for most of us?), Deb’s dance camp photo job, Don’s
bicycling, ascertaining what Ken is doing for retirement, golfing outings
and to which courses, Beer World, Kriss’s outings with friends, the
grandkid, pictures from Tim and Judy, the Teator excursion next month, the
Karnes excursion next month, valuable crocks, and… there’s more but it
has escaped my attention.