Your South American Destination Awaits

Machu PicchuMachu Picchu
307 Somerville Ave.
Somerville, MA 02143
(617) 628-7070
Monday-Thursday: 12PM-10PM
Friday-Saturday: 11AM-1AM
Sunday: 11AM-10PM

Thinking of taking a vacation, but just don’t have the wallet for it right now?  Fret not – one of the wonders of the world is right around the corner!  Machu Picchu “Restaurante Turístico” welcomes you to their culinary paradise any time you like.

Owner Rosy Cerna is a delightful, smiley woman who is filled with love and passion for her Peruvian roots.  I recently sat down with Rosy for a conversation about how she started up the restaurant, and can’t stop smiling.  Her story was incredible—at times touching, at others remarkable.  And after staying for dinner… my gosh, let’s just say that neither my stomach nor heart wanted to leave!

Check out my top five reasons that Machu Picchu is my new favorite Somerville spot:

1.  The diversity of food choices.
“We try to get the most traditional dishes from each region.”

Machu Picchu’s offerings were carefully crafted and chosen by Rosy.  The menu represents different specialties from Peru’s 25 states spread amongst the coast, the jungle, and the Andes.  You can satisfy your palette with a seafood ceviches, meat or vegetarian stew-like dishes, or a variety of other “Peruvian National Dishes.”

Machu Picchu

Just a sneak peak at Machu Picchu’s mouth-watering menu.

2.  The décor.
“Everything you see here has really nice memories for me.”

Machu Picchu has a warm feel to it, making it comfortable for both day- and night-time enjoyment.  The earthy wall colors, deep red chairs, and golden trim (that Rosy did herself, I should add) transport you to a different place and time.  Rosy told me that every time she goes back to her native Peru, she visits different states and brings something back to hang on the wall.

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu is filled with earthy colors and Peruvian artifacts.

3.  Union Square.
“I’ve been here since 2000, and I can see that it’s changed a lot.”

If you’re looking for a night out, you should consider venturing to Union Square.  In recent years, Union Square has become renowned for its variety of ethnic eateries and funky shops.  It is quaint and colorful, with a yoga studio, comic book shop, and more.  Make a day of it, and wrap it up with a filling, tasty meal at Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu

This awning greets customers walking down Somerville Ave in Union Square.

4.  Live Andean music.
“Every restaurant you visit in Lima, you’re going to have music.”

Rosy expressed to me how very important music was to restaurant culture in Peru.  She seems to have taken some of that with her to the States; Machu Picchu has offered live Andean music every Friday night since it first opened.  These musicians are friends of Rosy’s, and are fun, charismatic performers.  Let the strings make you dance, make you feel, or make you laugh as they accompany a South American rendition of “Happy Birthday” to someone in the crowd!

Machu Picchu

On a Friday night, Andean musicians play while as a soccer game is displayed behind them.

5.  The history.
“I used to travel to New Jersey to get my produce.”

Getting started in the restaurant business can be hard stuff, and Rosy’s story was no exception.  She jumped through her fair share of hoops in the earlier years of Machu Picchu, including a long certification process for her charcoal oven—that she imported all the way from Peru!  She was always a stickler for her food being 100% Peruvian, so she used to drive all the way down to New Jersey twice a month to stock up on certain ingredients she couldn’t find elsewhere.  That deserves some serious kudos (though I’m glad she doesn’t have to do that anymore!)

Machu Picchu

Behind the bar stands Rosy Cerna, the woman who started it all!

This list could go on forever, but you should check out Machu Picchu for yourself!  Say hello to Rosy for me, would you?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

More Than Your Average Convenience Store

La InternacionalLa Internacional
318 Somerville Ave.
Somerville, MA 02143
(617) 776-8855
Monday-Friday: 9AM-9PM
Saturday: 9AM-10PM
Sunday: 10AM-6PM

If you’ve spent any time in Union Square lately, you’ve probably seen the blue awning on Somerville Avenue identifying “La Internacional Food Corp.”  You’ve probably noticed it and passed by it on numerous occasions.

Sound about right?  If so, you’ve made a big mistake.

La Internacional

La Internacional has been at 318 Somerville Avenue for almost 22 years.

La Internacional is much more than just a small convenience store; it represents Somerville’s recent and ever-changing demographic history.  When Nora Cabrera and her late husband, Eduardo, opened up the store almost 22 years ago, they intended to serve their Spanish-speaking community.  Both natives of Guatemala, they stocked the store with what they knew: rice, beans, Goya products, and other essentials of the Central American diet.

They soon noticed, however, that a lot of Haitians were coming to the store.  These customers were requesting that Nora and Eduardo stock certain ingredients crucial to the Haitian diet, such as pigeon peas and cream of coconuts.  As Nora noted, the Caribbean (Haitian) diet and the Central American (Guatemalan) diet are similar, but not identical.  So, she elucidated, her husband would “go get everything” that their loyal Haitian customers needed.

Two decades later, La Internacional is still a hot spot for Haitians.  Nora and her son, Byron, have even picked up some Creole that they practice with their customers.  I was lucky enough to witness this in action in September when people kept flowing in and out of the store to wish Nora a happy birthday.  There is something very humbling and comforting about a classic neighborhood store; La Internacional is just a step ahead in also providing an atmosphere of multicultural appreciation.

La Internacional

La Internacional is well known for their spice selection. They have an impressive range of Mexican spices, as well as various Caribbean essentials and different curries.

Claude Levi-Strauss once said, “Food is good to think with.”  As it turns out, food is also good to socialize with – and not just on the dining end, but on the business end, too.  Years of community and friends radiate through Nora’s smile, which in turn welcomes new communities and friends.  Representing the foodie community myself, I feel it is my duty to pass along some yummy, simple recipes that Nora shared with me…

La Internacional

La Internacional is certainly not lacking in rice, a crucial grain for both their Haitian and Central and South American customers.

As a main dish, try making diri ak djon djon.  This is a Haitian rice dish made with black mushrooms (djon djon) that grow in the northern part of the country and are very hard to find in the States; La Internacional is the only store around that stocks the dried fungi.  Over the years, as customers became regulars and regulars became friends, Nora added some Haitian recipes to her culinary repertoire; diri ak djon djon is one of them.  Very basically, as Nora instructed me, you boil the djon djon and use the flavored water to cook long grain rice, then mix in the strained mushrooms.  I played around a bit with the recipe, and was quite satisfied with the result – but if you’re nervous about experimenting with new foods, I’d recommend sticking to a recipe like this one.

While you’re at it, get in the multicultural mood and snag some “rosa jamaica” (dried hibiscus petals) to pair your rice dish with a tasty Central and South American beverage most popular in Mexico.  Again, I encourage you to play around, but if you stick to a recipe that’s somewhat similar to this one, you should end up with a tart, refreshing drink with an aftertaste akin to that of cranberry juice.

Once you’ve finished your meal, head on back to La Internacional and let Nora know how it went.  Tell her Emily sent you.  I’m sure she’ll have another recipe up her sleeve for you to try from one of the many countries represented by her customers.  Nora’s store truly is – and celebrates – the “taste of immigrant city.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

All in the Family in East Somerville

Taquería Tapatío Mexican Grill
82A Broadway
Somerville, MA 02145
617-625-4119

map:

http://g.co/maps/afr9w

Taco Loco Mexican Grill
44 Broadway
Somerville, MA 02145
617-625-3830
tacolocomexican.com

map:  http://g.co/maps/wt3q9

Traveling down Broadway in East Somerville, you might notice similarities in the food at Taquería Tapatío Mexican Grill at 82A and Taco Loco Mexican Grill at 44.  Over sixteen years ago, Benjamin and Jessica Morales saw a need for Latino restaurants in their community and decided to begin their journey as restaurant owners.

The Morales’ take great pride in being able to offer a family-friendly space for families in Tapatío, but are clearly also keen on the needs of the local professional or passerby looking for a quick and delicious take-out option, hence Taco Loco’s take-out friendly setup and location near Sullivan Square.  The duo has been working together through thick and thin, overcoming a fire in Tapatío four years ago.  Another twist?  Benjamin is a traveling priest, which makes it even more of a hectic balance.

Walking into Tapatilo, the pictures of food on the wall immediately draw one’s eye.  Contrasted against the bright yet comforting yellow wall paint, these hanging framed photos label common types of Mexican food, allowing the consumer to get a preview of what they are about to taste.  The tables on either side as one walks towards the counter to order are meant for those who would like to stay for a bit, socializing with friends or family or catching up on the latest Spanish news or show playing on the television hanging from the ceiling above one of the drink refrigerators by the cash register.

The menu is a mix of English and Spanish and the ordering process is friendly to speakers of both languages.  One can see all of the food options sitting behind the glass panel, freshly made and ready to be used to create each dish on the spot.  There are even treats, like ice cream, if one travels a few feet further down the deep and narrow restaurant to the dessert portion of the counter.  The wait is usually not an issue, but the restaurant does tend to get crowded around the lunch time rush.

Taco Loco’s atmosphere is slightly more cosmopolitan, with counters along the sides of the restaurant for those who wish to sit while waiting for their order or grab a spot to eat quickly and then go on their way.  The menu is more in English than Spanish, and one could say the same about the television playing on the left side of the establishment.  It is a much smaller space, which does not prove to be an issue because of the fast service and friendly staff.  Definitely a different feel, I wondered whether the same great taste would apply here.  Fortunately, I was far from disappointed- the food is made with the same care and to the same high standard as it is at Tapatilo.

Don’t take my word for it though; try out one or both of the Morales’ restaurants in East Somerville next time you are around the area! You will be glad you did.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Pescaotre Seafood, Great Italian for Less

Interior shot from their website

Pescatore is an Italian restaurant that was built in the place of an old fish market. At the main entrance on Boston Avenue, the brightly lit kitchen is filled with busy chefs at work, preparing meals and doing take out orders. The main dining room is located down the side street (which the owner, Ana, told me confuses some people, who open the kitchen door only to be directed down the block). At first glance, one can see that the windows are decorated with wooden shutters, and, in my case, pumpkins, which were also on display because of the fall season. When I entered the restaurant, I noticed a fairly large dining area to the right, and a small bar area to the left.

While I spoke to Ana, the owner of the restaurant, she told me a little about her approach to keeping the interior so clean; keep it simple and not overly decorated! The restaurant itself may not be adorned with numerous decorations, but at the same time it has a sophisticated atmosphere, with some paintings spread around the dark yellow walls. The restaurant is very spacious, while not being too noisy, keeping customers relaxed.

Picture from their website

The food at Pescatore is all about Italian. Ana and her staff specialize in classic dishes like chicken and veal marsala, and pasta dishes. They also do delivery, with an entire pizza and to-go menu.  However, Pescatore, which was built to replace an old fish market, specializes in grilled seafood ranging from scallops to shrimp scampi. With most dishes priced around and under 20 dollars, Pescatore offers good quality Italian food for less.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A little bite of Nepal

Yak and Yeti
719 Broadway
Somerville, MA 02144
(617) 284-6227

The sleek and modern interior of Yak and Yeti, located in Ball Square in Somerville, is not what you think of when you think of an authentic Nepali and Indian restaurant. There are no Hindu gods and goddesses adorning the walls, no images of traditional Nepali life. Instead, owner Amrit Thakali has chosen to concentrate on making his food as authentic and delicious as possible. And boy did he succeed.

Storefront of Yak and Yeti. Photo Credit: Streetcanvasers.com

Amrit Thakali was born in the western part of Nepal. After moving to Los Angeles in 1998 he eventually found his way to Punjab Restaurant in Arlington, MA. Though in Nepal he had been a soldier, Amrit was successful at the restaurant business in the United States, and moved quickly from becoming manager at Punjab Restaurant to opening his first restaurant in Alston/Brighton called Mount Everest Kitchen. The success of this business prompted him to open Yak and Yeti in Somerville and to concentrate on Nepali food.

Traditional Indian thali. Photo Credit: Yak and Yeti Website.

As a lover of Indian food I was sorely tempted to order off of the more familiar side of the menu with many of my favorite Indian dishes. Yet I decided to try something new, so Aloo Bodi Tama it was.  Despite many people’s familiarity with Indian food, Amrit says that around half of his customers try the Nepali dishes, whether it is from the menu, or from their weekday lunch buffet. One of the primary reasons for this, he thinks, is because of the healthfulness of Nepali food, in comparison to Indian food. Though he thinks that both cuisines are delicious, he says that Nepali food puts less emphasis on cream and oils than Indian food, making it better for you. He serves both on his menu because of the relative lack of knowledge about Nepali food.

Yak and Yeti Interior. Photo Credit: Yak and Yeti Website.

My willingness to overcome this barrier was well worth it. Aloo Bodi Tama is a traditional Nepali dish served with black eye beans and bamboo shoots. The combination of spices and interesting ingredients created a mouth-watering dish. Some of the ingredients in the dish, and many in his other dishes, are so specialized that Amrit needs to bring them over from Nepal. In this dish it was the bamboo shoots that really surprised me. Not only were they delicious, but I had never encountered them in any of my culinary adventures in South Asian cuisine. Tama is the Nepali word for fermented bamboo shoots. It is an ingredient used frequently in Chinese cuisine, but what makes its use in Nepali cuisine different is that it is cooked in a curry. This use represents a blending some of the best aspects of different South Asian cuisines into a very unique Nepali cuisine.

For all of the South Asian food aficionado’s out there, Yak and Yeti represents a fusion of all of the best aspects of South Asian foods into one delectable Nepali restaurant.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

X Galhina, A Delicious Sandwich Brazilian Style

Pastelaria Victoria Broadway

192 Broadway Somerville, MA 02145

(617) 776-4303

Accepts credit cards, will deliver

La Pastelaria Victoria Broadway is in East Somerville, across McGrath Highway, but a little before the thick of the restaurants and stores that cluster further down Broadway. The store has a complete menu with sandwiches, salads, and deserts and already-made treats at the counter. There is also a small section where customers can buy a variety of convenience-store goods like packaged foods and cosmetic products.

The walls are painted a bright, but not overwhelming, green and a large menu hangs on the front wall. A double paned picture window lights the front of the store where a handful of tables are filled with energetic customers.


Jacilene Silva is the manager of the Pastelaria Victoria Broadway. She is initially from São Paulo, Brazil. She and a team of long-term employees have been offering the Somerville community fresh Brazilian dishes since the restaurant opened twenty years ago. Jacilene told me simply, “It’s good, you should come. The sandwiches are big!”

Yes they are!

The X Galhina

Jacilene recommended a variety of items on the menu to me but I was especially enticed by a chicken burger called X Galhina. A description in both Portuguese and English explains “bread, chicken breast, cheese, ham, egg, bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, mayonnaise and potato sticks” for $5.55 or a $7.35 special with fries. There are a variety of other meats, if you are interested, including steak and hamburger beef. The sandwiches are large and flavorful. The X Galhina had the complex and varied tastes of two types of meat, egg, a variety of vegetables, and the occasional sweet bite of corn.

You can also order a delicious smoothie(from guava, to papaya, to avocado) or a banana, cinnamon, and sugar pastel (a crispy pastry) for desert.

Come to La Pastelaria! And you will enjoy the friendly, bustling environment and a tasty selection of foods, Brazilian style.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Delights of a Brazilian Bakery

Google Map: http://g.co/maps/g8hz2

We have finally reached the most beautiful part of fall in the Northeast; the leaves are changing to deep golds and bright reds, pumpkins are carved, and autumnal winds sweep across the city. However, with the impending winter chill coming, some of you may be dreaming about exotic getaways. If you are looking for the feeling of something different and fresh but lack the resources to leave the four square mile city of Somerville, then the Panificadora Modelo Bakery really delivers.

Specializing in Brazilian baked goods and dinner foods, the Modelo Bakery is the best way to revive yourself with something new. Nestled within a Brazilian enclave on the corner of Medford Street and Lowell Street in Magoun Square, this bakery boasts authentic flavors, providing Brazilians with a taste of home and Americans with a unique experience. The Modelo Bakery has a triangular-like shape to it on the inside, which gives the impression of a large amount of baked goods, given the little amount of space. The small marble tables are dispersed amongst the remaining space, and the freshly baked bread smell hangs in the air, making it seem all the more welcoming.

The presence of Brazil is inescapable; apart from the ethnic food, there is a Brazilian TV station playing in the background and a stand of Brazilian newspapers in the corner. When I walked in, I was greeted with an “olá” from the women behind the counter, but when I responded back with my shy American “hi,” they quickly shifted gears and began speaking to me in English. They took me on a miniature tour through all of their baked goods, and offered me a taste of each treat before I decided what to get.

I was lucky enough to catch up with Joe De Souza, the owner of Panificadora Modelo Bakeries (there is another one in Everett, MA). Joe, who hails from Minas Gerais, Brazil, acquired this business five years ago and has truly made it his own. Father of five, Joe recognizes the importance of family and community, and hopes to provide for his fellow Brazilians and try to bring “what people miss ” from Brazil here to Somerville.

Joe prides himself on presenting baked goods exactly like those found in Brazil. This includes pão de queijo, a restaurant favorite here in Somerville. This literally translates to “cheese bread,” but is much more than cheese-flavored bread. The cheese and the dough form a perfect bond, so that the cheese taste and the bread work together in perfect harmony. The result is an orange-sized round piece of bread; warm, chewy, and different from typical American flavors.


View Larger Map

Another ingredient typical in Brazil cooking is the guava fruit, which adds a sweet zing to many of the treats behind the counter. Guava plants are abundant in Brazil, which is the reason for their commonplace in Brazilian pastries, drinks, and desserts. Joe proves his cultural integrity and dedication to Brazilian cuisine with his prevalent use of this ingredient; it is very uncommon in the United States, so he needs to either import it from abroad or ship it from the Southern U.S.

The “Bakery” part in the name of this business slightly belies its true nature as a one-stop shop for Brazilian cuisine; apart from the baked goods, Modelo Bakery offers quintessential Brazilian lunches and dinners, such as different types of coxinha (stuffed fried dough with chicken), cachorrão (Brazilian hotdogs), and smoothies with the highly coveted açaí berry. Modelo is a place sought after by foodies looking for a new flavor yet also a place many people visit daily; it is a welcoming atmosphere where anyone, Brazilian or otherwise, can meet a friend for a cup of café and enjoy one another’s company.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

If You Need a Reason to Eat Out Tonight…

You can find Vinny's a short walk up Broadway from the Sullivan T Station.

Vinny’s Ristorante
76 Broadway
Somerville, MA 02145
(617) 628 1921

Monday 11:30 am-3:00 pm
Tuesday-Friday 11:30 am-3:00 pm AND 4:30 pm-10:30 pm
Saturday 4:30 pm-10:30 pm
Sunday 2:00 pm-9:00 pm

*A YUM Participant*

http://www.vinnysonbroadway.com/

In the event that you’re fishing for a reason to get out and enjoy a meal on the town, look no further.  I’ve got five of ‘em for you.

Five Reasons to Eat at Vinny’s

1)EAST SOMERVILLE

Situated on a stretch of Broadway that’s jam-packed with independently run and locally owned businesses, Vinny’s Ristorante brings something unique to East Somerville’s table.  Amidst a variety of Brazilian, Salvadorian, and Haitian offerings, Vinny serves up authentic Sicilian cuisine. Vinny himself explains Sicilian cuisine as fresher and more influenced by the Mediterranean than the heavier fare found in Northern Italy.  Vinny certainly isn’t shy about his heritage; you can see Vinny’s red, white, and green storefront from about a mile away.  Once inside, trinacrias (a Sicilian symbol)  adorn almost every open wall space. If you decide to skip coffee and desert at Vinny’s but find yourself craving something sweet on the way out, don’t worry.  There’s certainly no shortage of pastry shops, bakeries, and ice creameries along the tree lined sidewalks of Broadway.

A crowd forms outside of Vinny's.

2)Restaurant, Deli, AND Grocery

I’m not trying to sell the restaurant itself short, but Vinny’s Ristorante offers far more than just a sit-down experience.  Walk into the restaurant and you’ll find a deli counter serving up hand-sliced hot subs and quick pasta dishes for meals on-the-go.  Need a box of Italian cookies, some olive oil, or a pound of fresh prosciutto for imitating Vinny’s meals at home?  No problem.   The friendly staff will gladly ring up whatever grocery item you find displayed near the delicatessen.   A small cooler up front houses Vinny’s number one most popular item.  Which brings me to number three on the list…

Inside, a deli counter and small grocery sell cold-cuts, cooking oils, and cookies

3) The Sauce

“Get that Bobby Flay and tell him I want to do a throw down!”  -Vinny

No questions asked, Vinny makes the best marinara in Boston.  Food Network seems to agree with me, featuring Vinny and his pasta sauce on a special that aired this past summer.  He makes every delicious batch from scratch using only fresh tomatoes.  For years people have been telling Vinny that almost anything would taste good if covered in his pasta sauce.  Still, Vinny sticks to his guns, making sure that what’s served under the sauce is just as delicious when served alone.  The Braciole, a cut of beef wrapped around soft cheese, spinach, and spices and then pan fried, certainly lived up to this standard, tasty with or without any sauce.  Still, I found myself asking for a little extra marinara just to eat by the spoonful.  If you find yourself with a similar hankering, pick up a quart of sauce from the grocery on your way out.

4)Antipasto Table

Antipasto, meaning “before the meal” in Italian, is a course that starts off the typical Italian meal with a variety of meats, olives, cheeses, and vegetables. Vinny’s Ristorante goes above and beyond by offering a whole table of antipasto options.  At less than 10 dollars per person, this all-you-can-eat visit to the antipasto table has got to be one of the best deals in the Boston area.  The table features tender artichokes that have been marinated in spices and boiled to perfection, bell peppers stuffed with ground meat and cheese, marinated mushrooms and olives.  Let’s not forget the sharp provolone cheese slices because, as Vinny says, “Every rat loves cheese.”  But honestly, there are really two stars on this tabletop of deliciousness: arancini and chicken meatballs.  Arancini are balls of soft Arborio rice that have been stuffed with cheese, tomato sauce, and peas and fried to perfection.  Vinny considers these little guys to be the best example of Sicilian cuisine.  Only recently added to the antipasto table, the chicken meatballs are somehow both taste bud-friendly and heart-healthy.  Vinny’s love affair with “good food” began over 50 years ago when you could find him in the North End munching on celery and carrots.  It’s no surprise that his menu reflects this healthy attitude.

5) Vinny

“If you don’t eat here, we’ll both starve!” -Vinny

Vinny and his antipasto table, Photo Credit: East Somerville Main Streets

Perhaps the single best reason to come to Vinny’s Ristorante is Vinny himself.  Vinny opened what was then a variety store and sub shop at 76 Broadway in 1969 and hasn’t budged since.  The business transformed over the years to become a full restaurant and Vinny’s love for his work has only grown.  As chef and owner, Vinny takes pride in getting to know his customers and offering them a welcoming and generous experience in line with Sicilian tradition.  He wasted no time in making me feel like an old friend, joking about his surprisingly outgoing personality and love for life.  If you make it to his restaurant, be sure to find the man behind the business.   While you’ll certainly leave with a full stomach, you may also end up with a new friend.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Taste of Turkey

Istanbul'lu is just a short walk up Holland St. from the Davis Square T Station.

Istanbul’lu
237 Holland Street, Teele Square
Somerville MA, 02144
(630) 440 7387

Tuesday                         5 pm-10 pm
Wednesday-Friday    11 am-10 pm
Saturday                       10 am-10 pm
Sunday                          10 pm-9 pm

http://www.istanbul-lu.com/

Don’t let its size fool you.  About a year and a half old, tiny Istanbul’lu packs huge Turkish flavors into its entire menu.

Chef Akgun says that newspaper reviews have helped him stay connected to a loyal Boston-area group of customers

Located in Teele Square, Istanbul’lu owner and chef Huseyin Akgun serves up what he says could have found in his mother’s kitchen back in Turkey.  And while the fare at Istanbul’lu is traditional, Akgun’s personal history of global travel lends his food a unique twist.  In addition to a section of full-size entrees, the menu includes hot and cold tapas, a Spanish style of serving a variety of small plates instead of one larger meal.  Akgun says that this addition to the menu has encouraged his customers to take a meal slowly and enjoy a conversation instead of focusing on the meal in front of them.

Spanish tapas culture aside, if you’re feeling rusty on your Turkish history look no further than the bright green walls of the restaurant.  From a kilij, a type of saber dating back to the Ottoman Empire of the 15th century, to a bağlama, a type of stringed instrument found along the Silk Road, there’s no shortage of interesting artifacts and art to be found.  When I asked the waitstaff about a few of these decorations they didn’t hesitate to provide me with some interesting stories to accompany my meal.

Istanbul'lu's cozy dining room

Ah, the meal.  Certainly my favorite part of the visit, the Beyti Kebab featured tender grilled lamb ground up with peppers and spices then stuffed into a thin lavash bread. To make things even better, the whole dish came topped with tomato sauce, grilled vegetables, and a dollop of incredibly creamy yogurt sauce.  While I waited a bit for the entree to arrive (everything is cooked from scratch), I munched on a complimentary basket of fluffy homemade bread and quite possibly the most delicious roasted red pepper dip I will ever encounter.  To finish off the meal, I ordered Burma, a kind of pistachio-laden baklava, and a Turkish coffee.

a Turkish coffee set

If you’re the kind of person who’s used to a morning coffee from an auto-drip machine, don’t be surprised by the intensity of Turkish coffee.  It’s no surprise that the Turkish tradition serves up some serious coffee; coffee’s first appeared in the Middle East, and the word for coffee in most languages comes from the Arabic word qahwah. Turkish coffee is made by boiling finely ground coffee beans in a copper pot filled with water.  This richly concentrated coffee is then served extremely hot, allowing the cooked coffee grounds to settle to the bottom.

Turkish food may be old news to Huseyin Akgun, who says that he took a particular liking toward pizza and subs after immigrating to Boston.  Despite his personal preferences, it’s clear that Akgun knows exactly what he’s doing in the kitchen.  Istanbul’lu offers some of the most interesting and tasty cuisine to reach Somerville in years.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Stop in or Dial for Pizza with a Smile

Caprese Pizza & Grill
516 Medford Street
Somerville, MA 02145
617-628-5555

http://capresepizza.com/


Delivery Hours:
Mon: 11:00 AM to 10:45 PM
Tue: 11:00 AM to 10:45 PM
Wed: 11:00 AM to 10:45 PM
Thu: 11:00 AM to 10:45 PM
Fri: 11:00 AM to 10:45 PM
Sat: 11:00 AM to 10:45 PM
Sun: 11:00 AM to 10:45 PM
map: http://g.co/maps/9qdf5

Ever walked down Medford Street, glancing into shop windows, and wondered about the massive chalk menu at Caprese?  If not, it’s definitely worth your time.  I’ll add in a picture here, but it’s much more impressive in person.

Photo by Amy Bean

Photo by Amy Bean

I stumbled upon this small, friendly pizzeria and grill a few weeks ago, intrigued by this menu as I walked by, and have been back a couple of times since.  From their huge, delicious pizza slices that will definitely be larger than your plate to their tasty calzones and wraps, the food is made with care and tastes like it.

The portions are generous, which was perfect for me as a college student, always looking to get the most food for my money.  The first time I ate at Caprese, my Chicken Caesar Wrap was satisfying not only as dinner, but as lunch the next day as well, because half of it was filling enough that I could save the rest for later.  It was made with just enough dressing to add flavor without causing the wrap to be soggy, and with chicken that was still warm from the grill.  My friend got an equally tasty chicken and broccoli calzone that was also large enough to take back home for more.

Photo by Amy Bean

The next time I went in, I ordered a single slice of pizza.  I was planning on ordering that and seeing how I felt afterwards, not wanting to overspend on lunch without being able to finish.  The $1.50 I paid got me one of the largest slices of pizza I have ever seen, larger even than my plate.   It was light yet filling, and certainly not full of grease, another important selling point.  I can’t wait to go back for more, or order a pizza to share during their Monday night Beat-The-Clock deal, where the price of any large cheese ordered between 5pm and 9pm is determined by the time that one calls in to order.

And I would recommend doing just that, because Caprese offers free delivery to Somerville, Cambridge, Medford and Charlestown.  They are open seven days a week and offer much more than pizza: from calzones to pasta to burritos, their menu is full of options.

Photo by Amy Bean

The location has seen some turnover in the past ten to fifteen years, but current owner Thanas Gjerazi is here to stay.  Since May 2010 he has been working hard to reach the local pizza-loving population.  He mentioned to me that chose the location in Magoun Square to get in on the action, knowing that this part of town was developing and changing.

When asked about goals for the future, Thanas’ immediate response, delivered with a smile, was, “to make this place better and better!”  And for right now?  Customer satisfaction is undeniably the highest priority at Caprese.  So stop by or call in, you won’t be disappointed!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment