Ben and Laura are some of our favorite dinner companions. We love to drag them around Portland with us. They make sure I remember all my belongings, even when it means they still forget theirs (too much wine anyone? Don’t worry all lost items have eventually been recovered due to the kindness and honesty of Mainers). So, when I heard that Paciarino offered amazing Italian food made from local ingredients and was opened by a legitimate Milanese couple, I was in! So, I called and made a reservation before even asking if they wanted to double date, because really, who wouldn’t want to be seen around town with me and my big mouth? Of course being the great friends they are, they were more than happy to oblige my forced invitation.
We started the night with beer and wine at their place near the West End before heading to our 8 o’clock reservation. When we arrived at Paciarino it was a rustle of life. All the tables and even the bar were filled. It smelled of fresh garlic and herbs and for a moment when I closed my eyes I felt like if I opened them I might be magically transported back to Italy. I was falling in love at first smell.
We sat down and everyone ordered their pick of poison. The boy wanted some red wine and us girls were already on a pinot bender so we decided to stick with that. We also ordered some appetizers—the Tris de Bruschette (pronounced: BRU-SKETTA for any non-Italian folk) and the Crostini all-Italiana. Both were A-MAZING. The bruschette comes with three pieces, one was traditional Sicilian garlic, another was traditional tomato and basil while the final piece was a roasted tomato and garlic. The roasted tomato one was far and away my favorite. The flavors were so rich and I don’t know how they achieved it, but it was so smooth and tasted like there was no acidity to the tomatoes. It was heaven on toasted Tuscan bread.
The Crostini all’Italiana included toasted baguettes with all house made, vegetarian tapenades and pates including: olive, eggplant, garlic, red pepper, wild fennel. I must say I am not a fennel person, so that was not my favorite. I actually have yet to find a dish I feel is really enhanced by fennel. The garlic and olive ones on the other hand were amazing. I am a bit of a tapenade connoisseur, and this was top-notch. I would highly recommend this appetizer as well.
After polishing those off, we were all still famished. Maybe it was late seating that we opted for or maybe the appetizers were just fueling the flame for our burning desire to taste something in Maine that might be reminiscent of any “real” Italian food I have had before. I was practically on the edge of my seat, but still in the back of my mind prepared for disappointment.
When the food arrived the smells indicted FRESH, FRESH, FRESH. I let out a very relieved sigh, while I happily breathed in the all the fresh garlic, basil, thyme, and oregano smells I could so I could just savor the moment and feel the kind of inner peace that can only be achieved through a highly flavorful carb laden meal. I reached Enlightenment that night.
Ben ordered the Ravioli Bolognese.
Mark had the lasagna alla Bolognese.
Laura went for the Spaghetti aglio olio e Peperoncino since she’s our resident vegan.
I had the Lobster Pasta special with a garlic aioli (aka: the tourist special. Mark was making fun of me).
All in all, great food with great friends on a great night! All the dishes were rich, flavorful and authentically fresh. I would recommend this restaurant to anyone who is looking for Italian food made from farm fresh ingredients at a reasonable price. Seriously, just make a reservation already!