The kid came home for the holiday weekend, and we knew she would be lobbying to go out to dinner, but, as mentioned in the post below, there was no way in hell we were going to try to go out to eat on a Friday night in October in Salem. So we pre-emptively made a reservation at Berry Tavern and presented it as a done deal when Herself walked in the door.
As it was with our previous visit a few weeks ago, the place was slamming. It was a very warm evening, so all the outside tables were full, and the inside was as loud and buzzy as we found it earlier. Nevertheless, we were able to easily find street parking, and did not have to wait for our table.
Because this is a “more is better” kind of place, I knew enough not to order an appetizer this time, even though I really liked the meatballs app on our first visit. I am always game for a seafood pasta dish, though. The frutti di mare special was mussels, clams, scallops and shrimp in a tomato, white wine, and garlic sauce served over fettucine. The clams were especially good – sweet and succulent. Some of the mussels were huge but not too chewy. The sauce was a little more brothy than saucy, so it didn’t particularly stick to the pasta very well, but it was delicious, and I had the waitress bring us a second serving of bread so I could sop it all up. For dessert, I had a slice of carrot cake that seemed to be made elsewhere, but that’s forgiveable for this sort of restaurant. We are two-for-two on this place now, so I’m sure we’ll keep going back.
The kid headed back to college over Labor Day weekend, but before she left she wanted one more opportunity to leech a free meal off the ‘rents. Her first choice was some joint on Route 1 in Saugus (the “Saugus Strip”), but when my wife looked it up on Yelp, all the comments said it was a Mafia hangout (yes, such places do really exist, and Saugus has been a mob town for many, many years). So she nixed that and found another local Italian place for us to try, the Berry Tavern in Danvers.
None of us had ever heard of it, and my expectations were fairly low, since townie restaurants vary wildly. Apparently, though, there has been a tavern, hotel, or restaurant on that site since the mid-1700s. Longevity doesn’t always equal quality, but at least it seemed like there would be little risk of being gunned down as collateral damage in a mob hit.
As it turned out, the place was absolutely packed, including people sitting outside, and people showing up for take-away orders. We had to wait a bit to get a table.
I had the meatballs for my appetizer, and the baked gnocchi for my entree and both were really, really good. Satisfying in the way that spaghetti-house food so often is – not challenging, just warm and comforting and plentiful. i was drawn to the gnocchi because Sam The Cooking Guy had recently done a very similar dish that looked amazing. This dish was not quite as over the top as Sam’s, but was really yummy. The meatballs were excellent, too. Obviously made there and not just from a bag from Sysco.
Now that we know about this place, I am sure we’ll be back there the next time we are feeling like Italian food.