From Scene Magazine: By Damien DiPaola — Photographed by Jazz Martin
It’s a beautifully laid out space, airy, fresh and clean, reminiscent of a small scale Shutters in Santa Monica. The atmosphere of Caffe Nuovo is that of an upscale, fine dining establishment. The price point, however, is that of your local breakfast place, very reasonably priced. The portions are generous, as if your doting mom was in the kitchen making sure that you had enough to eat. They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and Caffe Nuovo gives that important meal its just due through the ambiance and the high quality of their product.
The menu is a reflection of today’s North End, old meets new. There are many good old-fashioned choices on this menu. Growing up, my mamma made me eggs sunny side up with buttered Scali bread toast. Nuovo makes this simple egg dish with organic eggs and North End Scali bread, and with delicious, nicely seasoned hash browns (mamma didn’t make the hash browns). Italian Vegetable Frittata is a perfect circle of sautéed asparagus, zucchini, mushrooms and spinach, enveloped in whipped eggs. This is one of the lightest and freshest frittatas that I have eaten, and I love my frittata. Eggs Benedict at Nuovo is as old-fashioned as it comes. A made from scratch Hollandaise is certainly the center of this dish, a balanced combination of whipped egg yolks, tarragon, lemon and a subtle dash of cayenne, atop a poached egg sitting on a toasted English muffin, is incredibly light and not gut busting. Too many places use hollandaise mix, kudos to this kitchen for taking the time and having the patience to make this very sensitive sauce. Nuovo’s modern take on the Benny is to serve it either with a half lobster, grilled shrimp, or lump crab – all good choices. Try it with the lobster your first time.
The guy’s guy Steak and Eggs comes with two choices, USDA Prime Rib Eye or Tenderloin. Either way the steak is nicely salted, the eggs perfect sunny side up, not runny, and the combination of a bite of steak, a bite of egg dipped toast, and a bite of home fries, satisfies one’s carnivorous morning cravings, as much as morning sex. Yes, I said it. I love a good old-fashioned breakfast
I also discovered that I love a good modern breakfast too. A Toasted Bagel with Gravlax (Swedish specialty of raw salmon cured in a salt-sugar-dill mixture, sliced paper-thin) was, simply put, orgasmic. The smooth texture of melt in your mouth Gravlax, atop the toasted bagel with rich, smooth cream cheese is a perfect newcomer to the North End breakfast scene. For the young college kid or the construction worker, although on my last visit I saw a petite twenty-something year old young woman devouring one, is the massive 10 oz Black Angus Burger with bacon and eggs any style. I ordered it with eggs over easy. When I bit into the burger there was a savory explosion of bacon, eggs and beef that really hit the spot. Talk about a hangover remedy, this is it. The lean beef with the fatty and smoky bacon combined with the egg makes for a true breakfast burger. Yowza!
fGrowing up Italian we never had pancakes and waffles, one reason I don’t order those dishes, I’ve never been a big fan. The pancakes are incredibly light and airy, with subtle vanilla undertones, delicious! Order them with fresh blueberries, apples, bananas and chocolate chips if you like. The Waffles, either served simply with syrup and butter or with fresh fruit and crème fraiche, were also incredibly light, nicely crisped, subtly sweet and very satisfying. I now am a fan. Actually, each time I’ve had breakfast there I ordered a Short Stack of Pancakes to share with my friends. For the times when you want something light, the Yogurt and Granola is a simple and tasty option. Also on the lighter side is a large bowl of Fresh Seasonal Melons and Berries, served with crème fraiche.
Sides range from the traditional to the modern and are as good as the main dishes. Broccoli Rabe and Italian Sausage combine the lightly bitter greens with the savory sweetness of North End sausage. Veal and Chicken Milanese are very lightly breaded, fried cutlets, a nice touch to the menu. The Half Lobster, Grilled shrimp, and Maryland Lump Crab are great to share with the rest of your table.
Why doesn’t everyone serve fresh squeezed orange and grapefruit juice? Because it’s a real pain in the neck to squeeze all that juice, that’s why. Fortunately for the true breakfast lover, Caffe Nuovo does, and you can tell the difference. Coffee at Nuovo is satisfying. A medium body brew that hits the “I need coffee now” spot every time.
North End Boston.com note: Be sure to visit Scene Magazine on-line for more photos of our neighborhood’s latest addition.