195 Main St., Everett
Hours: Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; closed Sunday.
Major credit cards accepted
Handicapped accessibility: one small step up
Sometimes, while looking for someone to love, a place to love will do.
Abbondanza Ristorante in Everett was that place for me, as a single girl living only blocks away. While I searched for Mr. Right, Abbondanza warmed my heart, filled my stomach, and fed my soul.
Opened in 1986, Abbondanza is run by chef and owner Joe Abbondanza and Eliana, his wife, who both come from Avellino, Italy. Joe and Elianna still delight in serving authentic Italian food to their customers.
Oh, the portions. With every bite, Abbondanza was where my senses digested the meaning of "abbondanza" as "plenty." And with all the leftovers, a girl didn't have to cook for days.
Curious about my old love, I returned recently with my Mr. Right and our 10-year old. The changes surprised us.
Occupying a small slice of Main Street, Abbondanza might appear to newcomers to be a pizza joint from the outside, but the "Martini Bar" announced on the awning outside hints at something more.
We walked into a newly renovated restaurant, decorated with yellows and the warm terra-cotta hues and of southern Italy. Mahogany tables seating four, up to a 50-seat capacity (another 50 can be accommodated downstairs) are covered in crisp white linen tablecloths with gold linen napkins. A black marble-topped bar was fully stocked. Were we in the right place?
The restaurant was once a diamond in the rough that locals kept a secret, but the word is out. Abbondanza rivals any restaurant in the North End. Framed awards line the entrance wall, including from Zagat, citing Abbondanza as "One of the best 1,000 Italian restaurants in America."
Warming up with a glass of homemade sangria ($10) for me and a beer (bottles only) for my husband, we enjoyed a homemade Italian bread, fresh and hot from the oven, and three small slices of pizza.
Antoinette, our waitress, who has worked there "since the beginning," told us the night's specials.
I stopped her at the eggplant rollatini appetizer ($13). When it arrived — two thinly cut slices of eggplant, loosely wrapped around ricotta and prosciutto, then baked till the edges of the eggplant were crisp, topped with fresh tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese — and I tasted my first bite, I realized my mistake.
My husband and I should have each ordered our own.
The plate was almost cleaned before our other appetizers arrived: calamari fritti, fresh fried calamari ($10) and gnocchi alla sorrentina ($8), homemade potato dumplings served with fresh basil and tomato sauce. Listed on the menu as a pasta half-order, we ordered it as an appetizer.
I then enjoyed a cup of homemade pasta e fagioli, a pasta-and-beans soup ($4), and we all ate our salads, drizzled with homemade creamy Italian dressing that was so good we dipped the bread in it.
Debating whether to have veal or chicken, at Antoinette's advice I ordered the rollo di vitello ($20), two three-quarter-inch slices of tender veal roast, stuffed with prosciutto, sage, and spices, sauteed with mushrooms in a white wine sauce, and served on a plate of homemade linguini.
My husband chose the pollo e gamberi romano ($19), one of the “Piatti Favoritti’’ (favorite dishes), a plate of chicken and shrimp sauteed with artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, and mushrooms in a white wine sauce, and served over homemade fusilli, the long tightly corkscrew-shaped pasta.
The generous portions made us ask for take-away bags.
This strategy also allowed us room for dessert. We chose from a menu of treats from Bindi, a leading maker of Italian desserts, all priced at $5.
My husband ordered the tartufo al limoncello, a light lemon ice cream with a soft lemon-liqueur center, coated with crushed meringue, for us to share. It was light with the perfect touch of sweetness to end our meal.
Our daughter ordered the classic cannoli, which I found a bit too sugary sweet, though she loved the crisp shell. Spotting a special "dinner for two" menu on Monday to Thursday nights, I suggested that someday just my husband and I should return. Our 10-year old protested: "I can hide under the table!"