IN THE KITCHEN
A big pan of puffy popovers, balanced on the end of a countertop, looks oversized in Simply Smith’s tiny kitchen. Chef Greg Smith serves the tasty quick breads with all dinners – a homey touch that guests seem to love. Never mind its small size, the kitchen has been turning out good, affordable dinners, lunches, and weekend breakfasts since it opened in early 2017. A longtime caterer and cook, he knows how to adapt. “I love baking, but we don’t have the room, so I make popovers,” said Smith, who learned how to cook from his Sicilian grandfather. “Greg graduated from Boston College in business, but his true calling is cooking,” said Jean Sullivan, Smith’s partner and the restaurant’s owner, who runs the front of the house. “He gave up Wall Street to do what he loves.”
Simply Smith’s is just around the corner from the South Shore Art Center in Cohasset village. The 28-seat restaurant is the face of the James Brook Shops, where Green Light Cohasset juice bar used to be. The simple dining room has white walls, wooden floors, and is prettily fronted by windows. In the evening when a train rumbles by across the street, the red crossing lights sparkle on the glass.
ON THE MENU
The dinner menu has about a dozen dishes and several daily specials. Smith’s been on a lobster roll this fall, and so have we. His four-lobster-tails special ($28) is offered a number of ways, including Newburg (rich and delicious), scampi, and fra diavolo. When we ask to have it steamed with butter, the kitchen obliges beautifully. This week, it is served with the same string beans and fingerling potatoes that side all entrees that don’t come with pasta. Another night, we have the meat-of-one-lobster scampi ($28) over great homemade fettuccini (also very good, with lots of lobster). That’s as pricey as Simply Smith’s gets. Most entrees, which are all served with fresh popovers and a small salad, are remarkably reasonable, running $14-$18.
The salmon ($18) is a good grilled filet served over a light smear of bright lemon aioli and sided with beans and potatoes. On another visit, we ask for chicken instead of veal in the veal Marsala ($14), and the server knows she can say yes. But the chicken isn’t as tender as it should be, and the potatoes need more baking. I’m guessing Smith’s best dishes are his specials and the old classics he and Sullivan favor: veal parm ($16), stuffed veal ($18), and baked cod ($17).
That’s definitely the case with the rich and wonderful pappardelle Bolognese ($15). Smith’s homemade pasta is perfectly al dente, and the ragu has hunks of slow-roasted beef, pork, and veal. An elegant European man in cashmere raves over the dish while four people at another table, in windbreakers and shorts, eat their popovers. Across the room, two women choose from the wine list.
Smith’s lunch menu is big with sandwiches, burgers, steak tips, prime rib, sliders, and house-smoked pastrami and corned beef. There’s even a vegetarian burger (and the dinner menu has a pasta with almond pesto we want to try). We’ve had the very good turkey sandwich ($9), with thick slices of turkey breast, not deli meat, and the tuna salad ($7).
For dessert, Smith and Sullivan serve pies from a local baker that are out of this world. They are priced at $4.95 with no extra charge for ice cream. Who does this? Desserts are nearly double that price at most places.
“If there’s anything our customers want, I’d like to know,” said Smith. “I want them to frame what we do.”
Simply Smith’s at One Pleasant, 1 Pleasant St., Cohasset, 781-923-1872, www.simplysmithscatering.com.Joan Wilder can be reached at email@example.com.