IN THE KITCHEN
After years of owning Carmen’s Café Nicole on Plymouth Harbor, with its tourist-based, weather-driven seasonal uncertainties, Nicole DiGuisto is thrilled to have landed in Norwell in a year-round, busy location. Her new breakfast-and-lunch place, Little Carmen’s, opened in late March. The restaurant’s namesake is DiGuisto’s father, Carmen DiGuisto, who owned Carmen’s Mexican American restaurants in both Weymouth and Abington from 1978 for about 25 years. Nicole grew up working in those restaurants, doing everything from washing dishes to cheffing to managing. She’s a seasoned restaurateur and chef able to quickly turn out brimming platefuls of food to the crowds the restaurant is already attracting.
Little Carmen’s is tucked into a small strip mall steps from the intersection of Route 228 and Route 53 (aka Queen Anne’s corner), where Windy City Dogs & More used to be. The 30-seat place is an ample, no-frills family restaurant. Booths and tables are comfortable, large front windows let the light in, paintings and framed articles line the walls, and a flat screen TV is installed but isn’t regularly on. The four or five terrific servers I’ve had on several visits are all related to, or friends with, Nicole, and chat away with the cook and customers alike. The new restaurant has already begun to establish a regular clientele who are verbal about liking the food, the easy atmosphere, and the central location.
ON THE MENU
Little Carmen’s breakfast and lunch menus are big. Nicole serves all the breakfast dishes any large American breakfast place would offer, along with egg white creations with veggies, avocado, and more, granola, huevos rancheros, breakfast burritos, and many unique DiGuisto family favorites. Lunch is similarly large and mixed. There are all kinds of finger foods, salads, wraps, sandwiches, soups, homemade potato chips, and Mexican dishes, served ala carte or with refried or black beans and rice.
The Eggs Benedict ($9.99) is two perfectly poached eggs (runny yokes, solid whites), thick slices of ham, a light Hollandaise (I wanted more Hollandaise flavor), and crispy, potatoey hash browns.
The vegetarian luncheon special ($10.99) makes a good breakfast or lunch. It’s a platter filled with a chili rellano wrapped in an omelet, a cheese and fresh baby spinach enchilada, pico de gallo, corn salsa, a tiny corn muffin, rice, and your choice of black or refried beans.
Ala carte tacos ($3.49) are a low cost, neat little lunch whether you order them with roasted veggies, roasted pork, beef, or chicken -- on a corn or flour tortilla. The fish taco is a bit more money ($4.99) and is one of the only light, inexpensive grilled haddock lunches around. I’ve had it several times. Ordered with a shot of guacamole ($1), a single one can hit the spot. Same goes for the shrimp taco ($4.99), made with nicely done large grilled shrimp. Both are served with shredded cabbage and cotija cheese. The Catalina salad ($13.99) features six large, grilled shrimp over a bed of mesclun greens, sliced avocado, black beans, corn, cotija cheese, and tortilla strips. The ala carte chicken enchilada ($5.99) is gooey and good, baked in a red enchilada sauce, and topped with diced onion and cheese. And burritos ($4.99), made with a choice of the same fillings as the tacos, are a handy Tex-Mex rollup to take away.
Funny: Little Carmen’s doesn’t have dessert. But every morning between 11 and 11:30, it serves both breakfast and lunch. So, you can go at 11, have lunch, and at 11:29 a.m., order the caramel banana French toast ($7.99) from the breakfast menu for dessert. Done!
Little Carmen’s, 43 Washington St., Norwell, 339-469-1670.