The Boston Phoenix
January 1 - 8, 1998

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Carlo's Cucina Italiana

Way west of the North End

On the Cheap by Danielle Svetcov

Carlo's Cucina Italiana is lost. The tiny bistro should be in the North End, with the rest of Boston's classic Italian restaurants, serving up platefuls of calamari fritti ($6.95) and saltimbocca di pollo ($8.95). Instead, Carlo's is on Brighton Avenue, in Allston, a few blocks past Harvard Street, surrounded by Indian restaurants and dingy secondhand stores. The tonier restaurants in the North End may have tangier tomato sauces than Carlo's, and freshly grated parmesan instead of cheese powder in a jar. But what with the genuine "ciao" at the front door (the owners haven't lost their Italian accents), the setting (cozy, with wall murals of Italian piazzas), the portions (jumbo, so don't fill up on the gratis olives), and the prices (even pasta with littleneck clams is under $10), you get quite a meal. One of the most flavorful entrées is the chicken marsala, a full breast pounded thin, sautéed, and finished with an intense marsala reduction, buttery mushrooms, and still-crisp broccoli ($8.95, including salad). The linguine con calamari in tomato sauce ($8.95) would have been perfect with an additional sautéed vegetable to counter all those noodles, but the squid were wonderfully chewy and garlicky. Locals probably want to keep Carlo's their secret. Lines are already out the door most nights -- another similarity to the North End.

Carlo's Cucina Italiana, located at 131 Brighton Avenue, in Allston, is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and on Sunday from 2 to 11 p.m. Call (617) 254-9759.

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