When most of us say " what’s cooking, " we pose it as a question. But for Karen Citino, What’s Cookin’ is her Abbott and Costello–esque declarative response to what — or, rather, where — to eat. The owner/chef opened her cozy nook in October, fusing her experience as a cook at Olives and manager at the Blue Diner.
When you enter What’s Cookin’, it’s unclear whether its warmth comes from the stoves and ovens or from some fiery hearth hidden off the kitchen. Get even warmer by starting off with one of the soups. Selections rotate, but you’re guaranteed to find timeless classics like pasta fagioli or New England clam chowder ($2.95/small, $3.95/large). In the display case of prepared food, choices range from zingy balsamic beets ($5.95/lb.) to satisfyingly slick butternut squash ($3.95/lb.). And no selection of side dishes is complete without lusciously lumpy mashed potatoes ($3.95/lb.), the perfect match to comfort food’s chart-topper, meat loaf ($6.95/lb.).
The restaurant also serves a rotating and broad-ranging selection of ethnic entrées, from carefully seasoned Filipino-style Adobo chicken ($6.95/lb.) to heavily marinated sesame broccoli and tofu ($5.95). If it’s cream (and comfort) you crave, try the dairy-dense mac-and-cheese ($5.95/lb.).
Don’t worry if you’re the type who cringes over decision-making. Try the Blue Plate, an entrée selection and two sides (priced daily). Traditional brown-baggers will be pleased to know they can find sandwiches here, too. The subs come fully loaded, and a variety of hot-pressed panini ($5.50) are also heavy on the fillings.
There’s no skimping on desserts at this joint, so don’t even think of cleaning your plate. How does a fudgy cappuccino-cream-cheese brownie ($2.25) sound? For the dignified sweet tooth, try the pear-almond tart ($2.75). No-nonsense confectionary connoisseurs are well served with a slice of apple-crumb pie ($2.50).
The décor strengthens the restaurant’s claim to home cooking. Behind the counter is an open-air kitchen, where you can watch the soup simmer. And the walls are lined with bookshelves stacked with cookbooks.
What’s Cookin’, located at 136 College Avenue, in Somerville, is open Monday through Friday, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call (617) 628-6621.