11 Cooper St., Waltham
On the Web: www.marcellinorist.com
Hours: Tuesday through Thursday, 4 to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 4 to 11 p.m.; Sunday, 4 to 9 p.m. Closed on Monday.
Accessible to the handicapped
All major credit cards accepted
Off the beaten path of the restaurant mecca that is Waltham's Moody Street is Marcellino's, a slightly upscale family-style Italian restaurant serving "traditional calabrese cuisine," near the landmark Embassy Theater. The atmosphere is casual, the wait staff friendly and helpful, and the food quite good.
We got off to a great start with the Cozza Al Vapore, otherwise known as steamed mussels with garlic, extra virgin olive oil, fresh parsley, cherry tomatoes, and cracked black pepper ($10). We could taste fresh herbs in the tomato base, and there was a generous amount of mussels -- almost more than four people could finish. Likewise, the calamari e gamberetti alla griglia -- grilled shrimp and calamari served over salad greens, drizzled with lemon vinaigrette ($13) -- was a big hit. More lackluster was the third appetizer we chose, the mozzarella caprese: mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, olive oil, and basil. Although the cheese was fresh, the tomatoes were not ripe enough and consequently not very flavorful.
For the most part, all of the entrees we tried wowed us. A particular standout was the costoletta d'agnello, wood-grilled rack of lamb drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and served over mashed potatoes and vegetable greens ($25). It was cooked just right, as was a similar dish, the costoletta di vitello, grilled veal chop also drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and served with mashed potatoes and vegetable greens ($27).
On a previous occasion, we had a memorable pollo alla griglia con marmellata di ciliege, wood-fired grilled chicken with dried cherry glaze with seasoned rice and vegetable greens ($17). The slightly tart, slightly sweet cherry flavor came through but didn't overpower the chicken. Another member of our group had a hankering for chicken saltimbocca, chicken breasts covered with prosciutto and cheese and cooked in white wine ($20), and the classic dish didn't disappoint.
The only entree that wasn't completely up to par was a special, the roasted duck with marinated spinach and mushroom risotto ($27). Unlike the other dishes, it didn't have a lot of flavor. However, the spinach and the huge serving of risotto accompanying the duck were almost a meal in themselves and very tasty, if a bit heavy on oil.
Most of the desserts (all $6) are made on the premises, according to our waiter. We liked the hard texture of the tiramisu as opposed to the often espresso-drenched spongecake version, although it was served a little too cold and we wondered whether it had been previously frozen.
A nice contrast was the limone ripieno, lemon sorbet served inside a lemon with whipped cream.
If you find yourself wandering Moody Street in search of an enjoyable dining experience when the more well-known restaurants have an hour-plus wait, Marcellino's is well worth hunting down.