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Dining Out

Stellar fare in an unlikely spot

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May 18, 2008

400 Plus
Restaurant and Bar
430 Franklin St., Framingham
508-879-1550
Hours: Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m.- 10 p.m.; Saturday, 4-10 p.m.; Sunday, 1-9 p.m.
Reservations accepted
Not handicap accessible
Major charge cards accepted

Don't let its location, in front of a near-desolate shopping strip not far from downtown Framingham, make you think twice about the 400 Plus Restaurant and Bar. The atmosphere inside is warm and inviting, and the food stellar. And yes, unlike its spotty past under its previous owner, the 400 Plus is open again, every day.

Owners Spiro Halikias and Atha Paikopoulos may be Greek, but Halikias says that when the opportunity came to purchase the former 400 Club, whose pizza was legendary in these parts, they jumped at it. "Both of us had worked in Italian restaurants and Greek and Italian cooking is very close," Halikias says. Paikopoulos previously owned Atha's Open Hearth in Natick.

The owners kept the menu, but decided to tack on the "Plus" to its name when they reopened the restaurant last fall.

The new owners are showing they also know how to make pizza. The 400 Original ($10) was very good. Shaped in a square, the crust was crisp and not too doughy. We chose to have ours plain, and it had the right amount of cheese and tomato sauce.

The crispy calamari ($8), sautéed with hot peppers and lemon, was a bit of a misnomer. It was actually a little on the soggy side, but when our waiter said something to Halikias, he made a point of apologizing after the meal and taking it off the bill; he also said he spoke to the chef about it.

A fresh-tasting mozzarella and tomato salad ($7), accompanied by fresh basil and drizzled with olive oil, was sprinkled with pepper, curiously, so be sure to ask for it without the spice if you're not a fan. The fresh lemon salad ($6), romaine lettuce with sweet onions and cucumbers and a lemon-olive oil dressing, was outstanding. And we enjoyed a classic Caesar salad ($6) that wasn't overly drenched in dressing.

All the entrees were generous sizes. The veal saltimbocca ($16), medallions of veal sautéed in a buttery, brown sage sauce and topped with prosciutto, was hearty and delicious. The veal parmigiana ($15) was tender and crisp and not overly smothered in tomato sauce and mozzarella. Spaghetti with clam sauce ($13) was decent, but a little bland. It had diced clams, and we prefer the dish with larger chunks.

In a nod to the owners' Greek heritage, one of the specials on a recent visit was chicken el Greco ($15), lightly breaded chicken marinated in a white wine sauce with spinach and feta on top; it was wonderful.

The desserts are not made on the premises, except for the ricotta filling in the cannoli ($5), which is worth trying. We also enjoyed the tiramisu ($6) and Oreo mousse cake ($5).

Halikias says plans are in the works to incorporate other classic Greek dishes, such as moussaka and lamb kebobs, as specials. He also hopes to fix up the upstairs room, which seats about 25, as a place where people can sit and have a drink while they wait for their tables on busy nights, as well as have private parties.

Happily, it appears the 400 Plus is back to stay, and when you have a hankering for pizza or Italian food, stop in. It fits the bill.

ESTHER SHEIN

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