Pesce Pazzo Ristorante e Bar has the potential to be special. Situated in the former home of Mount Vernon at the Wharf off Route 1A in Revere, it has spectacular water views from its outdoor deck. It feels like the North Shore’s answer to Quincy’s Marina Bay restaurants. Inside, it’s open and elegant, seating 176 near a warm wood-fired oven.
But Pesce Pazzo is in the midst of an identity crisis. Prices climb a bit too high on occasion — not every dish on the menu qualifies for Cheap Eats’ under-$20 limit, and portions often don’t align with price tags. It’s a nice location, sure, but is it really fine dining or just a place to grab a meal after a day of boating?
Turns out it’s both. Co-owner John Beatrice says they’re going for “chic casual, since we’re not near the water, we’re on the water, right on the river that leads into the ocean. That’s why we stay with that chic casual vein, that city feel. People can feel like they’re in the city, but don’t forget, we have the boaters who come in in their swimsuits.”
Even if it’s intentional, there’s still room for improvement. Though it’s early. The place opened in late June.
The pastas are the draw, and the waitress excitedly tells us they are made in-house. Gnocchi ($11 half; $16 full) is oily in a brown butter sauce, toasted sage, and plenty of garlic. It’s a skimpy, underwhelming portion. It could use a lot more flavor. Stuffed ravioli ($12 half; $17 full) are filled with a delicious porcini and ricotta mixture that features sauteed hen-of-the-woods and oyster mushrooms, again in a brown butter sauce. It’s also small, but one of the top items on the menu.
Oddly, the best starch is a side to two entrees. The risotto is fantastic. It is paired with smoked half-roasted chicken ($19); it also comes with breaded haddock with lemon herb risotto ($19). The chicken, endorsed by our waitress as her favorite, is smoked to the point of distraction, but still fairly juicy. The waitress’s warning about the smoky quality turns out to be shrewd. Unprepared, the taste would likely have been far more jarring. The haddock looks overcooked but actually tastes right. Both entrees are quite good, but the risotto, particularly the wild mushrooms, is the star of the meal.
As for that wood-fired oven, an import from Naples, pizzas run up to $15 for what would be considered a small at many pizzerias. The most affordable is the Margherita ($11), with chunks of Buffalo mozzarella, San Marzano tomatoes, and basil. It’s plain but satisfying, especially for red sauce lovers.
The appetizer formaggio della casa ($9), is a good representation of the overall restaurant, full of highs and lows. The plate is made up of various Italian cheeses, berries and fruits, quince paste, and fantastic toasted ciabatta. Several cheeses are devoured almost instantly, some remain nearly untouched. But pair this appetizer with one of the 42 wines and it’s a nice way to start the meal, even if it’s got some missteps.
Among the higher-priced items, bistecca buttero is a porcini-encrusted 16-ounce rib-eye that sells for $34, while guazzeto di mare, a seafood medley, is priced at $29.
Pesce Pazzo is a work in progress. Even its biggest selling point, the beautiful outdoor seating, could be troublesome once the summer ends. With that in mind, Beatrice says they are planning a second menu for the fall and winter, with eight to 10 new items. “We know the challenge when the winter hits,” he says. “We know being on the water is a double-edged sword. Who thinks of New England seafood and eating on the water in the wintertime? That’s why we’re trying to create an environment inside, with the wood-fired oven, to create a warm feeling.”
For now, the feeling, like the weather, yo-yos between warm and cool. But if Pesce Pazzo keeps developing its menu and identity, it could draw a steady crowd, regardless of what’s going on outside.
Glenn Yoder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.