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Globe South Dining Out

Lovin’ all the spoonfuls

Chef Linda Varraso moved her restaurant across town and reinvented the menu and ambience. Chef Linda Varraso moved her restaurant across town and reinvented the menu and ambience.
September 27, 2009

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Peppercornz on Main
1037 Main St., Weymouth
781-331-9931
www.peppercornz.com
Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday 4 to 10 p.m.; Sunday 3 to 8 p.m.

A year ago, Peppercornz moved across town to a new location. It was more than a geographic move; it was a culinary move. The new Peppercornz is a full dining experience, unlike the old version, which was a take-out place and cafe.

Located in a strip mall on a major street, the curb appeal of the new restaurant is less than stellar. But step inside and you’ll find yourself in a different world, with warm colors, muted lights, good acoustics, and, best of all, wonderful food that is creative without being pretentious.

Chef Linda Varraso owns the place with her partner, Taylor Beckett, who does the marketing end. Varraso has been a foodie since she was a child, when her parents, who worked and had six children, would often leave the cooking to the kids - with ingredients and instructions provided. Many of the recipes Varraso uses today are her mother’s and grandmother’s - Italian women who know their way around a kitchen. (Her mother still does the books for Peppercornz, her dad is the restaurant’s aide-de-camp.)

On the golden walls, Varraso has painted various food-related quotations. “There is no love sincerer than the love of food,’’ said George Bernard Shaw, and as I peruse the extensive menu, I can relate.

This contemporary Italian grille has something in all price ranges. You can get a calzone or a pizza, or enjoy three leisurely courses. A basket of warm homemade focaccia appears at the table, with aioli for dipping. The bread is delicious, the aioli a bit heavy on the mayo.

We start with the artichoke bites ($7), crispy fried balls with a center of chopped artichokes and three cheeses that provide a gooey treat. Though the tasty orbs stand just fine on their own, a side of red pepper aioli adds a nice kick.

The homemade gnocchi ($7) is a generous plate of ethereal ricotta dumplings, a nice change from the usual potato offerings, which can be rubbery. They are served in a delicate tomato cream sauce; the result is a melt-in-your-mouth dish.

The eggplant roll-ups ($8) let the glorious veggie shine on its own, with just the lightest batter and a filmy filling that includes garlic and sage cream cheese; it’s all drizzled with warm marinara sauce.

The Sedona pizza ($11), though it has an oil base and no sauce, is hardly naked. Indeed, it is loaded down with goodies: artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh garlic, goat cheese, and caramelized onions. The crust has puffy edges and the pie is cooked perfectly, with a slightly crisp finish.

I loved the truffle sacchetti ($17), though they were out of the little purse-shaped pastas, and substituted cheese ravioli instead. No matter. The porcini mushroom sauce, with a heady onion flavor, is delicious, if a tad soupy.

The grilled beef tournedos ($17) features twin petit-filets, char-grilled and served on a garlic crostini with a red wine and mushroom sauce. It’s a generous plate, with fluffy mashed potatoes and grilled squash.

Another good bet is the scallops Arena ($12), plump scallops and linguini served in a skillet, and sauteed in a sweet Marsala and vermouth sauce. A scattering of diced tomatoes, prosciutto, and goat cheese add flavor and color.

Don’t leave without trying Varraso’s signature dessert: lemon icebox pie ($4.59). From the graham cracker crust to the airy, tart filling, this is a winner.

Peppercornz seats 78 in two rooms and has a full bar where patrons can watch the game. It also has a deal: Tuesday through Thursday nights, a three-course dinner for two, including a bottle of the house wine, costs $49.99. (If you don’t like wine, you can get a couple of beers instead.) The wine list here isn’t very interesting; Varraso says she’s in the process of revamping it.

To that end, she’s holding a five-course wine dinner on Oct. 19, each course paired with a glass of wine that complements the food. It’s $70 a person, which includes tax and tip.

One quotation painted in the restaurant foyer states: “Food made with love, you’ll taste the difference.’’ It seems a perfect slogan for Peppercornz.

BELLA ENGLISH