Armando's had their grand opening on Monday, but, because I went to the worst Yankee's game of the year, I missed it. I did finally got there though and, much to my surprise and delight, the old sign was back in its rightful place.
Up We Go
Like An Old Friend
I talked to another old friend, Peter, the owner. I apologized for missing the grand opening and he said it was just as well I did. He said the place was packed and kind of a madhouse. It packed up pretty well tonight, too. And most of the people were old-timers stopping in for the first time since its reopened. A lot of shaking of hands and hugging. Kind of touching.
I congratulated Peter on the sign being back up and he said he still might have trouble with the permit. He asked me if I would speak up if there was a public meeting on it. I said, of course. Seems kind of silly though, the sign isn't that big, and it isn't like that stretch of Montague is residential. It is all commercial with a lot of signage.
We got to Armando's fairly early and managed to score a table right under Marilyn.
Right At Home
Marilyn wasn't exactly in her old place. Armando's has been opened up a bit and the solid wall creating a couple of smaller nooks has been replaced by glass cases holding bottles of wine. The place looks real nice, but it was a bit disquieting. Just enough different but still similar to make you feel somewhat disoriented.
The service was very friendly but, again, it was an entirely new staff. And Armando's was a place where the staff stuck around long enough so that the old waiters were kind of like friends. Same with the bartenders.
Most upsetting was that the menu had changed. No longer the old Southern Italian comfort dishes, the good stuff, real country food. Now the menu was smaller, much more upscale and, of course, pricier. Most of the Mysterious Chinese Woman's and my favorite dishes were gone. In fact, they all were.
Oh well, you can't fight change and at least Armando's was back. Peter said that we could always ask for a dish not on the menu and if they could make it, they would. Hey, I will drink to that.
We started out with a couple of appetizers, clams in a tomato sauce and grilled octopus.
Both of these were very good. The clams were perfectly done and the sauce was really nice and spicy. The octopus was more like an octopus salad, pickled rather than grilled. I asked about that and the chef said they were grilled before they were pickled. Not sure if I believe that. Nobody ordering grilled octopus would expect to get this. But it was really, really good. The pieces were fairly large and had just the right chew. Kind of like pickled pig's feet, which I love, but with an octopus flavor, whatever that is.
I was going to order the salmon but the Mysterious Chinese Woman warned me I would be disappointed because it wouldn't be as good as her's. Maybe she was just afraid I would think it was better. I opted for the tuna.
Tuna With White Beans
I have to say, I was a bit disappointed. But then I seldom like tuna in restaurants. Usually it is too thin and too over-cooked. Even though this piece was red in the middle, the middle was kind of small.
I like my tuna just seared on each side. But, of course, to serve it that way you have to have top-of-the-line sushi quality tuna, and that costs a fortune. Most restaurants opt for a lesser cut so they can price it more reasonably. Then you need to cook it a bit more and then you get what I got. Decent, but just okay. The beans were very good though.
The Mysterious Chinese Woman opted for the sea bass and she was very happy with it. It was kind of bland for me, but it was very nicely prepared.
See Sea Bass
If I am going to have sea bass I would rather have it at the Thai place. But that is just me.
And, as tradition requires, I finished up the meal with a Strega.
It's A Witch, But Someone Has To Do It
For those of you who may have missed the pun, Strega means "witch" in Italian.
I am glad Armando's re-opened, and I will certainly be back. But I think that for the next couple of visits it will, more than anything else, evoke a feeling of nostalgia. The old Armando's was the first restaurant in this neighborhood I ever went to, even before I moved here. And I will miss the old waiters and bartenders. And the food.
Ah, snap out of it and move on.