Back to chef food. A special on bay scallop risotto ($18) was excellent (although loaded with pepper), with softer rice, in what I have learned is a contemporary southern Italian style of risotto. Do not, however, have the side of "rapi greens" ($9) until whoever buys the last few bunches of gonzo rabe at the Haymarket has been disciplined. Ours were inedible.
Chicken Cardinale ($17) got more smoke from prosciutto than smoked mozzarella, but that meant that this fine spin on chicken marsala with mushrooms was not over-rich. Another cool thing about it was a cake of paper-thin potatoes where one might expect pasta. Carbonara ($11/half order; $16 full order) was billed as having been prepared "the real way," and might have been, although it isn't the way I made it, nor how it's done in Rome. On the plus side, Carmelina's uses hand-cut maccheroni alla chitara, square noodles I love far more than the dried spaghetti that the rest of us poseurs use to make our carbonara. On the minus side, the "fake" way involves a rapid sequence of coating hot noodles with bacon grease, egg, and cheese that tastes as good as it is unhealthful. Carmelina's "real carbonara" is a simpler creamy sauce.
There are no desserts. North End unwritten bylaw.
The space, with an open kitchen and French café windows, is largely unchanged except for a modern-style portrait of a woman I'd describe as "Jackson Pollock's mother," who doesn't look much like Carmelina in the old North End or the family photos that decorate the opposite wall. It's very loud with the windows closed (and drafty in the winter, at least back in the Damiano days); with them open, it's still only quieter when there isn't a car alarm going off on Hanover Street. Service is good, even with us tucked into a corner table.
Robert Nadeau can be reached at email@example.com.
CARMELINA'S |307-309 HANOVER STREET, BOSTON (NORTH END) | 617.742.0200 | CARMELINASBOSTON.COM | OPEN TUESDAY–THURSDAY, 5–10:30 PM; FRIDAY, 5–11:30 PM; SATURDAY, 12–11:30 PM; AND SUNDAY, 12–9 PM | AE, MC, VI | FULL BAR | SIDEWALK-LEVEL ACCESS, INCLINE UPWARD | VALIDATED DISCOUNT PARKING ($3/THREE HOURS) AT PARCEL 7 GARAGE