No religious experience, but decent Italian food
By ROBERT NADEAU  |  April 23, 2008
1.0 1.0 Stars

That said, the pressed and seared free-range chicken ($16) is another fine dish, perhaps a little salty, served with large-grain Israeli couscous (and a surprising mixture of cheese — parmesan couscous could be the new cheese grits). Baked local cod ($19) might have been too local for a day too long. It lacked the fresh sweetness of the very best cod, and extra salt didn’t cover the weakness. A truly impressive lemon-butter sauce, not far from buerre blanc, would have made this entrée a winner on a better day. It was served with a nice garlicky spinach.

Entrées other than the cod tend to lack vegetables, but $4 side dishes are enough to serve several people. The sautéed spinach is loaded with garlic, and the green beans are pretty, crunchy, and fresh, if not so local.

The wine list is surprisingly serious in relation to the food, and is based in France and California. It’s organized by style and what wine writers call “body.” Our pinot grigio drinker had the Austrian version, a 2006 Fred Loimer grüner veltliner “Lois” ($8.50/glass; $31/bottle). This was light and aromatic, with a sweeter finish than I expected, but still good wine. A 2005 malbec from Alamos ($7/$26) was a quaffable Argentinean red. From the heavier part of the red list came a glass of 2003 Hayman & Hill cabernet ($9.50/$35). It’s unusual to see a wine with any age on a new list, but this wine actually could use another year in the cellar. It is still somewhat astringent, with a serious nose of anise and dark fruit.

Just as the cheeseburger topped the entrées, a weak flight of desserts was led by the increasingly revived root-beer float ($7). They use Harpoon, the best local root beer, and then load in vanilla ice cream and whipped cream. A baked apple tart ($7) is folded informally back over some of the filling, but neither pastry nor filling (heavy on the cinnamon) is exceptional. Dark-chocolate molten cake ($7) with good strawberry sauce is the real thing. Vanilla-bean crème brûlée ($7) was the usual, though, and lacked the promised blueberry compote. I think I’d rather watch the outfielders run sprints and throw the ball around.

Servers, in black T-shirts, white aprons, and blue jeans, were active and helpful, and the room isn’t overly loud, despite lots of hard surfaces. Sometimes eclectic menus can be played to a variety of diners. But each dish has to taste like the restaurateurs and chefs respect it. At Church, my sense is that the cheeseburger and root-beer float are where their heart is, and Italian food is a nice night out. The bistro dishes and desserts just don’t jump out of the crowd of similar presentations elsewhere.

Robert Nadeau can be reached

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