Home » Taste of Marblehead: Plentiful plates of pasta at Caffe Italia

Taste of Marblehead: Plentiful plates of pasta at Caffe Italia

The spaghetti and meatballs from Caffe Italia Photo by Charlie McKenna

Who doesn’t love pasta? After all, it’s a go-to comfort food and is always there to pick you up when you’re down. And, it’s delicious — a winning combination to be sure.

I approached this assignment with immense enthusiasm. My Tuesday evening was more jam packed than usual, but knowing two large plates of pasta awaited me at the end of the workday was an excellent motivator.

I headed to Caffe Italia on School Street, and I have to issue the caveat that I got my food to go, meaning these pasta dishes weren’t consumed in ideal conditions, having spent quite some time in the passenger seat of my Toyota Prius.

I settled on spaghetti and meatballs as well as the gnocchi sorentino to sample for this week’s “Taste of Marblehead,” opting for a classic and a personal choice.

As I walked out of Caffe Italia carrying my bounty of pasta, I was immediately struck by the sheer weight of the black plastic bag containing my dinner. The folks here do not mess around when it comes to portion size, something I was glad for when I tucked leftovers into the fridge for the next day.

The first dish I sampled was the gnocchi, described on the restaurant’s menu as “gnocchi with fresh tomato sauce and nished with fresh mozzarella.” (I’m assuming by “nished,” they mean finished.) This was probably my favorite of the two, with the gnocchi serving as delightfully soft potato pillows drenched in tomato sauce. The sauce itself had a robust tomato flavor, bolstered by the presence of some actual tomatoes in the dish and a bit of a garlicky undertone that offered an extra dimension. The fresh mozzarella provided another nice dimension to the dish, adding a chewy textural element that paired well with the soft, squishy gnocchi.

As I ate, the dish revealed more and more of itself, as the punchy tomatoes gave way to the creaminess of the mozzarella and finally to the subtle potato flavor of the gnocchi. Definitely order this the next time you stop into Caffe Italia on a cold, winter night. I’d be willing to bet it goes nicely with a glass of wine, too.

The spaghetti was a similarly hefty portion, with three ginormous meatballs staring up at me as I opened up the takeout container. The tomato sauce here was lacking the extra dimension that the sauce on the gnocchi dish had, but I didn’t miss it. It still offered a nice tomato flavor that formed an undeniably delicious bite with a bit of pasta and meatball. The meatballs were dense but had a nice beefy flavor, while the pasta was well cooked: al dente without being too chewy or dense. Spaghetti and meatballs is a classic for a reason, and you certainly can’t go wrong by ordering this.

In total, the pasta dishes cost $44.52. While not cheap, this isn’t a crazy-high price considering the sheer amount of food you receive. Plus, the little time I did spend inside the restaurant was exceedingly pleasant, with jazz music playing softly and a bright, warm atmosphere inviting me in.