Restaurant Review: Gre.Co

by Theo Fitopoulos

Gre.Co is a subterranean fast-casual restaurant on Newbury St. in Boston. They focus on fresh and flavorful ingredients to bring authentic Greek street food to the city. The small, vibrant restaurant is a gem among the Newbury St. restaurant scene.

Pork gyro wrapped in pita with onion, tomato, fresh-cut potatoes and tzatziki sauce from Gre.Co! (Photo: Instagram, @grecoboston)

Newbury St. in Boston may be renowned for its shopping, but tucked in the lower ground level of the 225 Newbury building, among all the fashion boutiques, you can find some of the most delicious Greek food in the city. Gre.Co opened in February 2017 as part of the recent mini-boom of Greek restaurants in Boston, joining Committee, Gyro City, Kava Neo-Taverna, and Saloniki. It has quickly become a go-to for lunch, dinner, and everything in between.

Co-owner Demetri Tsolakis opened the fast-casual restaurant after establishing Committee in the Seaport. The emphasis at Gre.Co is authentic, fresh Greek street food with quick service and fair prices that you would not expect to find on Newbury St. Upon entering the restaurant, your eyes fixate on the three rotating stacks of meat, known as gyro. Gre.Co offers pork, lamb, and chicken, which can be ordered as either a sandwich, plate, or salad. As the meat rotates, the outer layer develops a satisfying crisp, while the inside remains tender and juicy. Once its ready, each layer is shaved off and goes straight to your plate. Of the three gyro meats, the pork is my go-to sandwich order, served on a fluffy pita with onions, tomatoes, tzatziki, and fries. Tzatziki is a thick and tangy Greek yogurt-based sauce with garlic, cucumber, and fresh dill. Their fries are cooked to order and perfectly seasoned, adding a great taste and texture to the sandwich.

Gyro meats (Eater -

Gyro meats at Gre.Co (Photo: Eater)

Although the gyros are eye-catching, the rest of the menu is filled with bright and simple Greek fare. The seasonal squash fritters are my favorite item on the menu and provide a great option for vegetarians as a sandwich or plate with tzatziki and Greek slaw. Along with tzatziki, the spicy whipped feta and charred eggplant dips can be enjoyed with pita bread as a shared appetizer. Mixing and matching traditional offerings with more creative ones, such as the tomato jam and lamb gyro sandwich, make for a different flavor experience every time you return to Gre.Co.

You can’t leave Gre.Co without dessert. Once you catch a glimpse of the loukoumades, you will have to place an order of the little balls of fried dough and split them with your friends. While traditionally topped with honey, walnuts and cinnamon, Gre.Co’s loukoumades are also offered in creative flavors, such as the S’morecrates, topped with marshmallow, chocolate, and graham crackers, or the Yaya’s, topped with Merenda (Greece’s version of Nutella), Oreos, and powdered sugar. Much like the rest of the menu, you can mix and match topping combinations as you please.

Yaya’s loukoumades (Gre.Co Instagram)

Yaya’s loukoumades (Photo: Instagram, @grecoboston)

Like the food, the interior is quintessentially Greek. The walls of Gre.Co are painted Greek-island white. The décor pays homage to common ingredients with a basket of lemons, heads of garlic, and fragrant bundles of dried oregano hanging on one end of the restaurant. One wall is adorned with three Greek terms and their definitions: philotimo, kefi and meraki, which describe the hospitality, enthusiasm, creativity, and passion that go into the food and environment at Gre.Co. The patio offers extra seating and is a great Newbury St. hangout on a nice day. The narrow space fills up quickly if you visit during a lunch rush or busy weekend. Although service is still prompt, finding a seat can prove difficult, so plan accordingly.

GreCo Interior - GreCo Instagram

Gre.Co Interior (Photo: Instagram, @grecoboston)

GreCo Exterior - GreCo Instagram

Gre.Co Exterior (Photo: Instagram, @grecoboston)

Gre.Co is a welcome addition to the Greek food scene in Boston, and the graduate student-friendly prices combined with filling portions is a rare find on Newbury St. It’s just as easy to find a nutritious meal on-the-go here as it is to indulge and enjoy a meal with friends. Next time you are in the mood for Greek food or are looking to try it for the first time, I highly suggest giving Gre.Co a try.

225 Newbury Street
Boston, MA 02116

Hours: 11am-10pm daily

Theo Fitopoulos is a second-year student in the Food Policy and Applied Nutrition program, and current intern at the Tufts Health Science Public Relations Office. In his free time, he enjoys sampling the burgeoning Boston restaurant scene, experimenting with traditional Greek recipes in his own kitchen, and playing basketball and tennis when the weather permits.

A Slice of Italy in Allston

by Megan Maisano

It’s the end of the semester. Motivation for cooking and weekly meal prep is low. Are you yearning for some Italian comfort fare, but don’t want to make the trek to North End? Fear not. This hidden gem will fill your heart and your belly.

As soon as I walked into the restaurant, I felt at home and part of la famiglia. Packed in tightly among 12 tables were families and friends, hunched over their meals in conversation, accompanied by glasses of wine and fresh bruschetta. The small room was filled with stories, laughter, and the smell of warm tomato sauce. I turned to my husband, Andrew, and got a nod of approval. It was our first time at Carlo’s Cucina in Allston.

Snuggled between a Vietnamese and Chinese restaurant on Brighton Ave, Carlo’s Cucina (pronounced coo-CHEE-nah) was nearly full on a Tuesday night. We snagged a table next to the kitchen in the back, with optimal views of the place in action. Paintings of the Italian countryside covered the walls and wisps of white painted clouds dotted the blue ceiling. Servers scooted between tables, waiting their turn to walk through the narrow passes, cracking jokes in Italian with regulars along the way.

The restaurant itself offers a no-frills dining experience. The table is set with paper placemats and napkins, and not much space for elbow room. While the ambience at Carlo’s Cucina may not compare to the gusto of dining in Boston’s North End Italian restaurants, the food will keep us coming back.

As someone who married into an Italian family and once took a cooking class in Tuscany, I like to believe I have developed a taste for authentic Italian food. But just to be sure my taste was true, I invited Andrew along for a second opinion. And let me tell you, we experienced some anguish when deciding what to order – we wanted to try it all! In addition to the usual spread of antipasti (appetizers), primi (pasta dishes) and secondi piatti (protein dishes), there was also a Specialità della Casa section.

While we examined the menu, our server brought us complimentary toasted bread, pimento stuffed olives, and olive oil. We did our best not to overindulge before our meal, but it was hard to pass up the aroma of freshly baked bread and olive oil.

For our antipasti, we ordered the fried eggplant, Melanzane Ripiene ($10). Laid over a large plate was eight inches of crisp eggplant rolled up with ricotta that oozed out of its sides, and topped with marinara sauce and broiled mozzarella that stuck to our forks. It was heavenly. In a rare act of self-control, we asked for a box to save half of this God-sent dish for later.

We decided to skip the primi piatti: with their generous portion sizes, I can’t imagine ordering more than one course here again. For the secondi piatti, we ordered off the specialty menu. I chose the Pollo Gerardo ($20), a chicken Marsala dish with tomatoes, peppers, and olives. Andrew chose the Vitello Carlo ($23), a popular Yelp pick of veal stuffed with artichokes, prosciutto and Fontina cheese, and topped with tomato sauce, mushrooms and sautéed onions.

I’m a sucker for a good Marsala sauce, so the Pollo Gerardo hit the spot. The dish had an appropriately oversized piece of chicken, lightly battered and pounded thin. The Marsala sauce was reduced to a thick texture and while it tasted just fine with the toppings, I missed the earthy sautéed mushrooms that traditionally accompanied it. Perhaps next time I’ll stick with the traditional Pollo Marsala dish ($20). Andrew picked the Vitello Carlo because of his love for artichokes. This dish had a lot going on, in a good way. The combination of flavors from the tender veal, plum tomato sauce, artichokes, and creamy Fontina kept us picking at it long after we had our fill. And while we planned to get desert, our stomachs begged for mercy. Next time, Cannoli… Next time.

Pollo Gerardo and remnants of the Melanzane Ripiene. Photo: Megan Maisano

Pollo Gerardo and remnants of the Melanzane Ripiene. Photo: Megan Maisano

By the end of the night, we had sung happy birthday twice to strangers, clapped, and raised our glasses to their fortune. It felt like we were a part of a large family gathering, spread across tables in a dining room, enjoying home-style comfort foods from our very own kitchen.

If you’re looking for authentic Italian dishes without making the arduous trip to the North End, Carlo’s Cucina is your spot. Make reservations, come hungry, and leave a part of la famiglia.

Carlo’s Cucina Italiana
131 Brighton Ave., Allston, 617.254.9759,

Megan Maisano is a second-year Nutrition Communications student, an RD-to-be, and is generally disappointed by small portion sizes. After traveling and eating her way through 24 countries, Italian cuisine remains her personal favorite.

Ten Spots to Try Next Time You Forget Your Lunch

by Erin Child

Forgot your lunch? Too busy to cook? Consider grabbing a friend (or five) and trying out one of these ten eateries near campus. Compiled from a quick survey (a big thanks to the fifteen students who responded!), I’ve got recommendations for holes-in-the-wall that you’ve probably walked by already, hidden gems, and local & national chains with healthy lunch options. Though numbered, this list isn’t meant to be a ranking. Walking times are measured from Jaharis. Cheers & happy eating!

  1. My Thai Vegan Café

3 Beach St. (4 min walk)

My Thai Vegan Café is a popular spot with students. With ample food and bubble tea options, it’s a fun place to come with a friend. Their lunch special runs from noon to 3pm, and for $8 you get the soup-of-the-day, plus either one fried spring roll or two fried dumplings, hot Jasmine tea, and your entrée. One Friedman student surveyed recommended the Mango Curry (it has great coconut flavor!).

  1. The Little Kitchen

22 Kneeland St (2 min walk)

I recently experienced The Little Kitchen for the first time, and boy is it delicious and filling! Pretty much everything costs less than $10 and the portions provide more than enough for lunch and then another meal. Students love their steamed lotus leaf options, highly recommending the chicken and mushroom option.  One student likes that they have a selection of food that they “haven’t seen in other restaurants around Chinatown.” As it’s basically across the street from school, it’s a must to check out.

  1. Clover Food Lab

160 Federal St (11 min walk)

Clover is a local chain that has many food trucks and storefront locations throughout the greater Boston area. Clover is a vegetarian/vegan joint that tries to source their ingredients as locally as possible. They’ve also recently started serving the Impossible Burger at the Harvard Square location and hopefully it will come downtown soon. Lunch there generally costs between $8-$11. Personally, I am mildly obsessed with their chickpea fritter platters. Clover is slightly further away than other options, but worth the walk!

  1. Gourmet Dumpling House

52 Beach St (4 min walk)

I have it on good authority that Gourmet Dumpling House is a wonderful place to bring a bunch of friends, order a ton of food and stuff yourself with savory dumplings and other Chinese dishes. The prices are great, and the food is delicious. If you’re looking for a dumpling fix, one student recommends the mini juicy pork dumplings and Szechuan dumplings, which will “run you about $12.”

  1. Irashi

8 Kneeland St (3 min walk)

Irashi is a sushi and teriyaki restaurant with a great lunch deal. From 11am-4pm, you can buy miso soup, salad and two sushi rolls for under $14. They offer many different combinations of rolls, so there are plenty of options to choose from! If you’re a sushi lover, other places to check out include Avana Sushi (42 Beach St) or Whole Foods (348 Harrison Ave)—the Hirsch Library in the Sackler building recently started serving sushi, but reviews are mixed.

  1. sweetgreen

354 Harrison Ave (7 min walk)

sweetgreen is a national salad & grain bowl chain beloved by many Friedman students. Their bowls are always chock full of veggies, so you get a guaranteed healthy lunch. They easily accommodate dietary restrictions and allergies, so it’s a stress-free stop for many. Lunch starts at about $9, and can increase to $15+ depending on the bowl you choose and what toppings you add (for example, avocado is an extra $2). Students recommend the ‘The Shroomami Bowl’, ‘Harvest Salad’, and ‘My special salad’ (not actually on the menu, and sadly that student did not give us their special ingredient combination).

  1. Chinatown Café

262 Harrison Ave (3 min walk)

Next time you’re thinking of walking down to the Ink Block complex (home to sweetgreen and Whole Foods), consider stopping into the Chinatown Café (it’s that restaurant with the kitchen right on Harrison with hanging ducks in the window). Students say that they have great BBQ, and you get a lot of food for the price. They take cash only, but lunch won’t cost much more than $8 when you get one their rice, meat and veggie combo plates.

  1. 163 Vietnamese Sandwich

66 Harrison Ave (3 min walk)

The banh mi at 163 Vietnamese Sandwich are reportedly delicious, come with vegetarian and meat options, and cost less than $5 each (cash only). The restaurant has seats, but it’s almost always crowded, so you’re better off grabbing a sandwich, or a noodle or rice meal (under $10) to go. Like many spots in Chinatown, they also have bubble tea (yum!).

  1. Boston Kitchen Pizza

1 Stuart St (4 min walk)

Have four minutes to spare and four dollars in your pocket? Run over to Boston Kitchen Pizza for a quick slice. One student recommended the Spinach & Roasted Garlic slice, which will run you less than $4 and sounds delicious! (If you’re looking for cheap eats and not interested in Pizza, The Dumping King at 42 Beach St is another great option.)

  1. Pho Pasteur

682 Washington St (4 min walk)

Pho Pastuer, a Vietnamese restaurant, is but one pho spot in a neighborhood of many (Pho Hoa at 17 Beach St. was also recommended by another student), but it’s been a favorite of mine since I moved to Boston five years ago. Their pho portions are GIANT, cost from $8-$9.50, and is simply the best food on a rainy and cold November day. They have a large menu that offers more than just pho (if that’s not your thing), and offer both take out and sit-down service.

*Bonus Reminder*


145 Harrison Ave (30 second walk)

You forgot your lunch, you literally have no time and you’re looking for a cheap, healthy fix? Seriously consider the salad bar on the 4th floor of the Sackler Library. A small salad will run you $5 and they cram the container full of veggies. Sometimes the best option is right in front of you.

Erin Child is a second year NICBC student in the dual MS-DPD program. Up until now, if she ran out of time to pack a lunch she would stubbornly & hangrily wait until she was home to eat. After writing this list she’s been inspired to try new things. Erin is thrilled to be joining the Sprout team as the social media editor this year, and is looking forward to your great articles!

A Slice of Spain: My Night at Barcelona Wine Bar

by Shannon Evins

Longing for warm nights when the sun sets at 9:00pm? Wishing summer break would hurry up already? Tapas may be the answer you need. Step into Barcelona Wine Bar in the South End to have a taste of vibrant Spanish culture. Your time there will surely give you a slice of Spain.

As I opened the door, wafts of truffles tingled my nostrils. An eclectically clad bookcase strewn with candlelight greeted me. I admired the warmly-lit surroundings and felt like I had stepped into a movie set. The restaurant was split into three sections, with a large square bar in the center and the kitchen visible from the doorway. A hostess greeted me and asked for my reservation name as the maître d’ returned to his post. He took over, found my name, and offered to store my backpack for me (the woes of having class until 5:00pm on a Friday), then politely suggested that I wait until more of my guests arrived. I was ten minutes early and had to stand awkwardly waiting in the entryway. There was no seating for waiting guests, which was surprising for a place that was chiming out 45-minute wait times for several parties of two. As I waited for my friends, I imagined the delightful meal we would share together. I had eaten here once before, but this time was different. Tonight was for celebration.

Once two others arrived, the maître d’ seated us at a table I had spotted early on. We waited to order drinks until the remaining two of our party of five arrived and then ordered the least expensive/most student-friendly bottle of cava (Spanish sparkling wine). “Are we celebrating something?” asked the waiter. We all murmured various versions of “Yes, actually.” There was a pregnant pause as he awaited an explanation of what we were celebrating. Carly explained that we all passed our exams to become registered dietitians. The waiter uttered his congratulations, and we playfully asked him to not judge us for whatever we would end up eating. A different waiter came and poured our glasses as we chattered excitedly and thanked him.

Shortly afterwards, the manager came over to congratulate and help us with the menu since “She was just in Spain last week.” She then asked about any dietary restrictions — a common inquiry I’m thankful for, so that those with restrictions can eat out with ease. We began to order a charcuterie plate, but the manager interrupted to say that she already had a plate in production for us and would ensure that our selections were included. Two large wooden boards of three vegetable appetizers, anchovies, three meats, and four cheeses arrived. We were overwhelmed with this wonderful surprise in honor of our accomplishments. Gouda, manchego, goat, and one I’ve plumb forgotten — we were in cheese heaven. The spicy chorizo, melt-in-your-mouth jamón serrano, and peppery speck were delightful, too. I didn’t try the anchovies, but the smoked eggplant, piquillo peppers, and pickled veggies were a perfect pairing for the heavier meats and cheeses.

Our waiter was attentive and patient with us as we took incredibly long to decide what to eat. The entire menu looked amazing. We finally decided to go with one of the “get-your-hands-dirty, authentic” finger foods the manager recommended as well as the wagyu beef tartare with truffles (that initial smell was too enticing), and not-your-average (nor French) gratin potatoes because we hadn’t had enough cheese (and more truffles, please!). The food arrived in no time, and every mouthful combined a different texture with a piece of happiness. When all the plates were practically licked clean, we looked at the dessert menu. Out came another wooden board with two desserts and a chocolate “congrats!” written along the bottom. Cool-to-the-touch dulce de leche crepes and a rich, dense chocolate cake balanced each other out nicely. We left no crumbs and asked for the check.

We were astonished by the total. The whole charcuterie plate and vegetable appetizers were free as well as one of the desserts. After doing the math, I realized the charcuterie plate alone should’ve cost $40 to $50! The waiter split the check five ways with ease, and we each made sure to tip well for the wonderful service and plethora of surprises. Both the manager and the waiter bid us farewell with smiles. I’ve never been so spoiled nor felt so congratulated at a restaurant before. Despite this fact and the delicious food, the prices are quite reasonable at an average of about $7.50 per tapa. Barcelona Wine Bar in the South End – GO!*


*Readers’ note: The location of my wonderful experience was 525 Tremont Street, Boston, MA 02116. Barcelona Wine Bar is a chain restaurant with locations in Brookline as well as Connecticut, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. I don’t usually promote chain restaurants (if I’m going to pay money to eat out, it better be a delicious and unique experience), so that alone speaks to the awesomeness of Barcelona Wine Bar. I hear their weekend brunch is to die for. You know where to find me next Saturday morning.

Born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee, Shannon Evins braved the New England cold to achieve her nutrition dreams. After attaining a B.S. in Nutrition/Dietetics (along with minors in both Spanish and Human Development & Family Life Education) at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, she moved to Boston to complete her dietetic internship at Massachusetts General Hospital. Her thirst for knowledge didn’t stop there, and she started her Master’s degree in Nutrition Interventions, Communication & Behavior Change just a week and a half after finishing the MGH program. Now a registered and licensed dietitian, Shannon enjoys any opportunity to help people achieve their health and wellness goals (as well as any chance to try out a restaurant).

We Found East Asian-Inspired Soul Food in a Hopeless Place

by Julia Sementelli

Little Big Diner is bringing innovative yet comforting and delicious East-Asian food to Newton Centre, an often overlooked culinary spot, and helping to put the suburb on the foodie radar.

I step into a hole-in-the-wall restaurant to see two chefs, one tossing ramen noodles and the other seasoning and tasting his giant pot of steaming something, and a slew of happy patrons slurping bowls of broth. This is a no reservations place with a line out the door. As I wait for my name to be called I suddenly remember that I am in Newton. Not hip Cambridge, not the trendy South End. Newton, Massachusetts. A suburb known for its wonderful school system and the hometown of Friends star, Matt LeBlanc. As a native, I know that Newton isn’t necessarily known for its culinary scene. While Newton is speckled with some delicious, homey spots, it isn’t my first choice when I want new and exciting food. Or even second. But this suburb has begun to step up its culinary game. Sycamore, a new American restaurant known for its use of seasonal and local ingredients, put Newton Centre on the map in 2013. But now, owners, Sycamore chef David Punch and his business partner at Sycamore, Shane Smyth, along with Little Big Diner head chef, Daniel Scott are breaking the mold of Newton dining by introducing another restaurant to the community. And given the line out the door on a rainy Sunday night, it appears their endeavor has been successful.

Having opened only recently, in February 2016, Little Big Diner offers East Asian soul food with organized and efficient yet friendly service. Both times that I dined, there was a wait. That hardly ever happens in Newton, unless it’s 11am on a Sunday morning at a local brunch spot. The host provided an estimated wait time (which ended up being very accurate) and offered to take my cell phone number and call me when a table was ready. Or another option, much to my surprise, was to enjoy a drink while waiting for our table. While the lack of a waiting area does not allow for a very comfortable waiting experience (some patrons were clutching their beers towards the back of the restaurant near the restrooms while I was pressed up against the front door) the fact that we were invited to stay despite the tight fit was a welcome hint of hospitality that is often absent in restaurants. A spiked beverage also makes waiting for a table a bit more enjoyable.

Once seated, our server promptly brought us menus and explained the layout of the menu. The service was memorable, in a good way, because it seemed to be backed by well-trained staff. Tricia Meegan, previously of Sycamore, manages the front-of-the-house. She kept the hectic 19-seat spot running smoothly. Talented chefs are often recruited for restaurants but front-of-the-house can frequently seem like an afterthought. An experienced manager maintained an enjoyable dining experience separate from the food. Waiters were well versed in the menu items and offered to answer menu-related questions since many dishes included a number of not-so-common ingredients, such as shoyu chicken, mayu, and ajitama eggs. They did not flinch at my substitution request to try both of the rice bowl sauces on the side since I couldn’t decide between the two. Water glasses were refilled frequently despite staff having to push their way through the tables to get to our glasses.

Green Papaya Salad at Little Big Diner. Photo: Julia Semetelli

Green Papaya Salad at Little Big Diner. Photo: Julia Semetelli

While the menu appears simple at first glance, the food is packed with inspired flavor. It is divided between Starters, Little Big Rice Bowls, and Noodles. Servings were generous (always something that I take note of) and the food arrived swiftly. They also have a notably high-quality drinks menu with draft cocktails, including a refreshing Yuzu Margarita, sake, local beers, wine, and non-alcoholic options, like local soda. To start, the green papaya salad was a large, shallow bowl of papaya ribbons with toasted garlic, salted peanuts, and chili and citrus. The amalgam of textures—crisp papaya, crunchy garlic and peanuts, and a burst of bright citrus and heat—made for the perfect starter to awaken the taste buds. In my experience, the usual Thai restaurant papaya salads are extremely spicy and consequently difficult to enjoy. But this salad had the perfect amount of heat and, even though the portion was substantial, I was left wanting more. (In fact, I ordered it both times I visited Little Big Diner). Next, the Miso Ramen, their signature dish, was a generous bowl filled with chili ground pork, nori, ajitama egg, bean sprouts, sweet corn, mayu, scallions, and homemade noodles that were both delicate and hearty. The broth flavors were deep and concentrated. On a rainy October night, this dish was perfect.

The next dish was the pumpkin ramen. While pumpkin is rampant in coffee shops and grocery store packaged foods, pumpkin is an unfamiliar addition to an East Asian menu. But the pumpkin ramen was delicious and popular as I overheard multiple tables ordering it as well. The earthy yet sweet flavor of the pumpkin coconut broth was intoxicating. Brimming with smoked maitakes, chili onions, crispy kale, noodles, and topped with pepitas and scallions, this ramen was unique but still had that comforting ramen essence we all crave.

Tofu Bowl at Little Big Diner. Photo: Julia Sementelli

Tofu Bowl at Little Big Diner. Photo: Julia Sementelli

While the ramen is the star of Little Big Diner, their rice bowls will keep me coming back when I want something lighter. The bowls are rather straightforward—select white or brown rice, a protein, and a sauce. While burrito bowls at other establishments are a mess of one-note flavors, give other such bowls a bad reputation, the flavors in this dish held their own as each ingredient seemed to have a designated role. A garden of fresh, bright herbs, including Thai basil, mint, and cilantro with house pickled vegetables on a bed of brown rice provided the vibrant base. Next, I selected shoyu chicken and “that sunny side egg,” which was beautifully cooked and provided me with that oozing egg yolk I always pray for. I sampled both of the sauces, a hot and spicy and a sweet katsu sauce and decided upon mixing both. Separately, the spicy one packed too much heat while the sweet did not provide enough of a kick. Together they made the perfect sweet and spicy sauce. The chicken, boneless thighs were cooked well and remained moist despite not being prepared on the bone. During the other meal I selected the charred heiwa tofu that, unlike most restaurant preparations of it, was not cooked to death. It was tender with perfect char marks and a bright seasoning. Both times, I did find myself wishing that the herbs were chopped a bit smaller as I found myself having to cut them myself in order to avoid a bite full of mint. Overall, the dishes were a bright and creative take on the sometimes widely available heavy bowls of ramen while providing modern dishes like the rice bowl that cater to those who like to choose their own adventure.

Although the food at Little Big Diner is not necessarily groundbreaking, it is a breath of fresh air in a place that has great potential to expand past its culinary mainstays and show food lovers that Newton is just as great food-wise as its neighboring cities.

Rating: ★★★

Julia Sementelli is a second-year Nutrition Communication student and registered dietitian. If you ever need to get in touch with her just go to the Whole Foods or sweetgreen near Friedman. There’s a 99.7% chance that she will be there at any given time, probably photographing an aerial shot of her salad or stocking up on kombucha. You can also find her on Instagram as @julia.the.rd.eats

Tasting Counter: A Local, Gourmet Experience

by Julia Sementelli

Located in a warehouse in Somerville and sharing its space with a coffee roaster, chocolate maker, and brewery is an eatery that, at first, seems out of place. Following the signs directing me to 14 Tyler Street, I find myself in room with a flurry of white coats and black dresses as three chefs and three maître d’s bustle around. Service flows beautifully as if choreographed.

Selected by Boston Magazine as one of Boston’s 25 Best New Restaurants 2015, Tasting Counter is a unique experience. An open kitchen allows patrons to watch their meal be prepared and IMG_5839plated. The experience resembles a cooking class, but there is no instruction. The only interaction with the staff is when they present each dish. I appreciate the ease of the experience. There are no menu items to choose from, no requests to make. You simply walk in, sit down, and enjoy the show. Tasting Counter’s mission is “to establish the shortest distance between the production of food and you, our guest, by bringing you closer to the creation of your meal.” This mission is accomplished. Each night offers a multi-course tasting menu. And instead of making a reservation, you purchase a ticket that includes the price of the meal. The thought behind this concept is that you can leave your wallet at home. It’s difficult to argue with that.

The restaurant’s philosophy to describe how the food is sourced and prepared is based on the “0 carbon, 50 local, 100 natural.” Tasting Counter’s main goal is a zero-carbon footprint. Chef Peter Ungar, who owns and operates the restaurant with his wife Ginhee, sources a minimum of 50% of its products from within Massachusetts.

The meal is indeed a lovely balance of high quality and expertly prepared dishes with local and unique ingredients. Over the course of two hours, 12 dishes with wine pairings are presented:

Welcoming Bites: Scallop, roe, sake, bonito rice; Black olive, almond, duck liver; Cured hake, orange sesame, lime

Welcoming Bites: Scallop, roe, sake, bonito rice; Black olive, almond, duck liver; Cured hake, orange sesame, lime

Sea Urchin: Bonito custard, black truffle, wakame

Sea Urchin: Bonito custard, black truffle, wakame


Sea Bream: Preserved Lemon, black olive, pistachio, avocado oil cream

Tortellini: Lobster, pine mushroom, beef broth

Tortellini: Lobster, pine mushroom, beef broth

Ocean Trout: Shallot, basil , fermented soybean, orange blossom

Ocean Trout: Shallot, basil, fermented soybean, orange blossom

Monkfish: Tomato, fennel, garlic, saffron, salmon roe

Monkfish: Tomato, fennel, garlic, saffron, salmon roe

Schisandra: Pine nut cookie

Schisandra: Pine nut cookie

Miso cured duck: Celery, apple, daikon, soy

Miso Cured Duck: Celery, apple, daikon, soy

Dry Aged Beef Sirloin Cap: Beet, pomegranate, mascarpone, horseradish

Dry Aged Beef Sirloin Cap: Beet, pomegranate, mascarpone, horseradish

Lime Curd: Passion fruit, lime, ginger ice cream

Lime Curd: Passion fruit, lime, ginger ice cream

Bittersweet Chocolate: Guava, macadamia nut, orange

Bittersweet Chocolate: Guava, macadamia nut, orange

Parting Morsels: Strawberry almond cake; Yuzu chocolate truffle; Plum vanilla chew

Parting Morsels: Strawberry almond cake; Yuzu chocolate truffle; Plum vanilla chew

Tasting Counter provides a special experience. While the price certainly deems it appropriate for a special occasion, you receive a great deal of food and drink for the price. It is refreshing to see this restaurant commit to providing locally-sourced ingredients. Many other Boston restaurants provide tasting menus but without the local component. It is important to recognize restaurants like Tasting Counter that go the extra step to provide food that is both environmentally and palate-friendly.The Tasting Counter is currently open from 8 p.m. – 10 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.  There is an additional dinner service 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. on Saturdays.

Visit for more information.

Julia Sementelli is a first-year NutComm student. She is also a Boston-based registered dietitian. She is passionate about the Boston restaurant scene and dreams of being a food critic dietitian. You can find her blogging at “Girl Verses Food”

Restaurant Review: Cuisine en Locale

by Micaela Young

Cuisine en Locale was first established in 2005 as a locavore catering and personal chef service. The company moved to 156 Highland Avenue in Somerville and began hosting events in February 2014. Apart from sitting blocks away from my apartment, I was anxious to check out this restaurant because of its mission: to partner with local farmers and bakeries to source all of its ingredients from within Massachusetts. The result? Delicious, fresh food. Drawn by both the eclectic, friendly atmosphere and the great menu, Cuisine en Locale attracts a diverse crowd that makes this lounge and bar a fun place to hang out, get a taco and a locally-brewed cider, and catch up with friends.

As Bill Hader’s infamous Saturday Night Live character Stefon the “City Correspondent” would say, this place has everything: board games, a jukebox, live music, vapers, goths, interpretive dancers, an old TV playing static with the specials written on the screen, and plain families of four.


As you walk in the doors, you are greeted by three chandeliers and mirror-written signs guiding you toward the restaurant and lounge. Up the stairs there are two pool tables, a dance floor, tables and chairs, and a bar at the far end of the enormous space Cuisine en Locale calls home. Next to the jukebox you will find ample board games like Sequence and Connect Four to play while you sip your delicious whisky sour! The adjoining music lounge, called ONCE, was deemed 2016’s “Best of the New” by the Boston Globe. The antithesis of mainstream, the music you will hear ranges from brass bands to experimental rock.

My favorite part? Pool tables with ample space, no wait time to play, and only $1 per game!

The events of the week start with Taco Monday (because Taco Tuesday is so cliché) and Metal Tuesday (serving pizza), with DJs and regular dinner menus Thursday through Saturday, 5pm to 10pm (bar is open ‘til 1am). With vegetarian, vegan and meat-lover options, depending on availability, the fare is well-suited for its sundry audience at reasonable prices.


The fish taco was the favorite of the table on Taco Monday: Hake on a corn tortilla with a sage and cranberry sauce and topped with a few sprigs of cilantro that tasted as if they were just plucked from the garden. We also tried the yellow-eyed pea and corn taco, as well as the lamb. Each $4 taco came with a side of spinach topped with pickled onions (which sounds odd, but it was SO good).

The service overall was laid-back, but attentive. Everyone who worked there was very welcoming and friendly—the bartender even made me a whisky sour without the “sour.” The scribbled-on tables and low-budget chairs did not make for the most appealing eating atmosphere, but continued the chill, relaxed vibe.

The Thursday before, my boyfriend and I moseyed down the street for their once a month special DJ event. The cover was $3, and we enjoyed playing three rounds of pool while listening to anything from the artists’ original mashups with weird vocals to the Beatles. I found the crowd refreshingly different; looking around the room I spotted top hats, rainbow hair, Goths and steam punkers mixed in with us boringly dressed folks. While this may not be appealing to some, I love places that allow people to be and come as they are.


Overall, the atmosphere was fun and off-beat, and the food tasted great. If you ever find yourself in the Somerville bar void between Porter and Union Square hit up Cuisine en Locale for an interesting time. For you sports fans out there that want to watch the game on 10 different TV screens, this probably isn’t the place for you…

Micaela Young is a first-year student in the Nutrition Communication program with a concentration in Agriculture, Food & Environment. While she is a homebody who LOVES to cook, she does enjoy having a nice stranger serve her a stiff drink and a yummy taco every once in a while.