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East Side Cafe: Cheap and Easy

Stephanie Farrington
East Side Cafe
378 Newell Street, Pittsfield, Mass.
Pizza, pasta, full bar, takeouts
Thin and crispy, charcaol oven-baked pizza from East Side Cafe.
So, it’s Thursday night and you’re looking to get a pizza and a beer. There are probably more pizza places in the Berkshires than any other kind of restaurant but they’re not all created equal.

Many are pitched as "family restaurants” some are just plain ugly and the pizza is all over the place too. To be fair, I think we in the Berkshires have more than our fair share of decent pizza joints for take out and most of them are pretty good but there’s something special about the East Side Cafe.
The place is cheap. Not inexpensive — cheap. For under $25 you can stuff yourself on pizza and beer. I'd describe the decor as 70’s funk. Brown vinyl upholstery covers the soft-to-saggy benches on either side of tables topped with a thick, syrupy layer of varnish so old it looks like cracked amber. 
There’s nothing much on the walls but the pizza is the real deal. If you want to have pizza, you have to come on Thursday, Friday or Saturday night. Otherwise, no pizza. They’ll make you a burger or a hot dog but no pizza. If you want to try their house made pasta your window of opportunity is even smaller; on Thursdays for lunch, you can choose from ravioli, gnocchi or ziti, Fridays you can have linguine with clam sauce. Only on those days and only until they run out.
The pizza itself is New York style, thin crust with a bit of char on the bottom, made in a charcoal burning oven, it’s tasty and slightly smokey which makes even a plain cheese pizza a little special.
We were feeling zen so we ordered a large one “with everything” and a small cheese pizza (to really taste the sauce) on the side. Pizzas are on the small side, 12 inches is a large but that’s enough for two for dinner and the most you can spend on it is $13.
Young families do show up here with their kids but the kids seem to know the place is not about them. While we were there families with babies, toddlers and school aged kids all came in, ate their pizza or took it out and socialized with a minimum of fuss. We were not subjected to someone’s children running roughshod over staff and patrons alike, there was no shouting, there are no crayons. It’s more of a pub than a restaurant, after all.
The East Side Cafe offers gluten-free beer and pizza as well as their more typical offerings. You can have anchovies on your pizza if you want them. Service was fast, friendly and no-nonsense. 
Our pizzas were hot, fresh and tasty, covered in bubbling cheese with a tasty sauce serving as their foundation (East Side Cafe won best sauce in this year's Berkshire Pizza Competition, and it was deserved.) Toppings are traditional, you can't have goat cheese or fresh sage or pine nuts or anything like that - if you want that stuff, you're in the wrong spot. It was good, fresh, no-nonsense pizza and on a Thursday night, in my book, that's hard to beat.
We took the opportunity to try their pasta specials the following week. Gnocchi was fine, in a good, rich tomato sauce, the ziti was nothing special. Both dishes would have benefitted from a layer of melted cheese. (If I could ask this place to do one thing, it would be to retire the shakers full of powdery-dry “parmesan”) But the ravioli was excellent. Hand made pasta enveloped some very tasty filling, we were told the ravioli was meat-filled but we had both meat and cheese filled ravioli in our take out dish which was just fine with me. If you have the choice, the cheese filled ravioli is really a standout. 
All three dishes were priced under $10 for a generous serving of pasta and bread. (I’m told they serve salad if you stay but we had ours to go, there was no salad offered.)
Unpretentious, totally local and old school, this is great comfort food for a night that’s not-quite-the-weekend yet.
We’ll be back.

A Summer Place

Stephanie FarringtonBerkshire Food
1575 Pleasant Street, Lee, Mass.
Between Lee and  Stockbridge
Perigee's mussels siam, mussels in a lovely coconut curry broth.
I first noticed Perigee last winter. It's between Lee and Stockbridge, its parking lot was usually full and it seemed pretty down to earth to me. Plus, according to its website, it has pasta delivery.

This summer, I noticed they had a $7 burger on the sandwich board outside.
Like many Berkshire residents, we don't have a huge disposable income, so I am pretty careful about where we choose to eat when we eat out. A place that delivers pasta and has a $7 burger seemed about right to me. So, on a recent Thursday night, my husband and I made a reservation and went to Perigee for dinner.
Perigee is a good place to take your grandparents when they come to visit. Your grandpa can have the steak and, if you check with them before you go, whatever your grandmother chooses off the menu might be half price (but I would be sure to check in advance).
As for the burger special? They don't mention it inside the restaurant and there really isn't anything else on the menu that gets close to that price so if you want a $7 burger from Perigee, call them first and confirm that the special is available before you go. It is not available on weekends.

On the positive side, we really enjoyed the mussels siam, a small serving of mussels in a lovely coconut curry broth. The sauce was, as promised, wonderful when soaked up with the bread provided. The calamari, as our server suggested, was also very good. It was perfectly cooked, tender inside, with a crisp, light golden crust coating it evenly.

The house side salad was pleasant and very reasonably priced at $3 for an appetizer but it arrived at our table without dressing, and asking for the dressing to be brought to the table seemed to confuse our server. We had to be quite assertive and explain that the salad was supposed to be served with a dressing and it was dry so ...

The host was very friendly and charming. She explained her favorites on the menu and encouraged us to give her feedback. Unfortunately, this was the place where we learned, if someone says they don't like duck but they like this duck because it doesn't taste like duck and you like duck — don't order the duck.

It was pretty apparent from the happy diners that the restaurant caters to an older crowd, and proudly so. One of their desserts: "The Brooklyn, just as you remember — yellow sponge cake in a paper push cup, topped with whipped cream and a cherry, served with a pretzel rod and a minature egg cream 'shot.'" I've never met anyone old enough to remember this and my husband lived in New York City for 30 years.
If you go to Perigee, the way to have a good time is to remember to double check the specials, be firm with your server, remember that they cater to a much older crowd, and stick to the steak.

Baba Louie's Facebook Special

Stephanie FarringtonBerkshire Food

So it's Friday afternoon. Your energy is used up for the week and there's still a dinner to be made or bought or found. You find yourself idly scrolling through Facebook at 4 p.m. When you notice it — Baba Louie's is offering a special deal!

This happened to us last week and it's one of the reasons why it pays to "Like" your favorite restaurants on Facebook.

The Berkshires may not have a Groupon of its own yet but last week Baba Louie's offered a special as good as any you'll find on the major coupon sites. Come in, mention the key words from the Facebook post and you got 50 percent off your dinner tab. Not 50 percent off an entree — 50 percent off the whole bill.

I grabbed my partner in life and we left for Baba Louie's. Once there we sat at the bar and had the best gluten-free pizza I've ever tasted as well as a generous dish of linguine with chicken and artichokes and "Dawn's Delight," a small salad that was plenty for two and was so delicious I would happily eat it every Friday until the summer (at least).

Baba Louie's Facebook page has mouth-watering pictures.

"Dawn's Delight" is described as "Gorgonzola, pears, dried cranberries and toasted walnuts served on a bed of organic mixed greens with our balsamic vinaigrette." Yup, that's the stuff. The combination is completely delicious.

For a pizza we chose the unusual combo of shrimp, pineapple, and coconut on a gluten-free crust. It was a refreshing change from our usual traditional pizza and the crust was surprisingly good.

Baba Louie's uses local organic ingredients whenever possible and has plenty of vegetarian, even vegan, options for those who want them.

Our entire meal, a feast really, with wine, beer and a $10 tip, came to $45. Definitely more than cooking at home but a real bargain for a night out. (It's always nice, if you can manage it, to tip on the amount the meal would have been if you got it at the regular price since your server does the same amount of work and sometimes more.)

So if you're wondering what to do for dinner, go online, check out who says what on Facebook or Twitter — more and more restaurants are making use of social networking to announce specials that aren't available anywhere else, count yourself in and give yourself a treat. You'll be glad you did.

Baba Louie's has restaurants in Pittsfield, Great Barrington and in Hudson, N.Y.


Moulton's Goes Supreme

By Tammy Daniels

Jessie Farquhar spins some pizza dough at the new Supreme Pizza on Main Street.

Anyone calling Moulton's Pizza in North Adams got a new message: "Hi, this  is Supreme Pizza, formerly Moulton's."

The new salutation — along with new, slimmed-down menu — began earlier this week but the transformation began taking place some two months ago when Antonio's Pizza Group bought out owner Turgut Aydin. Area residents will also be getting the new menu in the mail.

The restaurant is open to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until 11 on Friday and Saturday.

Manager Spencer Leonard said the group was bringing the same sensiblity to North Adams as it has to the original's Amherst — deliver fresh, healthy products in a reasonable time to a college town. Everything that can be made from scratch, will be.

"Our pizza dough is made here, our pitas are made fresh, too, and they take a lot of time to do, and are garlic bread as well, that's a lot of work," he said. The first order was cutting down the unwieldy menu of 263 items by 100 by talking to customers. "We really attacked that."

The result is a menu with more vegetarian options, including gourmet pizzas, and discontinuing some of the Greek and Turkish choices in favor of more Southwestern flavors. The pizzeria is also offering Fuze drinks over soda as more healthy alternative. Soup will still be available as a daily choice, but not clam chowder to start.

In addition to college students, Leonard said the pizzeria will focus on offering healthier fare for the working lunch crowd and specials for the budget conscious.

The delivery area has been whittled down to ensure faster service: All of North Adams, Clarksburg and Williamstown, and limited deliver to Adams with a $10 minimum.

The group has brought in new equipment and the position of expeditor to ensure quality, accuracy and timeliness in orders, and is stressing customer service. It's mostly new staff, including assistant manager Jessica Wells, with a couple holdovers from the previous management.

The name of "Supreme" was settled on after the new management learned there had been other Anthony/Antonios in the area and its working with city on signage. Leonard would also like to see the Main Street side of the building put to better use, such as having meal preparation moved to the front window so passers-by could see the action. That's off in the future but the area, which had been used for storage, has been cleaned out.

Aydin, who operated the pizzeria under the Moulton's banner since fall 2006, said back in January it was time to retire and do some fishing. He stayed on for several weeks as the new management took over.

The building on the corner of Eagle and Main streets, once the location of Rice's Drugstore, is still owned by the Moulton family and was briefly operated by them when the Pizza House closed in that location.

"We've gotten a very positive response," said Leonard.

Tags: Moulton's, North Adams      

Mazzeo's Opens; New Eateries for Adams, North Adams

Staff Reports

Mazzeo's Ristorante on South Street in Pittsfield is open for dinner business. The Italian restaurant opened quietly on Tuesday afternoon after months of preparation.

The new location of the popular Italian eatery is in the former Asters; the original building on Winter Street will continue to be used for banquets and will house the Mazzeo family's catering business.

We're told the new Mazzeo's is beautiful inside and offers the same authentic Italian cusine its been known for for years.

Hours at the new location are Tuesday through Thursday from 4 to 9; Friday and Saturday from 4 to 10 and Sundays from 4 to 9.

Saigon Vietnamese Restaurant Pho

In North Adams, an Italian restaurant  has been transformed into Saigon Vietnamese Restaurant Pho. The restaurant, owned by Nancy Nguyen of North Adams, opened last week at Valley Park Lanes.

The kitchen's been revamped and the decor changed to evoke more of a Southeast Aisan feel. The menu is limited for now with 11 items, including the namesake dish Pho Tai Bo Van, a beef noodle soup.

Prices range from $4.25 for two spring rolls with dipping sauce to $12.50 for steak dishes. Pho is open daily from 11 to 10 and offers takeout. The number is 413-664-6667.

Izzy's Pizza

In Adams, Izzy's Pizza and Deli opened recently at 85 Commercial St. with a full menu of specialty pizzas (including the artery-clogging "Heart Attack"), calzones, stromboli, pastas, sandwiches, grinders, burgers and appetizers. It offers 10 different wing flavors and BBQ ribs.

The location was vacated by Jim's Pizza, which moved to Howland Avenue.

Delivery from Izzy's is available in Adams and to the Viking Pub next door. It also offers catering off the menu.

Operated by AnnMarie Belmonte and Rick "Izzy" Solomon, the eatery is open from 11 to 9 Tuesday through Thursday; 11 to midnight on Friday and Saturday and 11 to 9 on Sunday.

Call 413-743-0445 or check out the Facebook page.

Have restaurant news? Send it info@iberkshires.com.

Tags: Mazzeo's, Pho, Izzy      
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Seasonal Farmers Markets

Berkshire South Community Market
15 Crissey Road, Great Barrington
Saturdays through Oct. 27 from 11 to 3

Berkshire Mall Market
Sears parking lot, Route 8
Wednesdays & Saturdays through November from 8 to 2

North Adams Farmers Market
St. Anthony's Municipal Parking
Saturdays through Oct. 27 from 8 to noon

Great Barrington Farmers Market
Taconic Avenue & Castle Street
Saturdays through October from 9 to 1

Lenox Farmers Market
70 Kemble St., Shakespeare & Company
Fridays through Oct. 5 from 1 to 5

Oits Farmers Market
L & M Auto, 2000 East Otis Road (Rte. 23)
Saturdays through Oct. 6 from 9 to 1

Pittsfield Farmers Market
First and Fenn streets, across from the Common
Saturdays, May 11 through Oct. 26, from 9 to 1

Sheffield Farmers Market
Old Parish Church, Main Street
Fridays through September from 3 to 7

Williamstown Farmers Market
Spring Street parking lot
Saturdays, May 25 through October, from 9 to 1

Hoosick Falls, N.Y.
The Armory
Wednesdays, 4 to 7


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