The seaside town of Swampscott is a very pleasant place, with wonderful old homes, stunning ocean views, and quiet tree-lined streets. But it isn't exactly a spot that one would travel to for a night of dining out. Or is it? There are actually a handful of decent restaurants in this North Shore community, ranging from beachside joints to upscale bistros. And perhaps one of the most appealing of these--and certainly one of the most hidden, at least to folks outside of Swampscott--is a charming Italian spot called Paradiso Ristorante.
Located across from an attractive old train station on a side street wedged near Routes 1A and 129A (and about a ten-minute walk from the ocean), Paradiso is the type of place that people tend to find by accident. The exterior gives the impression of being a fairly small restaurant, but it may be a bit bigger than you think, with a spacious lounge in the front where you can order off either the main menu or a bar menu, a slightly more formal but very cozy dining room in the back that has the feel of being in someone's home, and an outdoor seating area to the left for those warm summer nights. The main dining room is quite romantic (but also family- and group-friendly), with soft lighting coming from chandeliers and candles, attractive ceiling beams, and framed and lighted artwork on the walls.
Paradiso has many items that Italian food lovers will be familiar with, including a freshly made Caesar salad with a slightly nutty dressing, fried calamari with a fresh plum tomato sauce, meat lasagna, veal marsala with ham and wild mushrooms, chicken picatta with capers and asparagus, and angus sirloin. There are also a few less common dishes, such as an outstanding plate of homemade fusilli with sauteed chicken, earthy-tasting artichokes, roasted red peppers, mushrooms, and spinach, and a veal romano with incredibly tender veal, smoky prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, and woody-tasting shiitake mushrooms, all in a white wine sauce. For those of you who are risotto lovers, the risotto di mare comes with a mix of jumbo shrimp, lobster meat, and asparagus. All meals, by the way, start with an order of fresh rolls that come with a delectable dipping sauce that has roasted red peppers, garlic, and olive oil. If you happen to have room for dessert (not an easy task), several Italian favorites are served at Paradiso, including a rather sinful bomba that is a meal in itself.
Paradiso Ristorante is a classic neighborhood Italian restaurant that is just enough off the beaten path so that it will likely remain a neighborhood place for the foreseeable future. But even though it is really little more than a local favorite, folks who love discovering little-known restaurants and happen to be in the Swampscott area should surely pay this place a visit.
Copyright © 2009, Boston's Hidden Restaurants (www.hiddenboston.com).