Below is a transcript of a live online chat with Damon Amendolara of 98.5 The Sports Hub, which took place on Friday, March 16, 2012. The half-hour talk focused partly on some of Damon's favorite little-known restaurants in the Boston area, and it included viewer participation, with folks asking Damon questions toward the end. [Note: The original discussion can be replayed at the following link: http://www.hiddenboston.com/online-discussion-0312-3.html and please go to the restaurant discussions link to check out our other chats.]
Marc H. (hiddenboston): Hello, all! Welcome to yet another live online discussion on food and restaurants. Over the past few weeks, I've talked with Jasper White of the Summer Shack restaurants, Dave Andelman of the Phantom Gourmet, Laura Raposa of the Boston Herald, and Gary Goldblatt of pigtrip.net, and this morning I'm talking with Damon Amendolara, who is the host of The D.A. Show on 98.5 The Sports Hub. For the next half hour or so, I'll be asking Damon about some of his favorite restaurants in the Boston area and elsewhere in New England, emphasizing the more independent and lesser-known spots that are out there. And toward the end of the chat, I'll take a few questions from you for Damon to answer.
Marc H.: Damon, are you there? (Or should I just call you D.A.?)
D.A.: I'm here baby.
Marc H.: Good morning! Thanks for swinging by today! Ready to talk food?
D.A.: Good morning. Wonderful day to talk some food - since everyone will be drinking their faces off with the NCAA tourney and St. Paddy's Day
Marc H.: That's for sure. The bars are going to be just a bit crazy tomorrow night.
D.A.: No question about it.
Marc H.: Before we get into restaurants that you like to go to, perhaps we could briefly touch upon how you got your start in the media. Have you been involved in the sports area of radio/TV from the start, or did you work in other areas of media/journalism early on?
D.A.: From the time I was in HS, I knew sports media was what I wanted to do. I covered games and hosted a talk show for my local cable access station. That allowed me to have some experience before I got to college and choose a media school that could help me develop even more. I chose Syracuse, and there I got a lot of great training for the next step - finding a job. I never thought sports talk was necessarily my path - but my first jobs out of college allowed me opps. to host talk shows - and I fell in love with it. Ft. Myers, KC, Miami and now Boston... lots of frequent flyers miles
Marc H.: So I heard that you had an interview awhile back with Gary Goldblatt from the PigTrip site, who was my last guest here (we talked about BBQ, obviously). Is BBQ your favorite type of food in general?
D.A.: It's one of my favorite foods. I always had a fondness for it, b/c in Syracuse there's the best BBQ in the Northeast - Dinosaur BBQ. It's amazing. So when I got to KC, I was in the mecca. Memphis is solid, Texas is good, Carolinas is good - but nothing has the widespread depth in BBQ as KC. I liken it to a great pitching rotation - like the Phillies from last year. Other places might have an ace like Felix Hernandez - but no one has the depth of great options like KC
Marc H.: My family has roots a bit west of Syracuse (in Rochester), so for me growing up, it was all about white hots whenever I visited the area.
Marc H.: So I'm not a big fan of the term "foodie," but, well, I'll use it here anyway. Have you always been a foodie? Do you do much cooking at home, or are you more into dining out?
D.A.: White hots are tremendous. My favorite kind of hot dog. For those that don't know, they are spicy hot dogs with natural casing that are lighter in color (why - I may not want to know). There was a local guy with a cart in front of the Dome for games - I would wake up on Saturday mornings (usually hung over) and eat two white hots for breakfast. Yes, this is college.
Marc H.: Boy, do I miss college. :-)
Guest: Natural casing dogs and spicy jalepeno mustard!
D.A.: I'm from an Italian/Slovak family so eating is just what we do. All the time. Big meals at every occasion. So yes I've always been passionate about food. Probably to my own detriment. It's often times the only thing I think about. I eat a meal and within minutes start thinking about my next one - that's a sickness right?
Marc H.: If it's a sickness, it's a good one, I'd say.
Marc H.: Let's talk restaurants. Many of us know that you're a big fan of Jake n Joe's in Norwood. What are some of your favorite dishes there? Have you been going there for awhile? I believe they've been open for about two years now, but I'm embarrassed to admit that I haven't been yet.
D.A.: We had a lot of remote broadcasts there for football season awhile ago, so I had the chance to try a lot on their menu. It's great. The fried... (wait for it)... CALAMAHHHHH is excellent. Just about everything they do is solid. Its really quality bar food, which is great for the sports fan like myself who doesn't want a crappy burger and soggy fries. Pretty amazing seafood tower as well.
Marc H.: I'm going to post a video of you there, if you don't mind. The food display in the video makes me very hungry.
D.A.: Go for it. It was really fun to make that with the Phantom guys. Such a riot. I mean... I'm a like a bee... buzzing around my honeycomb...
Marc H.: What other restaurants do you like to go to in the Boston area (say, inside Route 495)? I'm thinking more independent places rather than chains, and if you know any under-the-radar spots, that would be great.
Marc H.: By the way, we have a TON of questions coming in. To all of you who are asking questions for D.A., I'll post a few of them in about 10 minutes or so.
D.A.: Depends on the type of food you're talking about... narrow it down for me.
Marc H.: How about BBQ, Italian, and pub grub to start?
D.A.: I think the best BBQ is Blue Ribbon in Newton. Awesome pulled pork and pulled chicken. Great mashed potatoes too. Very VERY good. That's saying something for someone who lived in KC for 4 1/2 years. Italian - big dinner in the North End, I'm a Giacomo's fan and Daily Catch fan. Great seafood at both those places. Fra diavolo sauce at Giacomos is my favorite in the city. Pub Grub, I like Jerry Remy's, and fired up that there's now a Yard House near Fenway
D.A.: For quick Italian for lunch - I'm really into Comella's in Chestnut Hill. The Grandpa's mess with sausage and meatball over pasta is incredible for under $10
Marc H.: I'm a big BRB fan as well, though I tend to go to the one in Arlington more often. And Comella's I go to every now and then as well--decent food there for sure. How about pizza? Any faves for Italian style, bar pies, Sicilian?
D.A.: Haven't found a Sicilian pie I really love. I like Santarpio's. A hot pie from Regina's is always good. Too often though I feel like the pizza you find is by the slice, and a little flimsy in quality. You gotta go to a pizza restaurant to really get a good slice.
Marc H.: Have you been to Umberto's in the North End? Their Sicilian pizza may be my favorite pizza of any kind in the Boston area.
Guest: Best bar pie I've had in Boston area is in Porter Square in Cambridge at the Newtowne Grille right on Mass Ave.
Marc H.: Hey, Guest! I love their pizza as well.
D.A.: Haven't tried Umberto's or Newtowne Towne Grill - need to do both. Admittedly I have not strayed off the beaten path for pizza. I guess I've had some bad ones outside of the established places and don't want to keep eating crappy pizza.
Marc H.: Two more quick questions, then I have a few questions from our viewers. Do you have any favorite spots in the Boston area for Chinese food? And are there any "road-trip" worthy restaurants in other parts of New England that you love to go to?
D.A.: Well, I love the ambience of Kow-Loon. It's not the best Chinese I've ever had, but it's like the Disney World of Chinese. It's an amusement park. I just think that's so fun. I like Golden Temple in Brookline for a less-greasy version of Chinese... but I love China Town. I usually just spin myself around like 20x on a silly bat and stumble into a new restaurant down there and try it. Love China Town.
Marc H.: Kowloon is just so....Route 1. That's the only way I can describe it. I do go there often, though, and have had some good meals there.
D.A.: For my road trip - it's always for seafood. I'm constantly looking for fresh, affordable (oxymoron?) seafood. I LOVE Belle Isle Seafood north of the city. I drive there in the summer for the lobster roll all the time. I've driven at least an hour some days each way to try fresh seafood. (and yes KowLoon is very Rt. 1... and that's what makes it so much fun)
MC Slim JB: Would love to hear about D.A.'s favorite Boston Chinatown spots.
Marc H.: Just had a question pop in while you were writing, and it's about Chinatown. What are some of your favorites there?
D.A.: Big fan of Jade Garden... and then there's a place that I could probably only find by sight... but it's two identical names - like Tin Tin or Sum Sum or Ya Ya... I sound delirious
Marc H.: I don't think it's Ya Ya.
D.A.: I KNOW it's not Ya Ya
MC Slim JB: Xinh Xinh, the Vietnamese place on Beach Street, maybe?
MC Slim JB: Or possibly O Ya, actually in the Leather District, which means you have very expensive tastes.
MC Slim JB: I hope you're doing live-tank fish at Jade Garden.
Marc H.: Ok, here are a few questions from viewers, then we'll call it a day.
CW: Hey DA ...two questions: Favorite beer to drink? Best Lowell area bar? Thanks!
D.A.: No, it's not Xinh Xinh... because it's def. Chinese. Had some of the best pork lo mein I've ever had. I'm searching for it. Not O Ya either... B/c I don't have expensive tastes. I'm lost at those places. I think it's Ga Ga! Never drank in Lowell... I want to go to a Spinners game and go out after
D.A.: My favorite beer used to be Shipyard Wheat but they discontinued it. Really love Sankaty Light and Whale's Tale. I'm always good with a Sam's as well. Love Leinikugel Summer too
Marc H.: If you haven't had the Leinenkugel Sunset Wheat, it tastes like Fruity Pebbles.
MC Slim JB: Bubour Cha Cha, or maybe Chau Chow?
MC Slim JB: Wai Wai or Quic Pic, and then I give up.
Yack: Chau Chow was great when it was in the old smaller store and when they moved to that bigger place down back the quality went down and seems all the gang bangers and wannabes frequent the place at night.
Yack: Best late night grub spots? Like apres bar closing late night? Beside Chinatown.
D.A.: No I think it's Ga Ga. Small little place. Late night grub spots? Good question... the Abbey in Brookline is a fave of mine bc they serve food till 2. I've had the ever delicious but dangerous rice ball in the North End and that was AMAZING. Sunset Wheat DEF. tastes like Fruity Pebbles - not good.
MC Slim JB: GaGa Seafood, another live tank place. I should have remembered that right away, as I just reviewed it for Stuff Magazine a couple of weeks ago. Great Cantonese.
Yack: I'll try the Abbey some night. Thanks DA!
Briscoe Disco: The Mothership has connected. DA, we know you're a man about town in the Allston Brighton area, what are some of your favorite dishes in that region?
Marc H.: So we have one question about Allston above, then one more coming, and that'll be it. Thanks for all of your questions out there--sorry we couldn't get to them all.
D.A.: In Allston/Brighton I like Sunset Grill, For just some beers I like White Horse b/c there always seems to be some talent. I'm pretty sure it was The Draft that had $1 drafts.... now they're all 4-5 bucks. What gives?! Hitting Brighton Beer Garden for some games today. And Irish Garden has a great Guiness.
D.A.: Oh, and late night Cafe Pompeii for the rice balls in the North End? Money.
Marc H.: Final question coming up...
Mike: DA will you be out celebrating in Boston tomorrow?
D.A.: Oh no question. I'll be docking the Mothership at multiple locales tomorrow. Gotta get to the Pour House for the Cuse game (official SU bar) to watch them rip my heart out again... but thinking about tommy doyles in Harvard Sq and then making some gametime decisions. Hit me on Twitter to let me know where everyone is going. I'm a free agent after the Cuse game
Marc H.: It looks like you and I won't be running into each other, as I'm staying as far away from the bars as possible (though I could easily change my mind).
D.A.: NOTHING like St. Paddy's Day in Boston baby. Oh, I'm so stoked. Esp. with games on all day.
Marc H.: Well, enjoy the games and the rounds of beer and food tomorrow, D.A.! And thanks for chatting. And of course, thanks once again to all of the viewers out there.
D.A.: Any time. Lots of fun. We'll have to do this again. And any food suggestions are welcome - hit me up on Twitter @theDAshow and on FB. I''m always looking for new places. I've only been in town for a little less than 3 yrs (although I've been visiting family here since '97) - so I'm probably missing A TON of great places. ESP seafood - send any and all seafood suggestions and lobster rolls my way. I need help on this quest.