Culinary Giants

Looking for big flavor on the North Shore? Think small.



PHOTOGRAPHS BY Elise Sinagra

 

At LaRosa’s Bar & Patio in Andover and The Brown Dog Food & Spirits in Ipswich, cozy spaces don’t stop the kitchens from creating outsized culinary experiences. So be sure to make a reservation, and then pull up a chair, and uncover the good things in two of the region’s best small packages. 

 

LaRosa’s Bar & Patio 

By day, LaRosa’s is a casual café offering succulent sandwiches and fresh, hearty salads. But when 4 p. m. rolls around, the bar opens up and the space becomes an urban-chic oasis of creative cocktails and indulgent eats. 

“It’s a city-style place, just in the suburbs,” co-owner Paul LaRosa says. “It’s happening.”

  

The original café opened in downtown Andover in 2009 and quickly became a local favorite. Then, two years ago, the storefront next door became available and LaRosa and his partners Michael and Jamie Cammarata decided it was time to evolve. Renovating the new space, he built an eatery that blends the modern and the historical, with a white marble bar and black-and-white color scheme joining the existing cozy brick-walled patio.

  

Likewise, the food and cocktails mix traditional inspirations with a contemporary flair. The gnocchi are served with crushed pistachios and a creamy pesto; the Tuscan sliders feature pancetta and tomato marmalade. The parmigiano pizza replaces the dough with chicken for an unexpected take on classic Italian-American flavors. 

  

The carefully curated wine list and a selection of craft beers on tap are rounded out with specialty cocktail offerings that use fresh ingredients to create bright, compelling flavors. The Kentucky Bullet combines bourbon, cucumber, mint, and St. Germain; the Beet adds homemade beet puree to tequila and grapefruit for a surprising magenta sip. 

The café’s loyal customer base has responded, making LaRosa’s a bustling and popular place, especially when the weekend rolls around. Two years in, the dinner-and-drinks expansion has been exactly what LaRosa imagined when contemplating what the empty space could be. “We wanted to be able to express ourselves in a different way,” LaRosa says, “just do something that was cool and hip.”

 

LaRosa’s Bar & Patio 

7 Barnard St., Andover

978-475-1777

larosasofandover.com

 

The Brown Dog Food & Spirits

Chicken quesadillas, beer-battered fish and chips, and … escargot baked in mushroom caps with sherry-thyme butter and brie cheese? At new Ipswich eatery The Brown Dog, absolutely. 

The establishment opened in the fall under the ownership of Bob Vallis, who ran Gloucester’s Blackburn Tavern until selling it in 2007. Ten years later, he got the itch to return to the restaurant business, so he found a space in downtown Ipswich and hired as his head chef Doug Papows, a Gloucester native who has created menus for local award-winning restaurants like Foreign Affairs in Manchester and Rockport’s Feather and Wedge.

With a fireplace, rich red walls, and a pair of leather couches, The Brown Dog’s atmosphere is warm and cozy. And the regular menu at the new place revisits the kind of casual, comforting pub fare that was popular at the Blackburn Tavern with selections including topping-smothered nachos, sirloin steak tips, and 
sauerkraut- and-swiss-laced Reubens.

 

Though the items may sound familiar, Papows refuses to take shortcuts. For the crispy roasted chicken, he breaks down whole chickens, brines them overnight, and uses house-made stock for his pan sauce, he says. “I am not into prepackaged or taking the easy way out.”

  

But the daily specials are where his culinary creativity can really shine. There are the escargots, of course, and a recently featured pan-seared trout with smoked pork belly. The restaurant has a smoker out back, so there have been several barbecue specials. As summer approaches, Papows is eager to start to source more fresh, local produce and fish for seasonal specials. 

  

“I’m really looking forward to making a striper corn chowder,” he says, “but I have to wait until I can get everything locally for it to be the way I envision it.”

 

The Brown Dog Food & Spirits

14 Central St., Ipswich, 978-312-6362 

thebrowndogipswich.com

 

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