It is a rare occasion to find a restaurant where all of the stars are aligned—an informed and attentive staff, an original wine list, and a chef who understands precisely how to crack the code on flavor Nirvana. Salem’s intimate restaurant, Sixty2 on Wharf, just a year in business, has all of this, and then some.
Without a doubt, chef Antonio Bettencourt is very talented, has an obvious passion for food, and understands the pleasure it can bring. Dish after dish is its own little symphony of intricate flavor balance—with fresh notes that rise in sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami (savory), they are the five tastes we all know but rarely experience in harmony.
The meal began with two antipasti dishes, Cauliflower and the Arancini prepared perfectly and portioned thoughtfully. The cauliflower is lightly battered, fried, and served with currents (sweet), pine nuts (a bit of savory), and red wine agro dolce (a rich Italian version of sweet and sour sauce). The idea is to get a spoonful with all of this in one bite and enjoy the flavor rush of all combined.
The Arancini, a deep fried risotto, stuffed with fontina cheese over tomato confit and basil, was crisp, firm, and well seasoned. Bettencourt creates his confit with the tastiest tomatoes you will ever find: San Marzano (don’t ever make your pasta sauce without this canned tomato). He cooks them for 3-4 hours on low heat to make the flavorful concoction reach its peak in richness.The micro-crunch of your first bite to break through into the cheese-laden risotto, the contrast of the smooth, meaty confit, and the high note of basil make for an unforgettable combination.
My choice for the pasta course was the Garganelli served with red wine-braised duck, dried cherries, pine nuts, and Tuscan kale. This delectable dish raised the flavor bar many notches. The sauce was deep and savory, and here, the dried cherries brought in a condensed flavor that contrasted so nicely with every bite of the tender duck. The pine nuts rounded out the flavor and introduced a bit of crunch, while the Tuscan kale (a tender version of common kale), a tiny note of bitter, balanced the entire dish. The pasta is made in-house with a triedand- true balance of two flours and eggs.
My choice for the main course was the slow roasted pork chop with broccoli rabe. The pork was served atop a mostarda (an Italian fruit and mustard condiment) of Seckel pears (tiny, sweet variety), cippoline (sweet onions), and dried cranberries. The pork was tender and flavorful—a shoulder chop which, because it has fat, has flavor. This dish is a fireworks display of deliciousness.
Wines here change frequently and come via the wine steward who travels the globe in search of new, interesting vintages. I sampled two reds, the Chiantari 2007 Nero d’Avola, and the Altesino 2005 Rosso di Altesino, and one white, Batasiolo 2007 Gavi di Gavi. Each was very enjoyable and each had its own distinct character.
For dessert, I chose the Apple Crostada, an almond tart with currents, served with an amazingly creamy, cinnamon gelato. The slightly sweet, buttery crust, filled with chunks of apple and almond slivers, capped with a Dinner is Served: Chef Antonio Bettencourt, top right, has an obvious passion for food. Some favorites, from left, the Apple Crostada, the Garganelli served with red wine-braised duck, dried cranberries, pine nuts and Tuscan kale, and the scallops being prepared.
62 Wharf Street (Pickering Wharf), Salem, 978-744-0062, 62onwharf.com
Chef: Antonio Bettencourt
Antipasti: Cauliflower, Arancini ($5 each)
Pasta: Garganelli ($12)
Entree: Pork, which is a slow-roasted pork chop with broccoli rabe an a mostarda of seckel pears, cippoline and dried cranberries ($23)Dessert: Apple Costada with currants andcinnamon gelato ($7)