~ Advocate Restaurant Review ~ By Jim Tuberosa ~
By Jim Tuberosa
“I love to feed people and my favorite moment is watching their reaction from their very first bite of one of my dishes,” say’s Rosie Martone, head chef and partner with her brother, John Martone, at Figaro’s, the newest “palace of food” on revere beach.
To simply call Figaro’s a restaurant does not begin to describe it. To say they serve gourmet sandwiches and wraps is like saying Picasso was simply a painter. Figaro’s is just the next step in Rosie’s journey toward gaining acceptance for what her incredible innovative mind puts forth in the kitchen when she challenges herself to create dishes combining simple ingredients in a way that nobody else would dream of doing.
A graduate of Boston’s Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, her chef instructors loved to present her with a piece of protein and let her go wild.
“When you get a big raw turkey breast it does not inspire in the least. While others were making tetrazinni and roulade, I said, ‘I’m gonna’ make a sandwich.’ I made my own bread, made a curry-fried turkey cutlet, added some nice spices and cilantro and served it with a pickled remoulade with slices of gruyere and tomato.” The result is now a Figaro’s staple.
“All my dishes are globally-inspired,” says Rosie, adding, “I love food and, having travelled all over the world; cultivating ideas from every place I’ve visited then adding my own personal touch.” Of course, many of those dishes have a heavy Italian influence because of the many summers the family spent visiting the town where her parents were born.
I believe that a sandwich or wrap is the most perfect presentation of a plate of food. It’s no-nonsense with no utensils required and, when made and presented correctly…pure magic.
I still had a big question in my mind as to why Rosie decided to come to Revere Beach. Eleven years ago, they opened a small place in Boston between South Station and the edge of Chinatown, It became an instant hit. Soon financial district regulars and “suburban sandwich” pilgrims were forming daily lines at lunchtime, starting at 11:30 a.m., just to make sure they got their daily feast of Rosie’s latest offerings. They didn’t mind waiting even though they were “on the clock.”
One regular said, “It’s not only the freshness of the focaccia, the fragrance of the homemade sauces and the hand-cured cold cuts or the ‘Nana-worthy’ meatballs, but Rosie’s warmth and sparkle that keeps me coming back—Rosie just makes me happy.”
Hearing comments like that and seeing the results of all her (their) hard work should be satisfaction enough for any proprietor but Rosie wanted more. It seemed to me that she felt like they were a small fish in a big pond, which made her reply to my next question make a lot of sense.
“My brother John had wanted to come to Revere Beach for a long time,” said Rosie. She added, “There was nobody serving the kinds of food that we did, and he felt that our customers would recognize that we were indeed a family business dedicated to serving innovative offerings made with fresh, quality ingredients that they could not get anywhere else on the beach. Combined with cheerful service and a sparkling-clean dining area with a panoramic view of the ocean, I felt that we could build a loyal following and eventually become an “institution” —a household name on Revere Beach. “FIGARO’S” is the first name I want everyone to think of when they want something special. That’s what my ultimate goal has always been and the family feels the same way.”
The family includes their mother and father, Geraldine (Gerry) and Raffaelle, both born in southern Italy; John’s wife, Olga, who is like the “room captain,” watching over everything and jumping in to do whatever is needed. Mom and dad, who had retired not long ago, from running a very successful indoor sports complex in Hingham, are also very important in the daily operation. When you enter Figaro’s you’re immediately greeted by the signature family smile and eventually are captured by the “Rosie touch,” always knowing who’s gluten-free, who doesn’t like tomatoes or who likes a little, not globs of mayonnaise. When it comes to cultivating regulars, Rosie has always been guided by instinct, which I’m sure she inherited (along with that family smile) from her parents, who are very kind, caring, and gracious people.
Now for the food—my dining partner was again, Harry Landry, former clerk of courts of Chelsea and one of the fussiest, but fairest, “gourmands” I know.
We started out with Figaro’s Caprese salad with grilled chicken. Instead of large slices of cheese and tomato, Rosie’s version cuts up plump, juicy tomatoes and fresh buffalo mozzarella into bite-size pieces with tender, grilled chicken breast on a bed of crisp romaine lettuce. With a delicious, tangy pesto vinaigrette, we had a perfect beginning to what proved to be a great dining experience.
Rosie then sent over one of her special appetizers, Arrancini balls—risotta shaped about the size of golf balls stuffed with tasty mozzarella cheese, rolled in panko bread crumbs and lightly fried. This was so good we now anxiously awaited the next surprise.
Rosie then served us a simple but mouth-watering pasta dish of tagliatelle pasta with Bolognese sauce that was as good as anything I’ve ever tasted. Bolognese is a blend of ground beef sautéed with Rosie’s specially-blended seasonings and cooked in a rich tomato sauce. Tagliatelle, cooked to a perfect “doneness” (al dente), made this dish a “masterpiece,” to say the least. We thought there was going to be a third party so she made three servings. It was so good that Harry asked if he could take the “extra helping” to go. “I didn’t want it to go to waste,” he said slyly.
Thanks to Sal Tavella, our missing third party, Harry and I shared three main courses. The menu offered so many possibilities we finally settled on “The Sonny Corleone”—grilled, marinated chicken, pepperoni, roasted red peppers, shredded mozzarella, spicy rice and chipotle mayo, all rolled in a flour wrap and press-grilled. Who but a genius could have come up with this combination of all the most taste-tempting ingredients, expertly blended. I’ll be back for more of this one, I promise.
Then came the “La Porchetta on Ciabatta.” Picture this: thinly-sliced Cuban roast pork loin, sliced provolone cheese, carmelized onion and Rosie’s own chipotle mayo served on a grilled ciabatta roll. If you’ve never tasted tender, juicy Cuban roast pork loin, you’re in for a real treat. Combined with the genius of Rosie’s creativity, I’d have to call this an award-winning dish, to say the least.
Finally, the “Sam Giancana” (the boss of bosses?), Bianco’s famous Italian sausage (and I don’t use the term lightly), fire-roasted with grilled vinegar peppers and onions, melted provolone cheese and Figaro’s incomparable house-made pesto. It made me think: Now, this is an old world Italian flavor with a twist. That pesto is too good to be just called a “pesto.” And who would ever think of putting it, with all those other ingredients, on a sandwich or a wrap? I wonder if Rosie could get a patent on this combination. Now, I’ve known of Joe Bianco’s Italian sausages for over 50 years and could never imagine enhancing their flavor—but Rosie sure has! You’ve just got to try it.
Just before we left, Rosie gave us a small sampling of homemade rosemary potato chips that will make you forget about regular french fries forever, and her own creation, Smoked Gouda Mac n Cheese topped with panko bread crumbs crumble. This dish most certainly deserves to be patented.
Figaro’s also does specialized catering, and in November when they have a wine and beer license, they plan on offering three-course dinners by reservation only, three nights a week.
Her globally-inspired recipes will satisfy the most discriminating palates. There’ll be no menu, but the two-hour sittings will offer some of the most unique, taste-tingling dishes you’ve ever heard of. A sample dinner starts with salt & pepper fried calamari with wasabi, then an entrée of seared sea scallops over coconut rice with mango gastrique, and for dessert—coconut gelato with warm pineapple cake topped with butterscotch crumble. All dishes will be served with appropriate wines and beers included in their very moderate price.
My old friend Bill Marlowe would say, “This is dining as opposed to just eating.” I can’t wait.
Knowing Rosie, my mouth is already watering and I can’t wait to see the fabulous creations she’ll come up with. You can learn more about Figaro’s on their website: www.figaros boston.com.
Figaro’s is open Tuesday–Sunday, noon to 10:00 p.m. and offers take-out. They’re located at 425 Revere Beach Boulevard, just 100 yards from Kelly’s. Call them at (781) 629-5841. Be sure to say you read about them in The Advocate newspapers.
But where did the name Figaro’s come from? It’s a great story—be sure to ask any of the family, they all know it. You may be surprised. Looking forward to seeing you there.