This week, we dip our toe once more into the deceptively turbulent waters of Italian Nachos. We’ve had mediocre ones at Anchovies in the South End, a delicious-if-not-quite-strictly-Italian version at Vito’s Tavern, and a rather disastrous attempt at making our own (and we’d prefer to just never again discuss what happened when we actually ate nachos in Italy). When we heard that Ducali Pizza in the North End had a their own version, the “Nachos Italiano”, we had to give it a try as well.
Despite its proximity to the bromageddon that is the North Station area, we found Ducali to be pleasantly empty the evening we popped in (be sure to check the Garden schedule in advance before making a trip). Along with beers from their small but varied list, we made a beeline for the aforementioned nachos, described as “Pizza dough chips baked with mozzarella cheese, hot pepper and salami, served with a spicy tomato sauce.”
- Appearance: (8) Yet another in our occasional series, “These don’t look very much like nachos at all.” But boy did they look tempting…
- Quality of Ingredients: (8) The crisp flatbread “chips”, dusted with parmesan, were quite tasty. We equally enjoyed the house-pickled peppers and the salami slices. There was disagreement over whether the tomato sauce was accurately billed as “spicy”, as half of us found it rather bland. In the end, all of the ingredients were on par with what you would find on a well-made pizza…just in different forms.
- Distribution of Toppings: (7) While the presentation was visually appealing, it led to the cheese running to the end of all the chips. There was also a layer of a few chips underneath it all that had no cheese whatsoever. The chips were so tasty on their own though, that we didn’t mind all that much, and they were perfect for scooping up the marinara sauce. Overall, the moderate cheese coating and sauce on the side led to an overall drier nacho experience than we typically prefer.
- Price: (9) At $8 these were very reasonably priced for their quality, and split between two people, a good half of a meal.
- Overall: 32/40. These nachos are the best “authentic” Italian nachos we have encountered in Boston (so, better than Anchovies). We recommend making a trip, but if you are going to partake bring some friends and make sure you leave room for their excellent pizza!
Consider this: has there ever been an opportunity as wasted as Jacob Wirth Restaurant’s nachos?
Jacob Wirth resides in the heart of the Theatre District, which isn’t known for having good nachos or for being a generally pleasant place at all. They serve German-ish food, and if it’s a more American dish, they may throw in a spare spaetzle (please see “Quality of Ingredients” for a further discussion of this phenomenon) to liven things up, or confuse you terribly.
Our primary complaint with Jacob Wirth–besides the fact that most of our food was bad, our service not very good, and the beer wildly overpriced–is that they have all the ingredients to make creative and delicious nachos, yet they chose to offend our culinary senses by serving up an abominable (yes, abominable) substitute. Were this plate to fall out of a vending machine at The Tam, we would not lift an eyebrow. They’ve failed at being a German restaurant by offering American-style nachos, and accordingly, those nachos have failed to be edible. There is a vast world of opportunities lying in wait in the Jacob Wirth kitchen (beer cheese sauce? sausage? cabbage? spaetzle chips? bah!), and it is frustrating that they give us something so unpalatably average.
The vitriol is leaking from the spent fuel storage of our hearts. Let’s just do the numbers and get it over with:
- Appearance: (4) Wan and sad looking, we knew we were in trouble when we saw the burnt, multi-colored chips (tinted with industrial grade food dye, rather than real blue corn) and the sparse coating of unmelted cheese. While we appreciated the annexing of the sour cream to the plastic cup, the guac was grayish and unappealing. The black beans stood out and felt totally unnecessary, especially since they added nothing to the overall taste. Even the black olives were off. We liked the brightness of the red peppers–a happy change from the typical jalapeno.
- Quality of Ingredients: (3) Giving these a three was difficult, but since they at least weren’t made of broken glass and rusty nails, we felt obligated to throw in at least a few gratuity points. Let’s start with the chips, which, like the guac/salsa/chili/cheese/beans, provided more texture than flavor. Proper seasoning would have improved everything: the guac was overly lemony and needed a salty kick and the salsa was basically marinara sauce. The chili was a steaming pot of crazy. Though we didn’t mind the flavor (subtle, not a normal spicy, chili-ey, chili), we found no fewer than three things that didn’t belong:
- A carrot: what is this, ShittySide?
- White beans: yum, but wtf?
- A spaetzle or two: was it an accident, a lone spaetzle careening into the nacho abyss, or was it a deliberate act by a chef desperate to infuse a little Deutschland into his dud? Whatever the reason, it weirded us out. Just when you think you’re biting into a hunk of melted cheese…
- Distribution of Toppings: (4.6) Not enough toppings–a mess of bad chips without a pillow of cheese to smother them. We’re thankful the guac and salsa was separated, as both were so terrible.
- Price: (7) $10.25 for the whole sha-bang. We wondered if our Groupon usage on this particular evening could have affected our meal. Could it be that they took half off not only our bill, but also the quality of our food? We’ve read that businesses who use Groupons very rarely see the deals result in repeat customers. Our experience at Jacob Wirth leads us to believe that it isn’t the lack of a coupon that prevents people from returning–it’s in fact because the food is just not that good.
- Overall: (18.6/40)
As a side note, the pretzels were fine. Here’s a picture of a grease stain:
Save for The Fours and their delicious buffalo chicken nachos, the bars of the North Station area remain an unknown quantity to us. Perhaps it’s because we know exactly what to expect from them: crowds of Bruin and Celtic jersey-sporting bros in varying states of intoxication, out-of-towners who don’t know any better, average draft lists, and mediocre, overpriced food. Before attending a recent Celtics game, we put our theory to the test and went right for the heart of Bro-Town: Hurricane O’Reilly’s. The crown jewel in the strand of mass-produced Mardis Gras beads that is the Glynn Hospitality Group, Hurricane O’Reilly’s is the kind of place that’s sort of comforting in it’s timeless, generic blandness (and indeed, at least the website is in a time warp: it refers to TD Garden as the Fleet Center and has a completely obsolete menu). Surprised to find the place rather empty for right before a game and 3(!) types of nachos on the menu, we forewent the plain (boring!) and buffalo chicken (too many bad memories) versions and ordered the Nachos Grande, which came with chili and BBQ pork.
- Appearance: (4) For nachos “grande”, these certainly did not live up to the size of their name. All of the colors seemed faded, and the salsa and sour cream were in plastic takeout containers.
- Quality of Ingredients: (5.5) The chili was watery, and some of the chips were a little stale. The large chunks of BBQ pork were OK, but would never have been tasty enough to carry a pulled pork sandwich on their own. The red onions were intended to be pickled (which would have been a lovely touch) but still had too much of a bite to eat on their own. And the cheese, while it was not quite the dreaded American cheese, came very close (we dubbed it “Guam cheese”).
- Distribution of Toppings: (7) There was decent distribution, and even some cheese padding on the plate. The watery chili made things soggy and sort of disappeared into the other ingredients; we wouldn’t have known it was there if it hadn’t been on the menu.
- Price: (4) On the Sunset scale of size-to-price ratio, these barely registered. But hey, it’s downtown…
- Overall: 20.5/40. We debated heading over to The Fours after the game to wash away these bad nacho memories with some good ones. You would be wise to do the same, or just head there in the first place.