Welcome to “A Tavola,” Bostoniano’s newest food column, dedicated to taking readers on un giro culinario in search of Massachusetts’ prime locations for authentic Italian cuisine. It seems that Massachusetts is rife with Italian eateries, all of which claim to serve real “Italian classics,” but for experienced foodies and casual diners, alike, finding a spot that encapsulates not only the finest of Italian food, but the Italian experience as well, can be quite the challenge. But we are not only here to stake out hidden gems throughout Boston and its suburbs; we are here to celebrate the triumphs and successes of our fellow Italian Americans.
The first stop on our giro is one of my personal favorite spots situated on the North Shore, a cozy restaurant nestled in between storefronts of busy downtown Peabody. Petrillo’s, which is known to local residents and their neighbors as one of the best locales for Italian food, is certainly all it is cracked up to be. It is the perfect stop for casually rich, gourmet cuisine.
Linda Petrillo, the proprietor and head chef of the establishment, is the heart of the family-run business. And with such a rich history, it’s no wonder she creates such hearty, soulfully pleasing food!
Linda Petrillo was born in the hillside town of Avellino, just outside of Naples, in the sunny region of Campania. Like many Italians, Linda believed that cooking and eating with family was at the center of the Italian experience. When she moved to the United States at age nine with her parents and siblings, she had already cooked her first meal with her mother. And although Linda had taken on other business ventures in her younger years, she realized that sharing her family recipes with her community was her calling. And twelve years ago, she opened Petrillo’s with her husband to begin this culinary journey.
“All of the recipes here at Petrillo’s are my mother’s recipes,” Linda stated during our sit down. She proudly asserts that they are prepared each day with the same diligence as they were when she was a child.
As a frequent patron myself, I have sampled many dishes, but naturally, I return for some of my personal favorites, which include, but are not limited to, Chicken Saltimbocca, Pollo alla Linda, and the Petrillo’s Sandwich.
The Chicken Saltimbocca is prepared with expertly sautéed chicken in a simmering white wine and sage sauce, tossed with a choice of al dente, pasta fatta a mano, and topped with a perfectly-sliced heaping of Parma prosciutto.
Pollo Alla Linda, — another robustly flavored chicken dish — has sautéed chicken as its base, as well. It is mixed with a delicate balance of artichoke hearts, mushrooms, and peppers in a lemon cream sauce with the perfect amount of zing. Linda notes that she substituted a lemon cream sauce for the hearty red sauce it was originally prepared with, as Americans have such a penchant for cream.
And finally the Petrillo’s Sandwich, the undeniably perfect choice for a meal on the go, is equally pleasing as the aforementioned dishes. Its contents, breaded chicken cutlets, bocconcini, red roasted marinated peppers, freshly plucked basil, and finely sliced Parma prosciutto, are packed into a small Italian loaf. And for $8.95, there is simply no better value!
There is no signature dish here at Petrillo’s. Like Linda states herself, “Every dish is important to the menu. It just depends on what you’re in the mood for!” So whatever it is you’re craving, you are bound to find something to satiate your palate.
Whether seated in the main dining room, perched at the bar on the second floor, or anxiously awaiting a meal to go, the restaurant feels like an extension of the Petrillos’ home. In between taste tests in the kitchen, Linda peruses the restaurant, getting to know her guests while making sure that their meals are up to par. Her sons Michael and Dominic extend the same hospitality at the take out counter with their big smiles and eagerness to please. The high volume of returning customers is a testament to just how unique Petrillo’s is. There is, quite simply, no better place to taste the flavors of Italy in a true Italian fashion.
Petrillo’s official website: petrillosrestaurant.com