Our ears were burning on Friday, as John Golden released his latest blog post on The Golden Dish. The former Press Herald Dine Out Maine reviewer revisited Maria's Ristorante, and though in a case of poor etiquette he neglected to cite his sources, it's clear what "foodie social media site" he's disdainfully referring to as his inspiration for returning to the restaurant:
"Though I reviewed this establishment several years ago and gave it low marks all around, I owe this visit to reading an item posted on a foodie social media site. There it extolled Maria's new summer menu as the coming thing. Ultimately the recommendation was pure hype, giving the superfluities of the kitchen's exalted ways with creamy pesto and majestic saltimbocca. Glacial, ground-breaking news? Hardly. (Must have been a slow gossip day.)"
The item in question is Eater's recent reposting of Maria's new summer menu, which also included quotes directly from the restaurant's Facebook page. Though most readers would understand that that news item doesn't constitute a "recommendation" from Eater, it's flattering that Golden would go out to eat based on a perceived recommendation from this site. He even enjoys his meal, despite all of his negativity, which does lead to the question of why he would bother lashing out in the first place.
In some highlights from the review, Golden slams everything from Maria's decor ("Dowdy? Enough so to give a herding of the human flock the heebie-jeebies") to the mushrooms in his veal saltimbocca, which tasted canned to him ("If, however, they weren't, then they should have been"). Ultimately, though, some things go right, from the mozzarella fritter (which "should not be missed") and the gelato ("rich, creamy and delicious and they should brand-market it immediately") to the chicken parm, which his guest, a "self-proclaimed authority," loves (though "the breasts were so huge and thick they might have come from condors. A little pounding thin would have done wonders!").
Golden quips in regard to his dining companion, "It's good to go to an Italian American restaurant with an Italian American." Could this be a reference to his Dine Out Maine replacement, Melissa Coleman? In last week's two-star review of Tuscan Brick Oven Bistro, Coleman's own guest jokes, "As my husband always says – never take an Italian to an Italian restaurant," and the line gets additional play later in the piece to explain why the meal is particularly disappointing given the guest's heritage.
Since the secret of why Golden "secretly adore[s]" the kitchen at Maria's is still fairly well-kept by the end of the review, it's lucky that he gives readers the conclusive, straightforward line, "Minor quibbles indeed, the meal was substantial, tasty and moderately priced." Following his logic, perhaps this is where we would say, "You're welcome."
· Maria's Restaurant in Portland: Relic of old-school Italian or Tour de force? [The Golden Dish]
· Old Family Restaurant, Maria's, Gets New Summer Menu [-EME-]
· All Coverage of John Golden [-EME-]
· All Maria's Ristorante Coverage [-EME-]
[Photo: Ted Axelrod]