Before I moved to here, my Los Angeles friends regaled me with their idea of life in Maine: “you know, you won’t be able to get a decent meal there.”

This is funny on so many levels.

First, it is almost impossible to get a good meal in LA. By that I mean reasonably priced unpretentious food in regular sized portions in a pleasant atmosphere. You either pay through the nose, eat garbage, or the atmosphere is too weird for words (assuming you can get past the velvet rope at the door in some cases) like disco-loud music, or ridiculously bad acoustics or frightening decor and funny seating – it’s always something.

And “service” isn’t even a word in the dictionary anymore.

There is just no such thing as going to a decent place with interesting well prepared food that that doesn’t rape your wallet or strain your taste buds (shrimp salad with strawberries? Come on! Especially when the shrimp is canned) or your back (with the funny seating).

Second, I have to say that since I moved to Maine I haven’t had a bad meal (except for a dinner I burned and that one mistaken visit to the chain “Italian” family style joint). If you stick to locally owned businesses, you’ll do great.

Mainers believe in buying local, and restaurant food reflects that. Fresh local food, well prepared, unpretentious menus, decently priced. No strange seating – like tall tables you stand at or sofas you eat on while bent over a coffee table or floor seating or bed seating whatever other crazy ideas they come up with in a place like Los Angeles to get people in the door. I guess good food is passe` as a marketing concept on the west coast.

OK, so we’ve had a good laugh at Los Angelenos’ idea of a “decent meal.” 

This is not a food blog per se, and I hesitate to write about food again so soon but I have to mention a place I ate at yesterday, for the third time this month. Normally, I rarely eat out. Mainly because my favorite food is my own. I’m on a budget. And I like to keep my health up and my weight down without dieting which means making my own foods – low in fat, almost no sat fat, and lower in salt without sacrificing any flavor or texture. And without resorting to “fake foods” like margarine. Or anything with creative spelling on the label, like “Bac-o-bits.” Or “cheese product” in a green can (you know who you are, and don’t write or sue. When you package synthetics as food, you can’t complain if people don’t like you and say so. Repeatedly).

Back to the topic at hand: Paciarino. Enough has been written about this place that I don’t need to repeat. Suffice to say that the owners, Fabiana de Savino and Enrico Barbiero are from Milano (Italy) where they owned 2 restaurants. They fell in love with Portland while visiting and moved there a few months ago, opening a little place downtown called Paciarino. Fabiana explains to me that Paciarino is Milanese dialect for – near as I can translate to English – a homemade “nosh” – not really a full on meal, not kids fare, and not something out of a box. Think “pacifier” in the Jewish sense – food that’ll make you very happy ’til your next meal.

This is Fabiana:

Fabiana de Savino - her food makes me want to cry

Fabiana de Savino - food so good it makes me cry!

Fabiana makes her own fresh pasta and sauces at Paciarino which is more of a store with a few tables than a restaurant. Fresh pastas and sauces are for sale alongside other Italian delicacies. They list 4 or 5 homemade pasta dishes on a chalkboard which can be had as take out, or you order and pay at the counter, find a place to sit, family style, and they bring you your food. Hot lunch with table service for well under $15. Not only hot but heavenly. I miss real Italian food and Fabiana hasn’t had a chance to be corrupted by what American customers think they want in an Italian dish (let’s hope she never is) – so her recipes are pure unadulterated Italian. The lasagne I had there made me want to cry it was so good. I’ve never had anything like it anywhere in the USA. It’s hard to find it that good even in Italy.

And this is her food:

Oops, (*urp*) delizioso!

Delizioso!

 

Or it would have been had it not been so good it disappeared before I could get out the camera.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Paciarino is located at 468 Fore Street in Portland right by the Portland Harbor Hotel. Tel: 207-774-3500, e-mail: info@paciarino.com. Closed Monday. Take out or eat in, not yet open for dinner.

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