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Official Review of Cibo Matto Caffe:


by Rachel Lebeaux

Assessment:
Drive out of the city for dinner? Are you crazy? No – what’s crazy is how well Cibo Matto Caffe has already perfected the Italian classics, incorporated Asian-influenced flair and dreamed up sublime desserts, all in a unpretentious and familial atmosphere. The restaurant is already packed with those living south of the city, and the rest of the greater Boston shouldn’t be too far behind.

Atmosphere:
Cibo Matto translates to “crazy food,” and you might indeed find yourself stunned by some of the flavor combinations at this Mansfield restaurant, which opened in November in a space formerly occupied by a Bertucci’s... Chef/owner Peter Kuplast says that preparations and ingredients “depend on the season”—winter brings a lot of braising, while summer brings a bounty of sprightly vegetables. And a member of the kitchen staff brings Filipino flavors, so the traditional Italian menu is buoyed by Asian accents. This results in combinations like Thai duck pizza with hoisin-spiced shredded duck, scallions, cilantro, garlic-lime aioli and tofu.

The restaurant’s traditional booth layout is livened up by colorful food-themed artwork and a gigantic carved fish mounted on the cappuccino-colored walls. An open kitchen with steel trimmings comes complete with brick oven where you (or the kids) can watch your pizzas being prepared. Our waitress, Lindsey Willy, was attentive and provided some excellent menu suggestions.  Mohn says that the buzz around Cibo Matto has been largely word of mouth—and those must be some big mouths, because the space was packed on a recent Friday night with couples and groups enjoying a convivial night out.

Drinks:
A quick glance around the restaurant tells you that a lot of diners are choosing to pair their Italian feasts with a glass or bottle of Cibo Matto’s affordable wines, and the 2007 Riesling Kabinett from Rheingau, Germany ($8/glass or $30/bottle) proves a light and citrusy accompaniment to the meal. But the restaurant also has a full bar and recently introduced a new cocktail menu, where we found the pomegranate martini ($9), a generous pour of Pearl pomegranate-flavored vodka with Cointreau, cranberry juice and an orange slice. There are both bottled and on-draft beers, and even fruit-laden sangria ($7), prepared with rum and red wine, accented with grapefruit, orange and pomegranate juices, and then chilled for a week to allow the flavors to meld. Most cocktails run between $8 and $11, with hot alcoholic drinks available as well.

Appetizers:
Cibo Matto bakes its own springy focaccia bread, which is dreamy on its own and even better when slathered with the homemade white bean spread with garlic, paprika and olive oil. From there, Cibo Matto presents you with a range of tantalizing options to start your meal.

The braised beef short rib ravioli ($10) were such a hit on the Valentine’s Day menu that they were being offered as a special this evening. The two over-sized cushions are prepared in-house and stuffed with decadent pulled beef. They’re smothered with gorgonzola gratin, sprinkled with bright green scallions and coated in a port wine reduction and robust tomato sauce. They’re the sort of dish that warms you from the inside and makes you wish there were more than two!

Lumpia vegetable spring rolls ($9) are a Filipino recipe, which uses a thinner pastry wrap than the more-familiar Chinese variety. Four long flutes are fanned across the plate, striped with zigzagging layers of citrusy ponzu and salty soy sauces. They’re far more delicate than you anticipate, and much better than you might expect at a restaurant that also does Italian classics so well.

Crispy calamari ($10) is tossed with arugula leaves, olive oil, garlic and shaved parmesan cheese in a spicy red-pepper marinara sauce. It feels a little bit overwrought, at first, but each element in the dish is so quality and zesty in its own right that it works, and the golden-fried breading on the calamari is light and crisp as promised.

The jumbo lump crab cakes ($11) are gorgeous, two golden patties with sliced scallions on top nested within concentric circles of lime-green sweet mustard sauce and orange chili oil drizzle. There’s a lot of juicy crab meat in there, and while they are a tad too bready, the browned cakes are one of the best dishes of the night.

The roasted golden beet salad ($10) – the restaurant’s most popular salad we’re told – is prepared with baby arugula, pistachio nuts, blue-cheese and balsamic vinaigrette dressings and, for an extra shot of glamour, a champagne-orange reduction. The ingredients are as fresh and decadent as they sound: those crunchy pistachios are revelatory (why don’t more establishments try this?), and the sweet beets instantly transport you to a warm summer day.

Would you believe there are still more appetizers to sample? Try out the gorgonzola polenta cake with roasted fall vegetables and herbed cream sauce ($8), the baked organic goat cheese with spicy tomato jam, roasted garlic and basil oil crisps ($10) and the tuna tartare with diced roma tomatoes, cucumbers, chili vinaigrette, porcini truffle oil and taro root crisps ($11). If you’re overwhelmed by the selection, consider taking a tapas approach to dinner and split a number of plates across the table.

Pizzas:
Watching the kitchen staff using long palettes to shuttle pizzas in and out of the brick oven compels you to try a pie or two—luckily, Cibo Matto Caffe offers pizzas in both small and large sizes. One of the most popular is layered with grilled chicken, basil pesto, sliced tomatoes and fresh mozzarella cheese (small $12, large $19). Bring on the pesto, we say, which acts as the perfect base for the charred chicken, while the tomato keeps the pie’s texture juicy.

A more unusual preparation is the vongole, with sliced quahogs, roasted tomatoes, garlic, parsley, parmesan and romano cheeses and chili flakes (small $12, large $19). I deemed this “seafood fra diavolo on a pizza,” and that’s definitely a compliment. The plump clams, full roasted tomatoes and entire garlic cloves are a powerful combination, and the chili flakes give the pizza a spicy kick. The pizza base could use a bit more heft to better support the fresh toppings, but otherwise the brick oven has done its job, charring the dough ever so slightly on the sides and fashioning a thin, chewy crust.

Other popular pizzas include one with parma, tomato, mozzarella, arugula, prosciutto and shaved parmesan (small $12, large $19), and the aforementioned Thai duck (small $13, large $20). Insider’s tip: we’re told that the 2008 Lambrusco Grasparossa from Emilia-Romagna, Italy ($32/bottle), a dry red sparkling wine, is “pizza perfect” for pairing.

Entrees:
The wild porcini mushroom ravioli ($8 for a half portion, $16 for a full) will make you want to sample all of the restaurant’s other homemade pasta dishes. The thick ravioli pillows, ballooning with a mushroom-and-ricotta filling, have a very earthy taste to them and are drowned in a thick caramelized leek cream sauce. It’s dressed with roasted tomatoes, scallions and chives and, even in the half-portion size, extremely filling.

Everything is big in the chicken piccata ($16, available with veal for $18). Four large, lightly-breaded chicken breasts are crowned with bursting artichokes, plump capers and bulging hunks of roasted tomatoes, all soaked in a white wine and lemon sauce and served with a side of pasta. This dish confirms that Cibo Matto isn’t only about experimentation – sometimes, you just have to be able to do the Italian basics correctly, and the piccata definitely delivers.

You can also order other traditional Italian favorites like chicken or veal marsala or parmesan ($16-$18), meatballs made of ground pork and chicken ($8 for a half portion, $15 for a full) and a comfort food classic three-cheese macaroni ($14) with a panko crumb topping – add lobster for an addition $7 to satisfy the more grown-up palate.

Desserts:
My savory tooth usually outweighs my sweet tooth – but not at Cibo Matto, where the desserts by chef Michelle Bellavance are incredible. There are Italian standbys, including tiramisu and chocolate-dipped cannoli, and the less traditional, like the gingerbread sundae, all for a very reasonable $7.

The tropical carrot cake is a classy little dessert, with strands of carrot woven into the nutmeg-scented cake. It’s frosted with coconut cream cheese, packed with a combination of crystallized ginger, crushed macadamia nuts, shredded coconut and pineapple cubes, and capped with a delicious swirl of cream.  Mango and raspberry puree are dribbled around the edges, and the whole plate is dusted with powdered sugar. It’s a sophisticated dessert that transcends the more typical presentation of carrot cake at almost any other establishment, with the ginger and macadamia nuts really standing out.

If possible, the chocolate indulgence cake might be even better. A half-globe of dense chocolate cake is surrounded by ethereal chocolate mousse and a thick chocolate ganache crust. It sits majestically atop a pool of crème anglaise and alongside a sprinkling of raspberries and blueberries. “I must not eat much good chocolate,” I murmured following my first bite. Without doubt, one of the best desserts I’ve had for a long time.

"...the crispiest and most addictive cannolis outside the North End." Watch below!





NECN Review

"Gold Plate Winner!"




(TV Diner) - Fronting a small plaza in Mansfield, Massachusetts ... Cibo Matto Caffe offers Italian fare in a welcoming environment, highlighted by an open kitchen, walls the color of cappuccino and understated décor…that is with the exception of a large fish mantel!

We heard that owner Peter Kuplast has put heart and soul into creating an upscale yet unpretentious eatery, so off we went to find out for ourselves.

Things started right with the delicious baked organic goat cheese resting in tomato jam, paired with roasted garlic and basil oil crisps.

And we were pleasantly surprised when our charming waitress brought another serving of crisps without solicitation.

We then sampled the arancini. The three golden-fried pork, rice and scallion balls had a superior creamy interior and a hot pepper dipping sauce was the perfect partner for this scrumptious nibble.

We tucked right in to a plate of veal piccata. The thinly sliced meat was fork tender, but the white wine sauce could have used more lemon and capers to make the flavor pop.

On to the eatery's white meatballs made from ground chicken and pork atop flawlessly cooked spaghetti in a sturdy marinara sauce. Italian comfort food doesn't get much better than this.

Desserts at Cibo Matto are house made and remarkable:

the lemon meringue pie, baked in a cylinder was a frothy vision. Tart and terrific, this indulgence had us rolling our eyes to the heavens.

And the gingerbread sundae, with its rich round of cake crowned by maple walnut ice cream also won our hearts.

Service was admirable, but a little over the top. In addition to our server, other members of the staff took their turns at our table, creating a slight sense of rush.

Value is considerable at Cibo Matto with appetizers $4 to $15; entrees and pizzas $8 to $20; and desserts $7.

The Italian phrase Cibo Matto may translate into "crazy food" but this caffe's formula of fine fare at reasonable prices served up by friendly faces is quite sane and for that it will earn a gleaming Gold Plate.

Open daily for lunch and dinner, Cibo Matto Caffe is located at 254 Chauncy Street in Mansfield, Massachusetts. Call 508-339-9800 or check out CiboMattoCaffe.com.