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Entries in West Hartford (53)


Max a Mia

It's important to know that neither my wife nor I grew up in Connecticut, let alone West Hartford. Thus, "routines" and "traditions" are really just little rituals that we have repeated a few times...I.e. We can't yet say, "oh such-and-such Italian place, our family had been going there every Sunday for years...since I was a little kid...". My wife can make those comments about Buccis near San Francisco,Click to check out Allie's childhood favorite! and I about Jonathan's in Huntington on the North Shore of Long Island but West Hartford is the new frontier for our young family (Allie, the dog, and me).Working here throughout college is when and where my real love for wine started.

That said, if I could refer to a local spot as a casual and reliable favorite, it'd be Max a Mia in Avon.

On a quiet Sunday, the night before the fourth of July, Allie and I set out over the mountain with little on our minds other than the "found time" of a Sunday night on a three-day weekend (no work on Monday).

Because the regulars were likely out of town for the Holiday, we sat right down without a reservation. Max a Mia has that way of moving things along without making anyone feel rushed.

Allie ordered a house salad (and I ordered an extra fork!) to start. As always, marinated olives and their thin foccacia right out of the oven arrived soon thereafter with a whole head of oven roasted garlic ready for spreading. I ordered a bottle of Italian Red (2008 Tre - $19 retail) billed on the menu as a "junior" Super Tuscan. Not a bad way to say it! The merlot in this friendly Italian blend really softens this Italian red and drinks great with food.  (And if you ocassionally struggle with that sanguine mouthfeel of the typical, moderately-priced Italian wines available here in the States, finding a wine that has been blended with some other varietals can offer a more user-friendly option.)

For dinner Allie had a pasta with escarole and chicken and, of course, I had the daily special: spaghetti and meatballs. Allie's pasta was tasty and fresh with flavor.

The meatballs were nice. Large and the chef certainly took the time to whip up the eggs that went into them...a key to keeping the texture light.  Overall, a nice meatball...classic.

In sum, tasty. We can't claim "regular" status yet...and, only our kids (who aren't yet even born) will ever be able to say "our family has been coming here for years..." but with the delicious dinner and nice wine we had on Sunday night, Max a Mia will be around for at least long enough for someone in my family some day, years from now, to say it.

Next Sunday, meatballs at my house! I'm inspired and going to make my own. Though my wife teases me about my failure to follow recipes (I prefer to make it up as I go along; and, I don't seem to always have the patience), what follows is how I make meatballs...usually.


PS: I make my meatballs without a recipe following these general guidelines...

Combine 1lb each of ground pork, veal, and lean beef with 4 whole eggs (whip the eggs before adding them to the mixture), Italian breadcrumbs, minced onion, minced garlic, dried oregano, course salt, cracked black pepper, parmigiano cheese, chopped fresh flat leaf parsley, and some freshly shredded basil.  Mix all this up with your hands (it's gross but it's how "grandma" did dig in and get dirty!).  If the mixture seems a bit loose, add some breadcrumbs.  If it's dry, add another whipped egg.  Set the mixture in the fridge to come down to temperature (you can even leave it overnight if you have the time!).  Then, when you're ready, form meatballs in your preferred size (I like them middle of the road...a bit bigger than a golf ball).  Once their formed, put them back in the fridge and preheat your oven to about 375.  Place the meatballs on a cookie sheet and bake until they look awesome.  (Cooking time will vary based on the size of the strategy here is to make more than I need for dinner and taste them liberally along the way).  Oh, and once they're done, check the salt content...if you need a bit more, just sprinkle gently on top...Yum!

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