Lombardi’s has long been my go-to fishmonger. I always appreciate the variety of fresh fish even though I generally stick to a few usuals. (Swordfish steaks cooked sous vide is my current favorite.)
But I always try to get to the shop early, as soon as it opens, to get the best selection. And so I’m usually there too early to have something from the adjoining cafe. Plus, if I’m cooking fish that night I’m not likely to have seafood for lunch.
But I recently made a point of visiting during lunchtime and found the food to be mostly good even if the overall experience was less so.
And let’s just say right here that I’m sensitive to the current labor crisis that restaurants are facing, and you may have noticed that I have backed off on critical assessments of service. To be clear, labor shortages exist in the kitchen as well as in the front of the house.
So that’s why I didn’t really mind that 28 minutes after placing my takeout order and hanging around the counter I still didn’t have my food. The two women providing table service both inside and on the patio, as well as taking the to-go orders and handing out the bagged food, were working diligently. One by one, other people came in to pick up food they apparently ordered ahead of time, and I watched as the white takeout sacks lined up behind the counter were doled out.
Until just one was left. One that I know had been sitting there for about 15 minutes because I’d been watching each time a food runner brought something out. So I timidly got the attention of one of the servers and asked if my order would be ready soon.
Sure enough, that was my bag that had been sitting back there all that time.
So I left the cup of New England clam chowder I had ladled up from the self-serve stewpots on the counter and dished out a new scoop. Then instead of taking the food home as I had intended to do, I found a table on the patio and dug in.
The chowder was full of chewy bits of clam and was just the right consistency for N.E. clam chowder – thick but not pasty.
The fillet on my blackened grouper sandwich looked small at first, but that was just because it had slid off to the side exposing too much bun. Once repositioned it was fine. And it was a good fillet, too. The blackening seasoning didn’t add much beyond the color, but the flesh inside was moist and flavorful. I liked the tartar sauce I slathered on the bun over the fresh leaf of lettuce and thick slice of tomato.
The coleslaw, one of the two sides I chose, was just fine. But I didn’t care for the sweet corn fritters. I assumed they would be fritters fashioned out of sweet corn, but they came coated with powdered sugar as if they were beignets, so they were corn fritters that were sweet. Too sweet.
I’ll keep buying my raw fish at Lombardi’s. But the next time I want food from Lombardi’s Cafe, I’ll phone it in first.