Scarlet Begonias: an Italian gem
It was once said that one can judge the excellence of a dining institution
by the quality of its restrooms. According to this system, Scarlet Begonias
scores highly. After descending into a charmingly unkempt basement, we
discovered the water closet; a tidy single stall that offers copious amounts
of reading material and environmentally themed tapestries. That unexpectedly
quaint nook is but one of the many surprises of this eclectic haven.
Greeted by hardwood floors and a friendly staff, we relaxed amidst the
scent of garlic, the quiet clamor of white porcelain, and a hushed familial
mirth. Nothing if not familial, this self-described bistro blends Christmas
trees, molded ceilings, warm accents, and local artwork to create an unpretentious
and amiable setting.
These physical elements are complemented by an eager team of servers.
Upon our entry, the cashier recognized our group as Bowdoin first years
and even inquired about our pre-orientation excursions. One waiter approached
our table and after asking us if we needed any menu clarifications, encouraged
ingredient substitution according to the mantra that "we will do
whatever it takes to make you happy."
While the staff is more than accommodating, Scarlet Begonias is not a
full service restaurant--patrons order their food at a counter and are
asked to collect their own drinks.
However, despite the informal atmosphere, this establishment presents
expertly prepared and arranged dishes. For example, the spinach salad
artfully combines crisp leaves, ripe tomatoes, sharp feta, and bean sprouts.
Other gems of the menu include a variety of pasta and pizza specialties.
Food Critic Number One savored the "Scarlet Harlot," a classic
putanesca dish with sharp flavors and just the right amount of oil. Balancing
fresh tomatoes with salty olives, biting anchovies with sweet capers,
and savory Parmesan cheese with pungent garlic, this plate is not for
sensitive palates. In addition, the adventurous diner will be thrilled
and appreciative of the moderate portions and accompanying oven-fresh
Four-time winner of the Maine Mid-Coast Pizza Challenge, Scarlet Begonias
offers thin and crispy pizzas to suit many tastes. Food Critic Number
Two highly enjoyed her pizza, a special of the evening that utilized fresh
local seafood. A cavalcade of offerings, thematically grouped and titled,
includes Phoebe's Feast, which is a lovely blend of roasted garlic and
red peppers, feta cheese, calamata olives, Parmesan, blended cheeses and
fine herbs. We found this pie intriguing as it involved no marinara sauce,
and thus allowed the palate to focus on each individual component.
Regardless of whether one prefers pizza or pasta, the Italian offerings
of this establishment are sure to satisfy. One of our companions, a native
of Italy, enjoyed her meal with gusto. Although the dining experience
is neither fancy nor refined, the friendly service, low prices (all entrees
are under ten dollars), and solid cuisine make Scarlet Begonias worthy
of our recommendation.
Scarlet Begonias is located at 212B Maine Street and can be reached at
721- 0403. Take out orders are accepted, but credit cards are not.
Overall Rating: 3.5/5 Polar Bears