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Hot new 2Ovens opens in Shrewsbury.

Byline: Bill Clapper

COLUMN: DINING REVIEW

Ready for a new concept in casual dining? Check out 2Ovens in the White City Plaza, Shrewsbury.

By eliminating most of the accoutrements of a modern restaurant - such as heat lamps, microwaves, stoves and frozen or commercially prepared food - 2Ovens is able to prepare an entire meal, from pizza to Brussels sprouts to chocolate chip cookies, in two brick ovens.

A recent mid-week visit to 2Ovens left me with the notion that this experimental concept might be a foreshadowing of what we might see in the future. 2Ovens is the first restaurant of its type that Bertucci's, the parent company, has backed. There must be some traction because our server let us know that a second 2Ovens is set to open later this month in Newton.

The food is fresh, expertly prepared, innovative and healthy. Sharing is encouraged, even urged by the wait staff or a careful reading of the menu. The 10 beers and four wines are on tap, eliminating most of the bottles that tend to accumulate in a restaurant.

Individual items are brought to the table when they come out of the oven, so there is a steady stream of dishes delivered to the table by a troop of energetic, competent servers.

Understandably the ovens are the main focal point of the dining area, and they are prominently displayed behind the bar. Placing the ovens in full view accomplishes two things: It adds to the casual atmosphere and gives patrons at the bar, and a few of the tables, an opportunity to watch their meals being cooked.

The bar is understated and flows well with the high top tables in the front of the room. In the rear are more tables, booths along the walls and a semi-private area tucked behind a partial wall.

We embraced the concept of sharing and ordered the arugula and roasted beets salad ($6 for a small and $12 large). A sherry vinaigrette over the greens blended well with the bitter arugula, the earthiness of the beets, sweetness of orange wedges and sharpness of feta cheese.

For an appetizer, I picked what I thought would be an individual pizza. As expected, the pizza was exceptional. There is something about the baking in a brick oven and using fresh dough that turns ordinary pizza into a creation.

To make dining at 2Ovens interesting, there are no "ordinary" pizzas. The five featured pizzas on the menu are margherita, pesto & shrimp, garlic mushroom, spicy pineapple & prosciutto and caramelized butternut. You can also build your own pizza by selecting from 16 toppings that range from fontina cheese to smoked bacon.

The pizzas come in two sizes, small ($8 to $11) and large ($14 to $17), with the small, or individual size, more than enough to share. Our small, oblong pizza came to the table on a bread board.

True to its Bertucci's heritage, the crust was superb. The caramelized butternut squash cubes combined with roasted fennel bulb and ricotta cheese had to be the most unusual pizza I have ever experienced. It is this deviation from the norm that sets 2Ovens apart.

To complete the meal we ordered five share plates, which allowed us to sample meat, fish and vegetables.

The mixed skillet ($10) brought together pork sausage, spicy chicken wings and a roasted meatball in a sweet red pepper and marinara sauce. The meatball was exceptional, with just enough binder to hold its shape but not adulterate the beefiness of the meat. The pork sausage was savory and firm, while the chicken wings were robust and full of flavor.

A maple mustard glaze on a thick salmon strip ($10) was perfect. The tangy mustard modulated the strong salmon while the judicious use of maple syrup gave barely a hint of sweetness. A tangy cole slaw added to the melange of flavors.

The vegetable share plates were wonderful, with fresh veggies, roasted in the brick oven and covered with sensational dipping sauces. The broccoli spears had a few charred edges, but that was testament that they had spent time in the oven, not under a heat lamp.

We sampled three of the share plates: Brick Oven Broccoli ($4) came with an exotically spiced piri piri sauce; Crispy Yukon Potatoes ($4) with a smoked paprika aioli; and Skillet Brussels sprouts ($5) with smoked bacon coated with sherry vinaigrette. All were exceptional treatments of fairly ordinary vegetables.

Other available share plates were Black Pepper Shrimp ($9), Brick Oven 1/2 Chicken ($9) and Spicy Chicken Wings ($9).

By combining the share plates, 2Ovens offers Chef Plates such as chicken and broccoli ($14), shrimp and sweet potatoes ($13) and salmon with Brussels sprouts ($15).

There's more. Under the heading On Bread, the menu lists four sandwiches for $8 and $9: barbecue pork, burger, ham and cheese, and a chicken salad are featured. The sandwiches could be teamed with any of the share plates.

With our table strewn with plates, skillets, breadboards and baking dishes still loaded with food, we waved surrender to our server and she brought over boxes so we could bring home leftovers. The small, branded cardboard boxes were in lieu of the typical Styrofoam carry-out containers and made a very welcome environmental statement.

Selecting a dessert was not an issue - 2Ovens only serves brick oven baked chocolate chip cookies ($4.50 each). The cookies are more like a cookie cake and come out of the oven ready to be cut into serving size. Our server assured us that one shared cookie would be adequate, and of course she was right. We topped off the cookie with a really good cup of decaf coffee that didn't taste like decaf coffee.

When everything was tallied, our dinner for two was $65.80, and that included a glass of wine and a beer. With the variety of choices, the laid back, casual atmosphere and the presence of children we vowed to come back soon with the grandkids.

2Ovens

White City Plaza, 84 Boston Turnpike (Route 9 East), Shrewsbury

* * *

Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sundays through Wednesdays; 11 a.m. to midnight Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays

Phone: (774) 670-5785

Website: www.2ovens.com

Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, Discover.

Prices: Moderate.

Parking: Adequate parking in shopping plaza

Pluses: Casual dining; moderate prices; fresh ingredients; enthusiastic and knowledgeable wait staff.

Minuses: Tends to be noisy; poor traffic patterns cause congestion at busy times.

About the Stars

Perfection: * * * *

Very Good: * * *

Good: * *

Below Par: *

Serious Flaws: No stars

Restaurant reviews are the opinions of reviewers based upon at least one visit to the restaurant. The reviewer is accompanied by at least one companion. Recommendations from readers about restaurants they would like to have reviewed are welcome.
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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Article Type:Restaurant review
Date:Apr 11, 2013
Words:1128
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