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Lidia's warm and welcoming.

Byline: Laura Porter


At first glance, Livia's Dish could be a residence, occupying a sprawling house on Main Street past Webster Square. Fittingly, its homey nature is immediately clear, as co-owner Oriola Koci, the wife and partner of executive chef Enton Mehillaj, smiles broadly and offers us a warm "welcome!" as we step through the door.

Several Southeast Asian restaurants have been in business here, and our most recent memory was of very cramped spaces linked by narrow passageways.

Not anymore.

Open since August 2012, it's been renovated with care, and Livia's Dish - named for Koci and Mehillaj's daughter - is open and spacious, with two main dining areas. In the front, wooden tables and chairs on a tile floor provide a more casual atmosphere, best for breakfast and lunch, which is served here every day. Up a short flight of stairs is the main dining room, which shares space with the full-service bar. It is pretty but simple, a single flower on each wooden table, with a few sparkling fairy lights.

It was quiet on this Thursday night, with only one party in the front room and another upstairs in the back. We were shown to a round table upstairs.

Livia's Dish serves dinner only Wednesday through Saturday nights. The dinner menu isn't exhaustive, but it provides variety and a range of options for appetizers, salads and entrees, most drawing from Mehillaj's expertise in Mediterranean and Italian food.

Oriola Koci brought us water right away, and the large glasses with ice and the capped water bottle she left on the table thrilled my husband, who drinks water at restaurants as though he has just emerged from a trek through the Sahara.

She also set down a small platter of grilled homemade bread and hummus. The bread was warm and fresh, and the hummus had a nice garlicky edge.

Ms. Koci described the two dinner specials, which vary every evening. The first, at $15.99, was a pork osso buco cooked until "it is falling off the bone," served with a choice of two sides. That night's options included couscous, mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables and sauteed spinach.

The second special immediately caught my attention: Mediterranean Pasta, with blue cheese, sundried tomatoes, spinach and calamata olives, for $13.99. My choice was clear.

There are three salads: Caprese for $7.95 and both Caesar and House for $6.95, with the option of creating a light meal by adding grilled chicken ($3), salmon ($5) or steak ($6). Appetizers range from bruschetta for $6.95 to sauteed mussels for $8.95, with a hummus, tzatziki and olive platter at $6.95 and flatbread pizza at $7.95.

My husband ordered a cup of soup ($2.95) to start. I ordered the mussels, and we decided to share a House Salad with our dinners.

Entrees range in price from Livia's Fettuccine, Parmesan and asparagus topped with a poached egg, for $12.95, to roasted salmon for $17.95. There are several pasta dishes as well as steak tips with wild mushrooms ($16.95) and chicken roulades with spinach and Parmesan in a wild mushroom Marsala sauce ($15.95).

I was still convinced by the Mediterranean pasta special and my husband chose the braised lamb shank, with mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables, for $17.95.

The speed with which food arrived throughout the meal was ideal - not too quick and not too slow. At any point, Ms. Koci was more than happy to answer questions.

The soup was thick, hot and tomatoey with a delicious flavor, bits of onion and tomato throughout and a creamy feel without being too rich. My husband ate it all, sparing me only a spoon or two for an official taste.

My mussels were good, too, fresh and briny. The lemony broth was a bit too lemony for me; however, we had no problem filling up the extra bowl with our empty shells.

As requested, the salad arrived with our entrees and was easily enough to share. Mixed greens, tomatoes, cucumbers and fried chickpeas were laced with a light lemon vinaigrette, made in house.

The lamb shank seemed enormous at first glance, a joint worthy of a king. The meat was really tasty, well-seasoned and tender with a hint of the port wine with which it was braised. As we ate, I was happily surprised by the occasional bits of lamb my husband generously slipped onto the edge of my plate.

His roasted summer squash accompaniment was also flavorful, squash done just right. The only real miss of the evening were the mashed potatoes, which were just OK. Mashed potatoes are back in style, and that has made us a little more particular than we might have been 10 years ago. If I'm going to indulge in them, I want them to be fabulous. These were fine but basic, nothing special.

I loved my pasta, which was robed in a subtle blue cheese sauce, garlicky and flavorful, and mixed with spinach, salty calamata olives and the chewy bite of sundried tomatoes. Without appetizers and salad (an ideal complement to the rich pasta), I might have finished the whole serving.

As it was, I restrained myself and took part of it home.

Dessert options are few but interesting and all made in-house: a croissant-based mascarpone chocolate Panini ($5.99), homemade cannoli ($4.99), a waffle topped with ice cream ($6.99), and chocolate strawberry skewers ($5.99). The first three options seemed quite heavy after a full meal, particularly the waffle, which was the full-size breakfast serving.

We ordered coffee, which Ms. Koci made fresh for us, and the strawberries, which were plated beautifully: two skewers crossed on an oval plate with a miniature pitcher of warm chocolate and two small dishes of ice cream and whipped cream.

Let's just say none of that made it home.

Livia's Dish is a fine addition to Worcester's culinary scene. Whether you're looking for a light meal or a more substantive dinner, you'll feel right at home.

Our final bill, with tax and tip, was $74.65.

Livia's Dish

1394 Main St., Worcester

* * *

Hours: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays; 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays; dinner, 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays.

Phone: (508) 926-8861


Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, and Discover

Prices: Moderate

Parking: Adjacent parking lot; handicapped ramp to two entrances to the building

Pluses: Delicious, flavorful food; comfortable atmosphere; reasonable prices; full liquor license.

Minuses: The large flat screen TV over the bar is distracting; the dining room is fairly small and might be noisy when crowded.

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:May 2, 2013
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