Ella’s, East Wareham

Ella’s Wood Burning Oven Restaurant may be the closest the Southcoast area of Massachusetts comes to a true celebrity chef. Patrons know the youthful entrepreneur’s name — Marc Swierkowski — and give him a wave when he emerges from the back of the open kitchen. Waitstaff reverently introduce specials with, “Tonight he’s created….” He appears to be on duty every moment that the restaurant lights are on.  His wife, Bree, is the general manager. The parking lot always seems full, and hungry diners are often disappointed by a multi-hour wait in a crowded entry or miniature bar.

Happily, the attention is warranted, and if you ever drive by that parking lot and see an empty space, we strongly recommend stopping in. The food is expertly prepared and beautifully presented, and uses interesting local ingredients in seasonal menus. The decor is exquisite, the service is friendly, and the wine list is varied.

Yep, it’s pricey.  But Gina and the Big Dog are experts at smart ordering, and we recently enjoyed a delicious and expansive dinner, with a couple of glasses of wine, for just $65.

The Big Dog started with a very good clam chowder, decorated with whole clams in their shells which may have been the highlight of the dish. Gina enjoyed her favorite salad, roasted beets with goat cheese.  In this case, the beets were yellow and may have been steamed instead of roasted, but they were dusted with delicious fresh mache and candied pecans.

We planned to order a yummy-sounding bruschetta du jour featuring peaches, but we forgot, and were glad we did when the bread basket arrived.  Swaddled in napkins and laid in an oblong bucket, the slices of French bread  are served with a trio of dipping sauces — this night, they were hummus with rosemary, parmesan olive oil, and a stupendous arrugula pesto.

Pasta dishes come in small and large, and we each ordered a small version as our entrees.  Gina’s eggplant involtini with smoked mozzarella was served inside out — the pasta was rolled inside the eggplant slices, doused with chunky tomato sauce, and topped with a slice of mozzarella whose smokey flavor permeated the dish.

Dog was on a clam binge, and ordered the pasta with littlenecks.  The menu, new at the time, promised angel hair pasta, but our pleasant bartender said the pasta hadn’t been house-made yet, so they were substituting a squid ink tagliatelle. It was a good choice, both in terms of the dish’s appearance and its fish flavor.

Here’s the other thing: Ella’s specialty is actually their pizza, and a party of two could share a spectacular one and two glasses of excellent wine for less than $30, before ambling down Cranberry Highway for go-carts, water slides, or mini golf.

Ella’s Wood Burning Oven Restaurant
3136 Cranberry Highway (Route 28), East Wareham
www.ellaswoodoven.com

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