I have known about Marco all the while, it sits quietly unassuming on the busiest section of Hanover Street, perched on the second floor above Caffe Paradiso. As we made our way up the discreet staircase for the first time, entering the cozy nook of a dining room anchored by a working fireplace with elegant hardwood floors, exposed brick walls, antique rustic beams and only a handful of tables, I couldn't believe what I had been missing out on. Our window side table was romantic in its simplicity, set with white lilies in a Sanbitter bottle vase, a flickering tea light, and lending an ideal people watching view.
At a glance, their cocktail menu wasn't particularly intriguing, I noted standards (cosmo, bellini, mojito) and decided to stick with a glass of Prosecco ($9). They don't have a full alcohol licence but make do with flavored spirits and liquor. Adam ordered their version of an Old Fashioned ($11) (think meets Negroni, with a Cherry flavored Whiskey) which made me think twice about passing one up, it was excellent! The small Italian wine list focuses on family run and boutique wineries. To pair with our entrees I chose the house Nero d'Avola ($26) a great value (about four glasses worth) offered by the carafe.
After the atmosphere and the first round of drinks impressed, in swoops the bread course, a delightful gesture of bite size rosemary and garlic dusted foccacia squares served with house capponata containing olives, eggplant, onions and peppers, and the obligatory side of olive oil for dipping.
The Antipasto di Marco ($18) is a revelation of handsomely presented, simple delicacies on a heavy wood board. A top a trio of delectable imported salumi consisting of sopressata, mortadella and salami sits neatly spooned heaps of a chickpea and carrot salad, marinated roasted red peppers, shredded eggplant, mashed tuna and tangy anchovies draped over white beans. Even more perfect bites, hot peppers stuffed with hunks of mozzarella, slices of creamy burratta and grilled bread. Finally, piled in the center is a mash up of pickles, olives, caperberries and pickled cauliflower. There is a tiny bar across the dining room which is mostly empty, and I immediately pictured myself returning just to sit there and snack on this.The pasta dishes are superb, elevated by house made meats. In my Orrichiette Alla Salsica ($25) with peas and favas, it's free form house made sausage, while Adam's Rigatoni alle Polpette di Maile ($25) features Berkshire Pork Meatballs in tomato gravy. We both went with full portions, I took plenty of leftovers home so depending on your appetite, or your next destination, you might consider a half for $14.
Where simple romance is matched with exquisite Italian cuisine, Marco is the true definition of a North End hidden gem. Bravi!