Last May I took my visiting French guests to Short & Main, the second restaurant for Amelia and Nico Monday who opened The Market Restaurant in Annisquam three years ago. Leaving a heaving tray of glimmering Duxburys, Pemaquids and scallop crudo nothing but empty shells, my French friends, with a pout that said surrender, declared this briny platter of shellfish, “better than Paris.”
Still, Short & Main has had its share of new restaurant headaches. How would you like to receive a 5,000-pound wood-fired oven in the mail, assemble it, and learn its eccentricities — as in, “how hot do the logs burn?” — well enough to serve a hundred people in a week?
I didn’t experience these evenings, but I heard about the air conditioner problems: there was none; there was a heat wave, and that 5,000-pound wood-fired pizza oven was like a fire-breathing dragon at one end of the room.
All that is resolved. I recently bit into a folded slice of tender pizza crust, dappled bronze, brimming with Alprilla Farm arugula, La Quercia prosciutto, and shingles of Parmesan. Pizza for Romans, I thought.
Late last winter I invited Nico and Amelia to my house for dinner; as a gift Amelia brought a small plastic bag of candied orange peel she had made that day. There was no restaurant to cook for, no new menus to design; oranges were the only fruit in season, and Amelia was cooking. It was a gesture those of us who cook understand, but we’re often lead to believe that chefs eat take-out on their days off; they don’t cook, and they certainly don’t preserve orange peel. I think this image explains the heart of both The Market and Short & Main. Nico and Amelia truly love the art and the alchemy of food; they love it even when the closed sign hangs on the door.
This week I received in the mail, printed in flourishing font on hefty cardstock, a recipe for tomato fritters, a Short & Main thank you for my tiny contribution to the Kickstarter effort that funded the dragon oven. This simple piece of mail again reminds me that, beneath all the buzz, the magazine covers, and, well, the buzz, Nico and Amelia love to cook.
Short & Main will be open all year. Many of the staff, including Nico and Amelia, will leave Annisquam for downtown Gloucester. In winter, when there are more seagulls hanging over Main Street than tourists strolling, those of us still on Cape Ann will have the fortune to enjoy Amelia’s and Nico’s wood-fired pizza oven experiments. Stews, tagines, roasted this, slowly braised that, we have much to look forward to.
Until then, here’s a recipe to carry with you into tomato season. These are delicious topped with garlic scape pesto.
Combine in a bowl:
6 diced medium tomatoes
1 small yellow onion, grated
1 medium zucchini, grated
Add salt and pepper and drain.
3/4 cup flour
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
3 sprigs chopped mint leaves
1 bunch chopped parsley leaves
Spoon dollops into oil. (batter will be loose)
Pan fry at medium heat until golden brown
Sprinkle with salt and enjoy the deliciousness!
Recipe courtesy of Niko and Amelia Monday, The Market and Short & Main, 2013.