Thursday, December 17, 2009


In 1918, Guiseppe Malatesta opened a trattoria in Peabody Square.  He called it Cavolo, the Italian word for cabbage.  It seemed like a good idea at the time with all the Irish immigrants moving into the neighborhood.  There was also a sizable German population, but Mr. Malatesta could never say the German word for cabbage convincingly: kohl.

Selling meals of slaw and sauerkraut out of his storefront paid the rent but just barely.  Creditors from the Shawmut Bank that had advanced capital to Mr. Malatesta weren't happy with the cash flow and they feared they would have to foreclose on his chopping blocks and crockery.  What would they do with them?

Mr. Malatesta sprung a plan to spice up the menu a bit.  Dorchester's main trolley stable was located a little up Dot Ave, where the Field's Corner Shopping Center is now.  He contracted with the City of Boston, which had recently annexed Dorchester, to take care of streetcar steeds that had gone lame.  Thus, the menu of his restaurant added a bit of protein to its mix.  Cavolo was married to cavallo,  Cabbage plus horse is very chic if you say it French and, at the time, it was unintelligible in Italian in Dorchester.  The same can be said of the listed ingredients in Vietnamese sandwiches in 2009.   It sounds good, it tastes good, I'll come back tomorrow for another.  Both the flavor and the price are right.

Sometimes it takes a little extra to make a go of a restaurant.  Simple isn't always best.  People don't mind paying a little more if they feel they are getting their money's worth.  As old, Mr. Malatesta would have said, "Una tavola con una tovaglia fare il piatto bellisimo."  A table with a cloth does make the most beautiful dish.  Sometimes you just have to give it a little window dressing and not a-speeka-da-eengleesh.  It's true, if unpretty: Never give a sucker an even break.  We all have to eat, and no matter how it's gussied up, Dorchester delivers the vittles most people demand.

A tip of the fedora to the Dorchester Reporter for pointing out an example of history repeating itself.  A tip of the fork to the eatery at 1918 Dorchester Avenue in old Peabody Square that is working to serve its clientele well.  Rather than giving the people who pass through Ashmont Station what they supposedly need, Tavolo is giving them what they want.  Something nice to eat homeward bound at fair value for the dollars they earn at the other end of the Red Line.

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