I love being invited to someone's mother's house for dinner. You know you will be lovingly and well-fed, cared for like you are family.
Angela's Cafe in East Boston, feels almost like that (but for the bill...)
First of all, you can see the kitchen and Angela herself. There she is, made up and dressed as if she were on her way out to dinner somewhere herself, saw you coming and threw an apron on to whip up your dinner.
Throughout our meal I was mesmerized watching her pat tortillas out rhythmically slapping them gently from hand to hand. It's a motion I'm certain she could do in her sleep. Other times, I saw her carefully pinching the edges of a another tortilla for what I later learned are gorditas. And speaking of gordita, it means fat or chubby in Spanish, but in a much more endearing way than it comes across in English. I was slightly more gordita after dinner at Angela's than I was when I entered. And also happier.
I went with Doc and our friend Linda and we relied somewhat on our GPS guide to find it. It helps to know that Angela's is really a corner spot in a residential neighborhood. We learned it started as a breakfast joint. One or two Mexican dishes were served to friends or family and little by little the locals asked about trying this or that. I'm glad they asked.
On this, our first visit, we were eager to try as many things as we could. For many of us, reading Frank Bruni's recent column about the failure of communism as writ in the behaviors of dining companions, (see Critic's Notebook: What they brought to the table), was reminiscent of bad dates. Surely someone who refused to share tastes or choose their meal in a coordinated strategy was going to be no fun away from the table either. It was as good a litmus test as any other for weeding out incompatible dates...but, I digress.
Our strategy was unified and unspoken. The only job was to figure out the top nine or so things we had in agreement and any singular needs of the party. Because I'm such a fan of avocados, that was was a given. The staff pounds your guac to order in an authentic molcajete. It's delicious and a complete mystery to me where they are getting ripe avocadoes in Boston. As it was my first visit, I decided not to ask for family secrets.