Close Up: Suzanne Lombardi of The Plate

…Dotted by Leslie

We write about all things Dorchester. We live here; love it here; and want to spread the gospel of the good things happening here in Boston’s largest neighborhood. But sometimes we look on the fringes and find total awesome-sauce happening close to our beloved Dot. Forgive us for stepping out of bounds, Dear DottieHotties readers, but we had to share this beauty with you.

The Plate Restaurant and Cafe is  located in a neighborhood called ‘Central’ in Milton; bordering Lower Mills.  It’s a stones throw from Dot … so close that I rode my bike there numerous times over the summer to grab one of their delicious handcrafted sandwiches. My personal fave ‘combo’ is the Bahn Mi sandwich; a Basil Lemonade; followed up by a chocolate chip cookie. The Banana & Nutella sandwich is one of the few things to keep my children completely silent for a good 15 minutes.  They lick the sandwich wrapper completely clean. And  really, any bakery/cafe that makes their own pickles is pretty fabulous in my book.  I asked Chef and owner Suzanne Lombardi, (who has some serious baking  & culinary chops; she co-founded  Dancing Deer Cookie Company and Tiny Trapeze Confections) some questions about her favorite restaurants, foods and pickling over the summer and here’s what she had to say.

Chef and Owner of The Plate, Suzanne Lombardi

Love the Bahn Mi sandwich. What’s in it?

Marinated grilled tofu, (we marinate the tofu in fish sauce, fresh lime juice, sugar, chiles and garlic before grilling), fresh sliced cucumber, house made daikon radish and carrot pickles and fresh cilantro.

I really wanted to keep the build of the sandwich as traditional as possible so we layer all these ingredients into a fresh french baguette that we slather first with our housemade mayonnaise and drizzle the bread with some soy sauce.

The Bahn Mi is one of my personal favorites and my husband’s too. In fact, I included it on the menu for him! We don’t eat meat, but eat fish.  (I guess that makes me us Pescetarians?) I loved the components of a traditional Banh Mi sandwich and felt like grilled tofu would be a good switch out for the more traditional fare.  It has become pretty popular at the restaurant.  We have even had some Vietnamese customers that have said how much they really like it and say its pretty close to traditional – that makes me HAPPY.
 Why did you open your business in Central; the area merging Dorchester and Milton?
I really liked the vibe in the whole extending neighborhood, including Dorchester Lower Mills. I knew there was a lot of development that would be happening in the near future.  Being close to the trolley that brought commuters to the city was a plus and being next to Esprit Du Vin made for perfect neighbors!

The patio at The Plate

What recipes and menu items are you playing with now?

I have a great crew that all lives for food so we are ALWAYS talking food.  I really like our housemade basil lemonade! We have been obsessed with the fresh beets we have been getting from Brookwood Community Farm and making simple little salads by dressing them with champagne vinegar, lots of fresh thyme and feta cheese.

Also we just finished our first seasonal catering menu about 3 weeks ago which is up on our website and has a lot of fresh, simple flavorful dishes, dips + spreads, I love working with customers to design menus.

We are also working on a really cool concept to open up on Thursday and Friday nights in the fall. Our customers REALLY want it and we have some fun ideas for serving some really great family style take out.

What are your favorite restaurants in Dorchester?

I like Chris Douglass and enjoy eating at the bar at Tavolo. I’m also working a ton of hours these days … I like the Panang Curry with shrimp take out from the Taste of Thailand on Dot Ave.

What’s your favorite comfort food?

Hum-m – that’s a hard question. 

For sure a grilled cheese sandwich! Also lately I’ve been into topping various yummy food things with a fried egg – one of the best recently was a fresh fried egg, (from one of one my own chickens) over some baby kale I sautéed with slivers of garlic and grated parmesan cheese. Quick, homey and delicious!

Amazing egg sandwich at The Plate

What are some of your favorite local shops, outdoor spaces, people, products …

I’m a board member at Brookwood Community Farm and LOVE the land they farm on at the foot of the Blue Hills. Each year we have a fundraising dinner in August and we set up a big communal dinner table in the fields set with beautiful china, linens, the works.  I cook with a chef friend of my, Joan MacIssacc who just happens to own Effie’s Homemade, they’re a local company that makes an addictive oatcake,  its like a shortbread cookie that has just the right balance of butter and salt. I also really like Tower Root Beer which we carry at The Plate.  It’s a fantastic root beer brewed in Somerville, MA.

What’s the most popular item at The Plate?

We sell LOTS of chicken salad sandwiches. We buy a really nice Bell & Evans air chilled breast – gently poach it – shred it by hand and mix it into salad with our housemade mayo, little lemon juice, yogurt and lots of fresh herbs. My sous chef Vicky makes almost every pound herself! We also sell a lot of our chocolate chunk cookies – we have our own baker making them fresh everyday.

Do you like to make pickles and pickled things?

YES! I love the contrast of pickled things on a sandwich – It’s really a nice way to add texture to a sandwich. You can pickle just about anything, keep them in the fridge and use them to round out all kinds of plates.
My grandmother pickled lots of things – the most unusual and delicious were her watermelon rind pickles.  She also pickled beets and added whole peeled, hard boiled eggs to the jars. The beets turned the eggs the most beautiful magenta color.  I think my interest started when I realized that you could quick pickle, it took away the added lengthy step of preserving and made the whole pickle process quick and easy.  Its fun to play with different vinegars too! My husband loves to grow things and had a bumper crop of jalepeno peppers one year. After using as many as I could to cook with I pickled them. Yum. That started my exploration.
 
*****
27 Central Ave., Milton, MA
(617) 698-8900Monday: CLOSED
Tuesday-Saturday 8:00AM – 4:00PM
Sunday: 8:00AM – 3:00PM

 

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