September 3, 2013

Dine Out Maine: Enoteca Athena a wise choice for cocktails and local food

By NANCY HEISER

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Enoteca Athena in Brunswick embraces a winning formula of these times: Intriguing cocktails and interesting, flavor-deep food in a variety of portion sizes in a stylish, casual atmosphere. And dinner here doesn’t cost a fortune.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

DINING REVIEW

ENOTECA ATHENA

97 Maine St., Brunswick

721-0100; enotecaathena.com

***1/2

HOURS: 3 to 11 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday; until 9 p.m. Sunday

CREDIT CARDS: Mastercard, Visa, Discover

PRICE RANGE: Appetizers and salads, $2 to $9; main dishes, $11 to $20

VEGETARIAN: Yes

GLUTEN-FREE: Yes

KIDS: Welcome

RESERVATIONS: No

BAR: Still expanding. Variety of gin and vodka, specialty cocktails, wines exclusively from Greece and Italy, local beer on draft and in bottles.

WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes

BOTTOM LINE: This casual wine bar with late-night hours serves excellent and reasonably priced Greek and Italian food, much of it sourced locally. It's a welcome addition to Brunswick's downtown.

Ratings follow this scale and take into consideration food, atmosphere, service and value:

*Poor  **Fair  ***Good ****Excellent *****Extraordinary. The Maine Sunday Telegram visits an establishment twice if the first dining experience was unsatisfactory. The reviewer dines anonymously.

Fresh coffee helped, but tea was unavailable, as were espresso drinks, which we felt the style of Enoteca Athena cried out for.

Aside from the skill at the bar, the best things going at Enoteca Athena are its full-bodied flavors. To have almost every item served stand apart for its depth of interest and taste (if not always beauty or texture) takes expertise. A touch more attention would elevate the food to top-notch.

Still to work on here is the flow from kitchen to table. Our four mains came out sporadically. At 6:30 on a Friday night, the only pasta dish on the menu had run out (and O'Brien is known for his toothsome pasta), as had two desserts of the night's three. Presumably the restaurant will be able to predict better after more time in business.

Despite these matters, Enoteca Athena is nearing excellence. It's serving delicious, interesting local food at very good prices. But that smooth and effortless ride -- the complete pleasure that comes when the Lamborghini hums on all cylinders -- is not yet here. It can take a few months for a new place, especially one with a new mission, to find its rhythm and perfect its dishes.

Give this wine bar a little more time, and I suspect it'll be a four-star spot. But I'll go back well before that, just for fun.

Nancy Heiser is a freelance writer. She can be reached at:

nancyheiser.com

 

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