FALMOUTH – From crowing little girls in high chairs reveling in a full table’s attention to older couples focused contentedly on each other, the customers of Hug’s Italian Restaurant showed off their pleasure in dinner on a recent Saturday night. The room bustled as the kitchen filled enormous soup-rim plates with linguine, fettuccine, angel hair pasta and spaghetti.

A side of those pastas comes with any entree or forms the foundation of many, like the chicken Parmesan.

A mural of Vesuvius that had once been on the back wall of this space has been changed, the wall now devoted to a depiction of land evenly combed with curving rows of vines. Whatever is growing on that voluptuous landscape, you can bet we’re in a version of Italy; the Italy that has kept most of us happy for generations with dishes such as veal Parmesan that we wouldn’t want to live without.

Beth McKenney is the owner of both this restaurant and the Carrabasset Valley Hug’s, which started in 1984 and was purchased by McKenney in 1999. She also owns a burrito shop called Black Diamond Burritos in Sugarloaf Village.

“I knew there were a lot of people from the Falmouth area that came to the Sugarloaf Hug’s,” she said, grateful for busy opening months. “There are so many people that I’ve known. They’re supportive and kind.”

Hug’s serves toasted flatbread spread with pesto and topped with shavings of Parmesan, which tastes best eaten the moment it’s served, and is deservedly beloved. The first basket is free, but additional servings cost 50 cents per person, and they are often requested.


Another of Hug’s popular and excellent traditions is a bowl of salad from which you can serve yourself, free with every meal. The zingy vinaigrette dressed crunchy lettuce, cucumber and tomato. It was served after the appetizers and before the entrees.

Acrobat Pinot Gris ($8 a glass) from King Estate Winery in Oregon, a crisp white wine accented with grapefruit, is fermented in stainless steel and excellent with the menu’s seafood cake. Las Rocas de San Alejandro Garnacha ($8) from Spain is an longtime favorite. It’s full and plush with fruit and still sturdy, a delight to drink with just about anything.

Antipasto ($8.95) is a modest plate of rolled salami, decent black olives, skinny bits of pickled red peppers and fresh mozzarella. Perhaps it’s unavailable, but while the freshness of this mozzarella is not in question, I wish I could find the kind of fresh mozzarella that oozes sweet milky liquid when it’s cut instead of, as at Hug’s (and most everywhere else), the kind with a texture that seems almost dry.

Perhaps that kind of fresh mozzarella is something you can find only in Italy, where it’s expected to be no more than a day old when it’s sold.

Seafood cake ($9.95 for one, and something you can order with any entree) holds Maine shrimp, crab and chopped scallops in a sweet, fat round patty that has an excellent fresh flavor. The cream sauce with capers on top could easily be skipped, at least as far as I’m concerned, though it had its virtues.

Many of Hug’s dishes hold cream or cream sauces, which are clearly one source of the business’s popularity. But cream’s ubiquity on the menu made my companion ask, “Is cream a mandatory ingredient here?”


Eggplant Parmesan ($16.95) was sauced with a tangy, sweet red sauce, almost aromatic. The eggplant was nicely cooked and the cheese on top thoroughly browned, accentuating its savor and making it chewy.

A special of beef medallions ($24.95) brought three round, thick, rare cuts of chewy beef in a sauce of saut? red onion and mushroom with a balsamic and cream reduction. Despite the chewiness of the meat, the flavors were all good to excellent.

A side dish of linguine with garlic butter was al dente and fragrant with garlic.

The menu consists almost entirely of pasta dishes, though it is certainly acceptable to order some without pasta.

“Our signature dish is our chicken limone, done in a light egg batter sauteed with lemon butter and mushroom, served with a side,” McKenney said. “Another signature dish always on the side is the pink alfredo, cream-based sauce with a little red sauce added. We don’t really have a white alfredo on the menu, but if we get requests, we’ll do it. I like to eat out, and I like to get what I want when I eat out.”

The emphasis on customer service shows in the welcome you receive at the door and the good service. A willingness to modify dishes to fit a dietary need or just a whim is surely another reason Hug’s has so many fans.


For dessert, we chose cheesecake with raspberry sauce ($6.50). While good, it was cold and kept its flavor locked up. The texture was conventional, like most cream cheese cakes; it is not made in house. The raspberry sauce on top was sour-sweet and attractive.

Decaf coffee ($2) was hot and strong, and a cup of mint tea was another plain and good option. 

N.L. English is a Portland freelance writer and the author of “Chow Maine: The Best Restaurants, Cafes, Lobster Shacks and Markets on the Coast.” Visit English’s website, www.chowmaineguide.com.


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