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Atmospheres and Appetites: Mare E Monti

Where the sea and the mountains come together – no, I don’t mean those famous Worcester hills. I mean the atmosphere of Mare E Monti, which translates to the “Sea and the Mountains” in Italian. It also brings together a non-commercialized, old school Italian vibe. But what does old school Italian even mean? I sat down with Pina Conte, the owner, and dove in to find out.

After operating Café Espresso for 20 years (in Mare E Monti’s current location) Conte and her husband took a hiatus from the restaurant business before returning with a fresh concept.

When building the restaurant in 2013, they hoped to open up the walls. They realized the original brick was still in good condition as well as the paneling on the ceiling. They went with their gut and decided to preserve it, working the rest of the design around those two elements. A pizza oven had previously lived in the back corner, but this time around they were aiming for more seating and a more open concept.

When you enter the restaurant, the bar is small – ten seats, maybe – but inviting. The wine storage space acts as a reflective chandelier. It’s eye catching and creative and makes you crave a glass of wine. The counter is the original from Café Espresso, and has aged beautifully in its 25+ years. The space is meant to be transitional, and if there is a wait there is plenty of room to mix and mingle while you wait to be seated.

On the left side wall hangs a photo of Conte, her father, and her brother walking the streets of Rome, Italy in 1962-63. The photo came about because she originally wanted the print on the front of the menu in 8″x10″ dimensions. Just prior to opening, Rick Edwards of Blue Frog Creative Printworks proposed to her that he could magnify the print even more for her to utilize as décor in the restaurant. Brought to tears upon seeing it for the first time, Conte knew it was the perfect piece for the walls of her restaurant. It is both a beautiful and nostalgic photo that makes many feel reflective of their own childhoods no matter where they grew up.

Having just celebrated the 5 year anniversary of the opening, the atmosphere continues to evolve as Conte likes to pick up small things here and there seasonally. She hopes to create the Italian vibe that she grew up with in Rome and Calabria, Italy.

Mare E Monti rests on an unassuming street in the hills of Worcester. Worcester certainly boasts a high concentration of Italian restaurants on Shrewsbury Street; however, there is no official “Little Italy” food district. But, you know what? I like that! It lets the authentic Italian restaurants stand on their own all over the city, and create a reputation and following all on their own. At Mare E Monti, you’re invited to have a real Italian experience just like you would with your own family, to relax, and to simply enjoy your meal in an atmosphere that makes you feel like you’re on the seaside coast or the mountains of Italy.