Seafood Mac and Cheese from O'Connor's on West Boylston Street in Worcester, MA

When you think of O’Connor’s, I bet the first thing that comes to mind is “Irish food.” While you would be correct on some level, you would also be wrong! As pointed out by the esteemed owner, there is nothing in the restaurant’s name that would indicate it being a primarily Irish cuisine (besides it being an Irish name). Think of it as a melting pot of European fare, with influences from Italy, Spain, Portugal, as well as England and of course, Ireland.

It had been some time since I was last at O’Connor’s and I needed to take some time to get reacquainted with their rather large menu. The staff was very helpful in recommending their favorite dishes and explaining all of the specials that were being offered that night. After my deliberations were complete, I decided to order the seafood mac and cheese. This was a medley of shrimp, lobster meat, bay scallops, onion and cavatappi pasta in a creamy garlic, three cheese sauce, with a hint of spice blend. All of this creamy goodness was topped with buttery parmesan panko bread crumbs. The dish was presented beautifully in a rustic cast iron skillet that was piping hot right out of the oven!

When I first dove into my dish, the first thing that hit me was how deliciously creamy the cheese sauce was. It was velvety and was the perfect accompaniment to the type of pasta that was used. The corkscrew and ridged shape of the cavatappi held the cheese well so that every bite ensured that you bit into lots of cheese sauce. The shrimp were large and plump and cooked perfectly. You had to search for the bay scallops, due to their size however they also provided small morsels of seafood bliss. One thing that I was very surprised with was the amount of lobster meat that was provided in the dish. On more than one occasion, I came across large hunks of claw and knuckle meat…just what you would hope to find in a seafood mac and cheese. Although, as I continued eating, I couldn’t help but notice that I began to get a fishy aftertaste…almost as if the seafood was cooked with the pasta and cheese sauce, rather than separately and added and mixed just prior to service. Nevertheless, the dish was deeply satisfying and left me quite happy with my choice of meal. As I sat there in the restaurant and began to drift into a personal food coma, I reflected on my experience at O’Connor’s. Although it is a little bit out of the way, it is a definite spot to try if you are looking for European influence in the menu from top to bottom. With such a rich history, heritage and the menu to match, I am not surprised that O’Connor’s has enjoyed as much success as they have over the last 25 years!