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A family restaurant carries on

Just as the dying leaves, early nights, and cold of November in New England had me thinking that the best bet would to be a move to California — a bowl of perfect New England clam chowder came my way and set me cheering for the home team again.

I devoured the aforementioned clam chowder, thick with irregularly chopped potatoes, tender bites of quahog, cream, butter, and black pepper, at the Greenside Grill at South Shore Country Club. This 65-seat restaurant is run by the Ricci family, who has owned a succession of Raphael’s restaurants in Quincy, Hull, and Walpole since 1989. The father and son team took over as the food and beverage providers for this publically-owned country club a year ago and opened the grill in March after renovating the space. While they still have a Raphael’s Banquet facility in Walpole, The Greenside Grill is now the Ricci’s only restaurant: they closed their Raphael’s in Hull last month.

And, while the Ricci’s are running the Grill with the same hands-on, family pride that gave us the once dazzling Rafael’s atop Quincy’s State Street Bank, father and son Elio and Frank Ricci have changed the name so former customers won’t expect the same menu they knew at Raphael’s.

Not quite knowing what to expect from the place (was it a Raphael’s? was it a country club?) we ventured up the long driveway to the restaurant one Friday night late last month.

The simple dark green space – surrounded with windows and punctuated with striking amber hanging lamps — was half full. The crowd was decidedly older but lively as we settled into a comfortable table overlooking a vast green expanse.

Two spoonfuls into the clam chowder ($4 cup, $6 bowl) and I was quite hopeful that the food would be good. The soup of the day ($3 cup, $5 bowl), a brothy turkey vegetable, was tasty, too, and a nice option for soup lovers not wanting a rich bowl.

One bite of the angel hair pomodoro ($10 lunch, $15 dinner) that arrived next and I was confident that someone cared in the kitchen. (That someone, it turns out, is Chef Michael Saef who’s worked at various Raphael’s for years.)

The thin pasta was al dente and so steamy we had to blow on it. The simple red sauce was bright and hearty at once with some chunks of fresh tomato and a telling residue of olive oil on the bottom of the plate. For me, it was as good as a pomodoro sauce gets. (I don’t like the Parmesan the Grill serves: it’s thick grated and hard, which obscures its flavor. It is telling, thought, that I didn’t even miss it – the sauce was so good.)

The haddock picatta ($20) was a beautiful plate to look at and eat. We chose winter squash and mashed potatoes from a range of available sides they were arranged in a little triangle with the grilled haddock its third point. The filet was served over a light flavorful lemony picatta sauce strewn with good capers. The dish was wonderfully delicious: the sweetness of the chunky, home-style squash puree a satisfying counter to the savory goodness of the creamy mashed potatoes and the firm, mild fish.

Saturday lunch at the restaurant and we were the only ones dining while 20 or so golfers snacked over beer and post-game chatter.

Still, our waiter’s professionalism served us well and, again, we had a good meal.

I don’t recommend the pizza ($8), however, unless you simply have to have pizza. The flavor of the mozzarella and red sauce topping is very good, but the crust isn’t great. If you’re after something inexpensive and snacky, the lunch menu obliges with other items including burgers, tuna fish sandwiches, and even hotdogs.

We had a great deal of a meal: the herb grilled chicken ($10 lunch, $16 dinner). It was a moist breast filet with dark grill marks served, again, with a choice of sides. This time we had sautéed spinach – which was clearly raw only minutes earlier — and cooked not a moment too long. It was delicious with the mashed potatoes and tender chicken.

We also shared a spinach salad ($9, $5 small) with grilled shrimp added (add $8 at dinner, $5 at lunch). Each spinach leaf was perfect (which was much appreciated since fresh greens so often arrive battered lately). The four large, grilled shrimp had been marinated in something tasty, and cooked beautifully with a char on their tails and a spring in their curly flesh. Festooned over the spinach were roasted yellow peppers, pine nuts, and some wonderful, rarely used and highly proteinous cannellini beans! And the red wine vinaigrette was a nice alternative to the ubiquitous balsamics out there, and rang true to the cuisine of Elio’s native Italy.

Dessert was a nice apple crisp ($7) delicious with extra cinnamon and a good, oatmeal flavor to the crusty crispy part. It came with good vanilla ice cream and some whipped cream that wasn’t house made, which blows it for me: home-made whipped cream being one of my favorite foods.

This is a good, solid, affordable restaurant from owners with a long track record on the South Shore. I hope people realize it’s open to the public.
The Greenside Grille at South Shore Country Club
274 South St., Hingham
Dinner, Sunday through Thursday, 4-9 p.m.; Friday & Saturday, 4-10 p.m.
Lunch daily 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Accessible to the handicapped
Major credit cards accepted