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Thu, May 23

Chew on This: Comfort food + fresh bread = BiGA fun

First, the name: They spell it BiGA.

"Biga (bee-gah) is a type of pre-ferment used in Italian baking," notes the menu. "Using biga adds complexity to the bread."

That's about the only "complexity" at this little slice of comfort-food heaven. BiGA comes from the KISS school of cooking - keep it simple, sweetie.

The unpretentious menu, which changes weekly, is printed on white paper, placed casually on holders at the eight tabletops.

Yes, it's a small, cozy place, here on the corner of Miller Valley Road and Walnut Street. It's clean with soft-lighting and a rustic feel; a few modest pieces of art, otherwise - fittingly - minimalist.

There's also one of the world's tiniest bars, with five barstools.

Back to the menu: It's the same for lunch and dinner. Generally three or four starters, with recent offerings New England clam chowder and Italian wedding soup ($3.50 each) and appetizers mini pizza (pesto, roasted red peppers, mushrooms, $4.50) and New Orleans style BBQ shrimp ($10.50).

Salads range from the house ($3.50 small, $7.50 large) to the more inventive steak salad (romaine, arugula, onions, tomatoes, flank steak, croutons, balsamic vinaigrette, horseradish cream, $9.50) and fall salad (baby kale, roasted butternut squash, apples, red peppers, toasted pecans, maple mustard dressing, $9.50).

The biggest menu section is sandwiches, served on - as you were hoping - bread baked right in the kitchen. Sandwich selections also rotate, and can include the likes of classic grilled cheese (with havarti, $6.50), pastrami Reuben (Swiss, sauerkraut, Russian dressing on seeded rye, $9.50) and Portobello sub ($9.50).

Three words on the latter: Oh my goat. The goat cheese melts into the Portobello mushrooms, nicely set off by roasted red peppers and arugula, with balsamic vinaigrette adding a moist tang.

And that freshly-baked roll - so delicious, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Dr. Atkins sneaking a few bites.

Asian turkey burger (with sweet chili mayo, $9.50) is a staple, as it's a go-to staple of many regulars.

Perhaps as tough a decision as which sandwich to select is the side dish, with choices of coleslaw, potato salad, green chile macaroni and cheese and cucumber salad.

The entree section is small but tantalizing, calling back to mid-20th Century kitchens with chicken and dumplings ($10.50), fish cakes (haddock and crabmeat, $11.50) and Swedish meatballs (with egg noodles, $10.50).

This is stick-to-your-ribs food, with hearty portions.

Even so, you'll want to save room for a few bites of desserts, sweet dazzlers salt caramel bread pudding, chocolate torte (with almond cream) and blueberry pie, $5.50 each.

In summary, BiGA is a great place to start a diet ... tomorrow.


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