Boston has some phenomenal restaurants spread out all over the city and western suburbs with so many of them concentrated in the city's unique neighborhoods. Come with me on this multi-part eating guide to some of Boston's many neighborhoods then follow me west as I visit the 'burbs.
Part II - The North End
The North End is Boston's first neighborhood. Much of neighborhood today is built on landfill, not unlike Boston's Back Bay, named aptly for the body of water it once was. Today, the North End is Boston's Italian neighborhood with a storied past. At one time, the neighborhood was "a haven for gamblers, criminals, whores and often drunken and violent sailors."
The North End is now known for its narrow, one-way streets, its severe lack of parking, and its restaurants. The North End is the place to go for some of the best Italian food in the Northeast. This is most definitely a neighborhood sustained by food. There are enough restaurants that you could try two a week for an entire year and still miss a few. I'll be honest, I'm a novice when it comes to dining in the North End. I've been to some winners for sure, but there are so many places to choose from and so few places to park, I don't visit the neighborhood often enough (mostly because parking sucks.) Here is what I know:
Neptune Oyster 63 Salem Street, Boston, MA 02113
I reviewed Neptune Oyster a few months ago. It's a star among stars in the North End restaurant scene. A dozen oysters to choose from in the raw bar as well as apps and entrees that shine all on their own. An absolute must for an oyster or seafood lover.
Carmen 33 North Square, Boston, MA 02113
It's been several years since I've been to Carmen but I remember it being fantastic. The bar is small and the restaurant is smaller. Close in size to Neptune, if not a little smaller. The bar has some delicious antipasti offerings such as grilled vegetables and marinated olives. Make reservations or be prepared to wait a long time. On a side note, one night while waiting at the bar for a table, a super nice woman told me and J about two of Trader Joe's greatest frozen items, the French-cut rack of lamb and the spinach and tofu egg rolls. Unfortunately the spinach and tofu egg rolls have been discontinued.
Trattoria Il Panino 11 Parmenter Street (Corner of Hanover), Boston, MA 02113
A North End institution, Trattoria il Panino e Giardino puts out consistent, high quality Italian food night after night. Always a good meal, and ALWAYS a long wait.
Pizzeria Regina 11 1/2 Thatcher Street, Boston, MA 02113
Waits are sometimes unbearable here, but the pizza is great. Don't waste your time getting Regina's Pizza at a mall food court, get the real deal here in the North End of Boston.
Pat's Pushcart Restaurant 61 Endicott Street, Boston, MA 02113
It has probably been 12 years since I've been here, but I had a great time when I went. It's about as classic and home-cooked as you can probably get. I remember the chicken marsala being outstanding. When I was there they had the red and white checkered plastic table clothes out. I love it!
Cafe Vittoria 290-296 Hanover Street, Boston, MA 02113
One of the most popular after dinner hangouts in the North End, for visitors to the area at least, is Cafe Vittoria. The locals can probably point you to a quieter cafe off the main drag, but I like this place. Great espresso and cappuccinos, great tiramisu and canolis, and a nice selection of Limoncellos and other digestifs.
Some places that I want to try:
Lucca Restaurant & Bar
Sel de la Terre
Remember when you're visiting the North End that parking on Hanover Street is Resident Only (Sticker) after 8pm. Park in the Financial District and walk the ten minutes, take a taxi, or take the T to Haymarket. Walk into any restaurant in the North End and I'll bet you'll get a great meal. Buon appetito!