Date published: August 23, 2010

Inside the North EndInside the North End
by Josh B. Wardrop


In recent years, the North End has undergone a transformation of sorts. While still retaining the feel of the traditional, multi-generational Italian-American community it’s been since the turn of the 20th century, the neighborhood has seen an increasing influx of young professionals moving in—including a significant number of young women. One of the results of this change in demographic has been the rise of a burgeoning boutique community, with more retail businesses entering the neighborhood than at any time in its history and making the North End one of Boston’s upandcoming shopping districts. Thanks to shops like the denim emporium In-jeani-us (441 Hanover St., 617-523-JEAN), retrofabulous vintage shop The Velvet Fly (424 Hanover St., 617-557-4359), contemporary clothiers Casa di Stile (371 Hanover St., 857-233-4885) and the unique fashion boutique Bobbles and Lace (26 Prince St., 617-248-0419), these days North End residents are looking more stylish than ever. The North End’s retail renaissance isn’t simply limited to clothing, however. Lovers of highend makeup can peruse Paula Tierney’s cozy cosmetics shop, A Matter of Face (425 Hanover St., 617-742-5874), and any new outfit can be accessorized with handmade jewelry from shops like High Gear Jewelry (204 Hanover St., 617-523-5804) and Filthy Rich Celebrity Jewelry (402 Hanover St., 857-366-4620). Gift shopping is made simple thanks to the unique treasures found at Shake the Tree Gallery (67 Salem St., 617-742-0484), and finding one-of-a-kind furnishings and accessories to beautify one’s home is a snap at Acquire Boutique (61 Salem St., 857-362-7380).

Inside the North End Try strolling Hanover Street, the North End’s main drag, after sundown and the crowds you’re certain to encounter will leave no doubt that the neighborhood’s a popular center for nightlife. This is due in part to hot nightspots like comedy club Improv Asylum and lounges like The Living Room (refer to listing, page 77), cigar bar Stanza dei Sigari (292 Hanover St., 6172270295) and popular seaside afterwork hangout Tia’s on the Waterfront (200 Atlantic Ave., 617-227-0828). But, for the most part, North End nightlife is tied to its vast collection of cozy and romantic restaurants— most nights, couples in search of a memorable dinner or groups of friends fueling up for a night of fun flock to modern Italian eateries like Tresca (233 Hanover St., 617-742-8240), Nico (417 Hanover St., 617-742-0404), Strega (379 Hanover St., 617-523-8481) and Bricco (241 Hanover St., 617-248-6800).

For a relatively small urban neighborhood, (just 1⁄3 of a square mile altogether), the North End is positively bursting with historical sites and attractions. Luckily, the neighborhood’s modest size makes it oh-so-easy to check out points of interest on foot. The Freedom Trail —Boston’s most popular walking tour, comprised of the most notable historical landmarks from the city’s Colonial days—has three stops in the North End: The Paul Revere House, the Old North Church (where the renowned “one if by land, two if by sea” lanterns hung the night of Revere’s Midnight Ride) and Copp’s Hill Burying Ground. Or, for some real insider info on the North End, visitors can learn about its less-explored (but no less fascinating) landmarks and hear little-known anecdotes by taking local historian Guild Nichols’ North End Secret Tours, or get the lowdown on all the best places to shop for food and drink in the North End by joining food writer and longtime resident Michele Topor for her North End Market Tours.

Inside the North End The folks on Madison Avenue may tell us that “America Runs on Dunkin’,” but even here in Boston (the Dunkin’ Donuts capital of the world) the people of the North End get their espresso, cappuccino and other delightfully steamy caffeinated elixirs the Old World way—from authentic and charming streetside cafes. So, skip the Starbucks and get your pick-me-up— whether it’s coffee, cordials or fizzy and flavorful Italian sodas—at places like Caffe Pompei or the recently relocated Graffiti Ristoranteand Café, Caffe Vittoria (290–296 Hanover St., 617-227-7606), Caffe Paradiso (253 Hanover St., 617-742-1768) or Caffe dello Sport (308 Hanover St., 617-523-5063).
Or, if you’re the type to skip the morning coffee and head straight for the sugar rush, you’re in luck: it’s hard to walk more than a block or two in the North End without stumbling across a bakery turning out sinfully scrumptious Italian pastries and desserts. Mike’s Pastry (300 Hanover St., 617-742-3050) is the city’s bestknown bakery—its ubiquitous blue-and-white pastry boxes are seen toted all over the city—but the crowds also line up into the street for the goodies at Modern Pastry (257 Hanover St., 617-523-3783), with its old-school neon sign and its assortment of handmade biscotti, torrone and, of course, cannolis. And as for cannolis, the North End’s unsung gem, Maria’s Pastry Shop (46 Cross St., 617-523-1196), handfills its cannolis for you right when your order. You can’t lose with any of them, but if you’re something of a night owl, you’ll probably find yourself gravitating toward Bova’s Bakery (134 Salem St., 617-523-5601), the North End’s only 24-hour bakery, which turns out delicious pastries, pizza and calzones well into the wee hours.