date published: July 30, 2007

20 must-try dishes from the North End’s best eateries
by Kenna Caprio and Carolyn Dewart

Parmigiana di Melanzane |
Cantina Italiana, 346 Hanover St., 617-723-4577: As one of the oldest restaurants in the North End, Cantina Italiana has had over 70 years to perfect traditional Italian recipes like its creamy Parmigiana di Melanzane ($19). The dish—an eggplant parmigiana layered with white besciamella sauce, topped with tomato sauce and baked with mozzarella—comes expertly prepared by chef (and Italy native) Fiore Colella.

the Blueberry Martini |
Florentine Café, 333 Hanover St., 617-227-1777: In addition to its delicious food, Florentine Café’s open-air environment makes it a great stop for people-watching on Hanover Street, preferably while sipping a tasty blueberry martini ($11), an extra chilled, straight-up martini with a sugar rim, made from pureed blueberry juice, Stirrings Wild Blueberry and blueberry vodka.

Marco Polo |
Lucia, 415 Hanover St., 617-367-2353: Lucia’s Marco Polo ($23.75) satisfies seafood lovers’ appetites with a fresh assortment of delights from the Atlantic. The dish combines shrimp, clams, mussels, fillet of sole, calamari and scallops together in a marinara sauce over linguini for a delicacy that would make Neptune himself weep with joy.

Arancini and Calzones |
Galleria Umberto Rosticceria, 289 Hanover St., 617-227-5709: Arancini—a deep-fried rice ball filled with meat, peas and cheese—or a stuffed calzone, both for $3.50 or less, make for an affordable lunch from this popular take-out spot. But get there early because lines can get long, and when they run out of food the doors are shut.

Calamari |
Mamma Maria’s, 3 North Sq., 617-523-0077: Few appetizers are more popular in the North End than that mouthwatering mollusk, calamari. Mamma Maria’s calamari appetizer ($10) offers a fresh, modern take on the classic dish: the marinated squid is grilled instead of deep-fried, creating a clean taste which is accented by roasted fennel and other savory herbs.

Rigatoni Al Cinghiale |
Lucca, 226 Hanover St., 617-742-9200: Described as a sort of “Italian pulled pork,” this unique dish ($23) is actually wild boar shoulder served with rigatoni pasta, peppers and onions in tomato sauce.

Fried Cod Cheeks |
Marco, 253 Hanover St., 617-742-1276: Named by Food & Wine magazine as one of the 10 best new chefs, owner Marc Orfaly spices up Marco’s menu by accenting Rome’s traditional cuisine with flavors from around the world. We recommend the Mediterranean-influenced fried cod cheeks. Served with crispy prosciutto and hot cherry peppers, these salty and savory delights ($12) are sure to pop in your mouth.

Cannoli |
Maria’s Pastry Shop, 46 Cross St., 617-523-1196: No stop in the North End is complete without an award-winning cannoli ($2) from the family-run pastry shop Maria’s. The fried dough shell is freshly stuffed with chocolate cream, vanilla cream or Ricotta cheese the moment you order it. Competitor Mike’s Pastry may attract throngs of tourists, but Maria’s is truly a hidden gem beloved by locals.

Torrone |
Modern Pastry, 257 Hanover St., 617-523-3783: Not craving a cannoli? Then, stop in to Modern Pastry and try one of their famous honey almond dessert nougats, or torrone ($4.75). Choose from flavors like the cappuccino torrone—dipped in distinctive milk coffee chocolate and a blend of espresso beans—or the white torrone, a fluffy vanilla nougat with roasted almonds.

Lemon Slush |
Polcari’s Coffee, 105 Salem St., 617-227-0786: Blend in with the locals by ordering the coolest treat on the street at Polcari’s Coffee. Although the frosty drink scooped from a barrel outside the shop’s front door is really more of a lemon slush, locals have renamed it “lemonade” ($1-1.50.) While there, check out this venerable shop’s large stock of coffee, tea and spices.

Pizza |
Pushcart Pizzeria, 117 Salem St., 617-523-8123: Make sure to grab a slice of pizza from Pushcart Pizzeria, especially on Monday nights, when you get free slices with the purchase of a drink. Pushcart tends to get fairly crowded with people stopping in for a slice ($2.50 & up) or a full pie ($9–14), but even when busy, the vibe remains casual.

Maiale |
Terramia, 98 Salem St., 617-523-3112: Enjoy a private dinner at intimate Terramia, where the delicious Maiale—a fillet of pork tenderloin with a honey walnut crust, served with parsnip puree, baby spinach and dried California prune sauce ($29)—is one of the most popular dishes on the menu.

Lobster Ravioli |
Limoncello Ristorante, 190 North St., 617-523- 4480: Served in a creamy crabmeat and cherry tomato sauce, Limoncello’s version of what’s now a staple of many North End menus is rich and filling without being overwhelming, and at just $15, is surprisingly affordable.

Prosciutto Bocconcini e Peperoni |
Strega Ristorante, 379 Hanover St., 617-523-8481: Before the main event, Italians like to start with an antipasti, or light appetizer. Long a popular choice of local and visiting celebrities, Strega offers a perfect one: homemade mozzarella wrapped inside thinly sliced prosciutto and topped with roasted red peppers ($14.95).

Stuffed Veal Chops |
Massimino’s Cucina Italiana, 207 Endicott St., 617-523-5959: Here’s the ultimate insider tip: the special stuffed veal chops ($31.95)—served in a wild mushroom port reduction with fontina cheese, pancetta, fresh basil, and roasted red peppers—isn’t even on the menu, but it is a house specialty they’ll be happy to cook for you on request.

Saltimbocca di Pollo |
Antico Forno, 93 Salem St., 617-723-6733: Antico Forno’s brick oven makes it one of the neighborhood’s best bets for pizza and rustic dishes like the traditional Italian saltimbocca with chicken ($17). The dish—seared chicken breast topped with Parma prosciutto and fontina cheese in a Madeira mushroom wine sauce with sautéed garlic spinach—simply melts in your mouth.

Chicken Parmigiana and Meatball Paninis |
Artu Trattoria and Rosticceria, 6 Prince St., 617-742-4336: There’s nothing that curbs mid-day hunger pangs like a sub, and no one makes them better than Artu. Indulge in a classic panini from Artu’s take-out counter, including a killer chicken parm for $6.25, or the meatball panini made with homemade meatballs served for $5.95.

Bolognese Sauce |
Assaggio, 29 Prince St., 617-227-7380: Bolognese sauce, a meat-based light tomato sauce, is a staple of Italian cooking, and Assaggio has it mastered. Try it on any of the pastas for about $13.95 or sample Assaggio’s lasagna, layered with Bolognese, for $14.95.

Frozen Cappuccino |
Caffe Graffiti, 280 Hanover St., 617-227-1562: Revel in the open air seating of Caffe Graffiti as you sip a frozen cappuccino and watch the hustle and bustle of Hanover Street. A perfect spot to chill and chat with friends, Graffiti also boasts imported Italian pastries and creamy gelato.

Tiramisu and Espresso Corretto |
Caffe Vittoria, 296 Hanover St., 617-227-7606: Open late on Friday and Saturday nights, Caffe Vittoria is the spot to indulge in an after dinner coffee and dessert. Try the Espresso Corretto, a mix of espresso and Sambuca ($4.20) and of course, no Italian meal is complete without that decadent dessert, tiramisu—a mix of Mascarpone cheese, espresso, ladyfingers, liquor and cocoa ($3.94).

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