date published: July 30, 2007

5 questions with...

Michele ToporMichele Topor
by Josh B. Wardrop

Michele Topor is a 35-year resident of Boston’s North End, and a culinary guru who leads foodies through the traditional Italian neighborhood each week on her exploration of the borough’s top specialty stores, The North End Market Tour. She spoke to Panorama about what makes the North End Boston’s most popular destination.

Q: Talk about the North End Market Tours. What do you hope people get out of them?
I think of it as a walking cooking class exploring the culture of Mediterranean food. I want people to learn about the best authentic ingredients, so they can make better, healthier food.

Q: What are three places every visitor to the neighborhood should visit?
Well, there’s Hanover Street—our social center, where everybody comes together. The Old North Church is a very special place. And there’s Polcari’s—a shop that sells coffee, beans, nuts...stepping in is like going back in time 40 years.

Q: Settle the eternal debate when it comes to North End pastry: Mike’s or The Modern?
Honestly, I go to Maria’s! (laughs) The others are very good, but Maria is very Old World, and she fills all her cannolis as you order them. No self-respecting Italian would buy a pre-filled cannoli!

Q: Silly question—can you suggest a good North End restaurant?
(Laughs) What are you in the mood for? For pizza, I like Antico Forno, and I love Ernesto’s—a little hole-in-the-wall on Salem Street. For a romantic meal, Mamma Maria is so pretty, and they make you feel special dining there. I love Marco—they cure their own salami…I could keep going!

Q: What makes the North End such a special place?
It’s the city’s oldest neighborhood, and it’s retained that Old World feeling of community. It’s social and intimate, and rich with history. And where can you eat better?