In Boston, when people crave Italian cuisine, their minds automatically go to the bustling, festive streets of The North End, where New England meets Little Italy. However, many of the best Italian restaurants are also located far from the reaches of Hanover and Salem Street.
Hidden amongst the crooked streets of the Bay Village since 2008, on the cusp of the Back Bay/South End border is one of Boston’s Italian gems. Erbaluce, headed by chef Charles Draghi, showcases a menu that changes nightly to reflect the most seasonal ingredients. Everything is made in house, including delicious pastas and wonderful risottos.The cuisine is simple Italian, nothing ostentatious, with each ingredient being used with intention and purpose.
2. Trattoria di Monica
This gem is indeed located in the North End, but off of the main street of Hanover. Settle into this tiny spot for nightly specials and do not leave without one or two of their pasta dishes. Any seasonal appetizer or buratta is a good way to start.
Gnocchi at Trattoria di Monica (credit: Trattoria di Monica)
From the famed Ken Oringer and Jamie Bisonnette duo, you can enjoy Italian small plates on a quiet corner in the South End. For lunch and dinner on weekdays and brunch on Saturday and Sunday, classic Italian dishes are accented with some of Chef Jamie’s culinary inspirations from around the world. Their Sicilian fisherman’s pizza, orecchiette pasta with chicken sausage, and local burrata are solid orders. Try something more adventurous like their tripe and snails or wood oven roasted pig bones and tails.
Another gem off Hanover street in the North End is Carmen Restaurant. Tiny but effecient, you have to walk through the kitchen to get to the restroom. Their cioppino is one of the best around and should they have fried zuchinni florets as a special, don't hesitate.
In Boston's booming Fort Point neighborhood, you'll fine restaurant empire and chef Barbara Lynch's Sportello restaurant. With their bakery-turned-wine bar, you can go all out Italian here. Just make sure you order their rabbit strozzapreti — it is without a doubt one of the top pasta dishes in Boston.
Another wonderful Italian treat, again hidden away from most foot traffic, is James Beard Award winning chef Jody Adam’s Rialto. Inside the Charles River Hotel, Rialto’s menu highlights regional Italian cuisine, shifting every couple of months to focus on a different area. Seafood dishes are wonderfully prepared and definite highlights, as is the extensive wine list, with a comforting offering of Italian vineyards… and do not leave without a glass of grappa to top off what will be a delightful meal. In the good weather, request a seat outdoors on their lovely veranda.
Chocolate cheesecake at Rialto (credit: Rialto)
With two locations in Boston, Toscano is a solid option for Italian dining. Originally on Charles Street in Beacon Hill, Toscano has since opened up a second location in Harvard Square. The latter has a wonderful, classic Italian feel, with a beautiful bar area with large windows opening up onto Brattle Street. Homemade pastas and fresh and simple tasting seafood are all great choices. However, their nightly specials often offer something a little different, created by the culinary team.
8. Trattoria Toscano
Perhaps the most hidden and overlooked Italian restaurant in Boston is Trattoria Toscano. On a small street near the Fens, this is the kind of place you could easily stumble upon one day and miss the next, which is a huge shame considering the authentic Italian experience you will have here. Very small, with a kitchen almost in the dining room itself, the food presented here, along with the service, is quintessential Italian. Any of their pastas are wonderful, and their daily antipasto makes for the perfect start to a meal. Whether you reserve for a large, family-style dinner, or wish to share this special place with one special person, you will feel transported.
9. Bin 26 Enoteca
Our list of Italian spots would be incomplete without a shout out to sister/brother duo Chef Azita Bina-Seibel and Babak Bina's Charles street wine bar. With a small menu designed to accompany their 60 glass and 200 bottle strong international wine list, this is an ideal spot to spend hours enjoying the company of friends and family Italian-style.
A Somerville institution since 2009, Posto is New England’s only Verace Pizza Napoletana (Naples Certified) Pizzeria. What began as a classic Neapolitan, wood-fired pizzeria, has since turned into much more with a complete and rotating menu. You can expect a new menu and a wonderfully revamped, all-Italian wine list. A meal at Posto will be comfortable and casual, but with the attention to detail found at Boston’s most fine dining institution. This is a must visit…or re-visit!
So the next time you are in the market for an Italian experience, venture outside of the North End comfort zone…it will be worth it!
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25 Italian Foods Your Nonna Fed You, Ranked
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I come from an Italian-American family in a small, New Jersey town where food was always idolized. Just one glimpse into the preparation of Italian food and you see how much we really care about our heritage. And if there had to be just one good thing that I took out of my heritage, it’s an Italian’s appreciation for ingredients.
Growing up with this mediterranean culture set me up for a future in food. Everyone in the family had a hand in preparing the meal, be it turning the sauce, breading the chicken, or cutting the bread. That being said, there are many favorites I grew up eating, and I decided it’s time to share them. So here’s the definitive ranking of 25 Italian foods your Nonna fed you.
25. Chicken Marsala
Photo courtesy of Jefferyw on Flickr
The best thing about Italian food is that almost everything comes with a sauce. In this comforting dish, we cook juicy pieces of chicken with marsala wine and mushrooms for a hearty meal (served over pasta, of course).
24. Fettuccine Alfredo
Photo courtesy of Stephen Depolo on Flickr
The best thing about an Alfredo sauce is its versatility. Leave it as is or throw in some broccoli and shrimp. While the origins of this dish are often disputed, this creamy sauce will leave you wanting more.
Photo courtesy of Cooking etc. on Flickr
There’s nothing like homemade pasta, but homemade gnocchi is a whole new level of amazing. While they feel as light as pillows, these fluffy potato pastas need to be eaten in small portions to avoid extreme overeating. But sometimes (AKA always), it’s worth the risk.
22. Chicken Francese
Photo courtesy of abc.go.com
Italians love lemon. I can’t stress that enough. That being said, it’s no surprise that one of our best known dishes has this citrus fruit as the main component, keeping the meal light and fresh (to make up for the five bowls of pasta you ate before the main course).
21. Penne alla vodka
Photo courtesy of dbgg1979 on Flickr
Penne alla vodka is another popular Americanized Italian dish. But when it’s done right, there’s really nothing like a heaping bowlful. Small town NJ takes this dish to a whole new level: penne vodka pizza. It’s the best thing I have ever eaten. You’ll thank me later.
Cannoli are good from the local bakery, but eating them freshly piped in Nonna’s kitchen is preferred. That way you can eat the leftover ricotta filling by the spoonful. Find out how to make your own with this recipe.
19. Zuppa de Pesce
Photo courtesy of it.wikipedia.org
Zuppa de pesce (“fish soup”) is a Christmas Eve classic. Clams, mussels, lobster, shrimp you name it, it’s in there. We pour this soup over spaghetti or angel hair pasta for two reasons. 1) To soak up the broth. 2) What’s a meal without pasta?
Photo courtesy of Ilares Riolfi on Flickr
Zeppole is to Italy as funnel cake is to America. Traditionally, this fried treat is stuffed with a ricotta filling or custard and eaten on St. Joseph’s day. However, it doesn’t have to be a special occasion to consume these fritters.
Photo courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org
Antipasto means “before the meal.” It’s a spread of cured meats, Italian cheeses, marinated olives, roasted peppers, different breads, and anything else your Nonna feels like adding to the table. With ample options, it’s hard to not find something to eat.
If I could only eat olives and bread, I would. Olives provide us with olive oil (AKA liquid gold), olive bread, and a lot of health benefits. They also make you look like an alien when put on your fingertips. But in all seriousness, these tiny ovals are my favorite thing to snack on. Check out this recipe for an easy and delicious way to prepare them.
Tortellini is the most underrated pasta of all time. They can be served hot or cold, in a sauce or in soup. Watching them made fresh right in front of you is the coolest thing to see. And they’re stuffed with cheeses. Need I say more? If you’re looking for a quick dinner, check out this recipe for tortellini and spinach.
14. Broccoli Rabe
Photo courtesy of Tom Ipri
Broccoli rabe is a prime example of how much Italians care about food. While it’s only a side dish, an Italian would never dare to serve it plain. It must be cooked and seasoned with all the right fixings (garlic, oil, crushed red pepper) in order to be to be table ready.
Photo courtesy of wikimedia.com
Giambotta is a cook everything, eat everything meal. It’s a vegetable stew with ingredients like potatoes, summer squash, onions, tomatoes, eggplant, and mushrooms. It’s a warm and hearty cure for a cold winter night, and a great thing for Nonna to cook when she needs to empty out the fridge.
When you think Italian food, you think bolognese sauce. It’s classic, it’s simple, and it’s oh-so good when Nonna cooks it up every Sunday. Don’t be scared to take a bit more sauce than pasta it’s perfect for dipping bread in.
Photo courtesy of youtube.com
Lasagne is one of the best Italian foods because you can do anything you want to it and it will still taste good. I’ve seen it made with spinach, mushrooms, and even butternut squash. While it’s great to test the limits of this dish, a classic lasagne with bolognese, ricotta, and mozzarella is hard to beat.
Photo courtesy of wikipedia.com
This Italian food doesn’t even need an explanation, so instead I’ll list some examples. Mozzarella, gorgonzola, asiago, parmigiano-reggiano, fontina, buratta, and taleggio.
9. Eggplant Parmigiana
Photo courtesy of wikipedia.com
Eggplant parmigiana is very similar to lasagna, expect it’s not made with pasta and is smothered in a difference sauce. Do to its lack of carbs, this goes great in between two slices of Italian panella or on top of some linguine.
8. Christmas Cookies
Photo courtesy of wikipedia.com
Nothing is better than walking into Nonna’s house in December to the smell of christmas cookies in the oven. These sweet treats are piled high on festive plates, begging to be eaten. Cookies include knot cookies, rainbow cookies, pignoli cookies, biscotti, butter cookies, macaroons, pizzelle, and butterballs.
7. Chicken Cutlets
Photo courtesy of wikipedia.com
I don’t even have words to describe chicken cutlets. The simplicity of the item is probably what makes it so special. And when the grandkids go away to college, it’s not long before they have seperation anxiety from their Nonna’s chicken cutlets (or is that just me?).
Photo courtesy of wikipedia.com
Many cultures have meatballs as a staple dish, so it’s no surprise that Italians do too. The size of Italian meatballs depends on how many people Nonna is cooking for, but there will never be a lack of these marinara-covered balls of happiness.
Photo courtesy of wikipedia.com
Bread is love, bread is life. It’s good for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacking in between. Have it with some olives during antipasto or clean your plate with it after the first course. Any Nonna knows that it’s not a meal without bread on the table, and no good Italian would object.
Photo courtesy of wikipedia.com
I am a pizza snob. I refuse to accept a mediocre slice, and I have learned that pizza anywhere outside of New York/New Jersey is just not that good. And for that, I can think my Nonna for cooking up homemade pies that forced me to set my standards high.
Photo courtesy of flickr.com
Seriously, never underestimate an Italian’s ability to make an entire meal out of what ever is in the house. Nonna’s soup is a cure-all be it the average cold, stress from school, or plain old hunger.
2. Sausage and Peppers
Photo courtesy of Flickr.com
Be it New Years day or a family gathering, sausage and peppers is always on the menu. Whether you put it in a roll or eat it as-is, it’s hard not to love this dish. And the best part? Add the left overs to some eggs for an easy next-day breakfast.
1. Sunday Dinner
Photo courtesy of flickr.com
Every Sunday is a holiday when you’re Italian. It’s a meal that starts at 2 pm and ends at 8 pm. It’s a day of indulging in life’s greatest pleasure: food. The dinner consists of antipasto, pastas, meats, desserts, and more.
Ranking all of my favorite foods was really hard to do, but I know it was for the greater good. Now that you know what you should be eating, what are you waiting for? Mangia!
The Best Restaurants in Boston
Find the best chowder, lobster rolls, barbecue and more in Beantown.
Photo By: Morgan Ione Yeager
Seafood: Select Oyster Bar
In a city teeming with seafood restaurants, it can be hard for any one to stand out, but Select Oyster Bar in the Back Bay, opened by chef-owner Michael Serpa in 2015, manages to do just that. Serpa, who earned wide acclaim as executive chef of Neptune Oyster in the North End, operates a sleek and sexy restaurant, where the focus is squarely on fresh seafood, not just the oyster it's named for. While dishes like an enormous Maine lobster salad and tasty seafood bouillabaisse are outstanding, raw seafood is where it's at. Dayboat scallop ceviche with lime, shallot and cilantro, or hamachi crudo with orange, Marcona almonds and radishes, taste exceptionally fresh and bright.
Pizza: Pizzeria Regina
Since 1926, the family-owned Regina Pizzeria has served tasty pies in North End&rsquos Little Italy. Now run by the third generation of the Polcari family, Regina has outposts throughout Massachusetts. Happily the signature brick-oven pizza tastes the same at each location, though dining at the &ldquooriginal pizzeria,&rdquo where time seems to have stood still, is an experience all by itself. The pie is so beloved, the Boston Red Sox named it the team&rsquos official pizza. Regina&rsquos claims its secret to success is in its centuries-old crust recipe, light but tangy sauce and aged whole-milk mozzarella. Whatever it is, it&rsquos pretty hard to stop at just one slice. Pizza aficionados love that you can order your crust according to preference, from light to well done, with no hassle.
French Twist: Frenchie
This snug little bistro in the South End is as authentically French as it gets, with owners who grew up in France, and a staff that seems imported straight from Paris, complete with accents. White-brick walls, tile and marble floors inside &mdash plus a patio and a solarium strung with twinkling lights &mdash make for an utterly charming atmosphere. The wine list features a generous number of wines by the glass, most of them French, and the menu boasts dishes like escargot garlic toast, which will make you forget avocado toast was ever a thing. Follow it up with delicate mussels in a white wine broth, perfectly cooked drumstick coq au vin, silky foie gras and classic steak tartare. If you didn&rsquot know you were in Boston, you&rsquod swear you were in a little bistro in the City of Lights.
Chowder: Legal Sea Foods
Clams, garlic, salt pork, onions, flour, clam broth, fish stock, potatoes and light cream: Nine simple ingredients make up one of New England&rsquos most-iconic dishes, offered at one of New England&rsquos best-known restaurants, Legal Sea Foods. The first Legal&rsquos, as locals call it, opened in 1968, next to the Berkowitz family&rsquos fish market (which opened in 1950). Still family-run, Legal&rsquos now has restaurants up and down the East Coast, but its chowder, which was served at almost every Presidential Inauguration since 1981, is probably its most-famous dish. Rich and creamy, chockful of clams, it is essentially New England in a bowl.
Barbecue: Sweet Cheeks
Boston has not historically been known for its barbecue, but Top Chef contestant Tiffani Faison made great strides when she opened Sweets Cheeks several years back. Based in Fenway, the restaurant is a casual, boisterous place to dine, with ribs, chicken and other smoky mainstays served on metal trays lined with butcher paper. Drinks arrive in mason jars. Faison&rsquos biscuits, accompanied by honey butter, inspire an almost cult following, but the Texas-style barbecue is the star here. Heritage-breed pulled pork, St. Louis pork ribs and chopped brisket can be ordered alone or in combo trays. Classic sides, like mac n&rsquo cheese and collard greens, complement the meats. Try to save room for the outstanding butterscotch pudding, if you can.
Located in the Seaport District, Committee is a lively and fun place to enjoy traditional Greek fare, preferably with a few friends. Sharing is the name of the game at the Mediterranean restaurant, which sports a modern and stylish design with communal tables and a wraparound bar. Start with a trio of dips or the spanakopita spread, a plate of olives and sesame-crusted feta with Greek honey, then dig into spiced ground-beef kebabs, artichoke moussaka, and grilled lamb chops marinated in olive oil. The bar has great fun with the cocktail program, creating drinks like the Great Scott!, a concoction of brown-butter washed bourbon, rye, Cynar, vanilla, saline, creole and chocolate bitters. There&rsquos also a large selection of Greek wines by the glass and bottle.
The black-and-white tiled floors, the tin ceiling and the Prohibition-era cocktails at Marliave harken back to another era, which is exactly when the historic restaurant opened. Henry Marliave, a French immigrant from Paris, opened his namesake restaurant in Downtown Boston in 1885, and though it has had its ups and downs over the years, it remains a delightful throwback to another time. Now owned and operated by Scott Herritt, who also owns the nearby Grotto, Marliave skews French, with escargot, French onion soup and steak frites on a menu that also includes osso buco, Berkshire pork chops and pasta. A twice-daily oyster happy hour, from 4 to 6 p.m. and again from 9 to 10 p.m., brings in both after-work crowds and late-night diners.
Oyster Bar: Island Creek Oyster Bar
Island Creek Oysters show up on menus across the city, pretty much anywhere oysters are sold, but there&rsquos something especially satisfying about slurping them up at their namesake restaurant in Kenmore Square. At any given time, there are more than a dozen oysters on offer, not just Island Creek&rsquos Duxbury-harvested varieties. Oysters from up and down the New England, from Maine to Martha&rsquos Vineyard, as well as Prince Edward Island, are usually available. For those who want more than oysters, all the seafood here is outstanding. The crudo and tartares are always remarkable Maine lobster appears in a roll, on a salad and in a soup and daily specials highlight the freshest local catches. Service here is also excellent, with everyone well-versed in the seafood, including the sommelier.
Hot Spot: Guy Fieri’s Tequila Cocina
Guy Fieri opened his first Boston restaurant in late 2019, adding Guy Fieri&rsquos Tequila Cocina to his long portfolio of restaurants. Located in the new Hub on Causeway complex next to TD Garden, the Latin-inspired menu features appropriately on-brand items like Trash Can Nachos (served in a can that a server upends on a plate in front of you), as well as selections of small and large plates ranging from salsa and chips and tacos to roasted pork shank and crispy whole snapper. There&rsquos also an enormous menu of tequilas and if you can&rsquot make up your mind, you can order a flight to sample a few. Beantown, meet Flavortown!
Sports Bar: Banner’s Kitchen & Tap
For sports fans who can&rsquot score tickets to their favorite team&rsquos game, or those who prefer to dine in comfort while cheering or booing, Banner&rsquos Kitchen & Tap, which opened in the new Hub on Causeway complex next to TD Garden, is a more than satisfying option. The enormous 25,000-square-foot-space is basically designed around what&rsquos touted as the largest LED TV screen on the East Coast, measuring in at an astounding 40 feet. And if that&rsquos not enough, there are also 13 screens and five banners with live scores and stats. And since watching a sporting event is not really complete without tasty fare, Banner&rsquos serves up favorites like nachos, burgers and fish and chips, as well as some notable items, such as the clothesline smoked bacon (pork belly, black pepper and maple glaze) and an amazing buffalo cauliflower appetizer that might just make you forget wings.
Neighborhood Joint: Brassica Kitchen + Café
Tucked into a row of businesses across from the Forest Hills T station in Jamaica Plain, this is precisely the kind of restaurant where everybody knows your name &mdash and what you drink. They probably also remember what you ate last time and have something you should try this time. Chef-Owners Jeremy Kean and Philip Kruta, who made their mark as pop-up chefs at Wink & Nod in the South End, may keep things casual here, but with food and drinks that are anything but. The décor is cozy, with all the wood counters, tabletops and shelves made by Kruta using wood re-purposed from an old farmhouse. Dishes like buttermilk-brined fried chicken and the Brassica burger, with a smoked green tomato and secret sauce, elevate the standards. The creative cocktails are excellent here, too.
Cocktails: Eastern Standard
Well-crafted cocktails are a hallmark at Eastern Standard, where the bartenders are very serious about their trade. Located around the corner from Fenway Park in Kenmore Square, the popular and bustling spot, which is reminiscent of a grand European brasserie, has been a neighborhood favorite since it opened in 2005. The bar area centers around an enormously long white marble bar, with red leather stools and cozy banquettes. Those lucky enough to snag a seat at the bar are treated to a front row seat as the bartenders whip up libations for the massive dining room.
Modern Italian: Sportello
One of the restaurants in Boston powerhouse chef Barbara Lynch&rsquos portfolio &mdash which includes No. 9 Park, B&G Oysters, Menton, Drink, Stir and The Butcher Shop &mdash the casual and chic Sportello in Fort Point Channel is what Lynch calls a modern Italian trattoria. The restaurant evokes a diner, with a U-shaped counter in the middle offering views of the kitchen. At lunch, a two-course prix-fixe menu is the way to go, with minestrone or a chicory salad, followed by Lynch&rsquos signature tagliatelle bolognese or braised rabbit pasta. At lunch and dinner, all the pastas are made in house and change with the seasons, including gnocchi, black garlic pappardelle and tortelloni. They are even better with a glass from the all-Italian wine list.
Classic Bakery: Mike’s Pastry
Expect a long line no matter the time of day at this iconic North End bakery, where cannoli fly out the door by the dozen, and have since the bakery&rsquos opening, in 1946. The classic pastry shell, stuffed with ricotta cheese, is packaged in a signature white box tied with string, which thrills anyone who receives one as a gift. Cannoli filling flavors run the gamut, from plain (but tasty) to the more exotic Nutella and limoncello. Other delicious pastries include biscotti, cookies and lobster tails, an American version of the Italian sfogliatelle ricci, a pastry stuffed with a combination of whipped and pastry creams.
Late Night: Dumpling Palace
A city where the subway stops running by 2 a.m., Boston isn&rsquot known for its wealth of dining options after midnight. Luckily, Dumpling Palace bucks the trend, serving until 3 a.m. Located in the Back Bay and the sister to popular Chinatown&rsquos Dumpling Café, Dumpling Palace takes its name seriously. The namesake dumplings shine here, including delicious soup dumplings, little purses filled with broth and meat. Crowd-pleasers like scallion pancakes and pan-fried wontons, as well as a variety of noodle and rice dishes, round out the lengthy menu.
Supper Club: The Beehive
Few spots can host top-notch live music every night of the week with absolutely no cover charge, and also serves excellent food and drinks. That&rsquos what makes The Beehive so special. Located in the South End, in the Boston Center for the Arts complex, this artsy restaurant andclub occupies a sprawling two-level space decorated with local art that rotates often. Live entertainment includes jazz, blues, cabaret, burlesque, country, R&B and more. The menu is eclectic, with dishes like lamb moussaka, duck au poivre and pan-seared salmon. Come early for dinner, then settle back to enjoy the show. The weekend jazz brunch, which runs from 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m., is wildly popular.
Doughnuts: Blackbird Doughnuts
Blackbird Doughnuts gained a cult following pretty much the day it opened its doors in the South End in 2015. Part of the Gallows Group, which also owns Gallows and the Banyan Bar + Refuge restaurants, the bakery&rsquos scratch-made creations include seasonal flavors like Salted Toffee, Pumpkin Boston Cream Bismarck and Cherry Cobbler. Even Grammy Award-winning singer Adele loves them: She gave the Boston Cream Bismarck flavor a nod during a concert at TD Garden in 2016. A new outpost of the doughnut shop recently opened in 2017 in Fenway.
Italy by Way of Venice: SRV
SRV, which stands for Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia, or Most-Serene Republic of Venice, transports diners to Italy with plates of pasta made from house-milled flour, and various tasty cicchetti, or small bites, including pork and beef meatballs, shrimp-studded polenta and salt cod with black bread and herbs. Risotto, whether flavored with mushroom, fish or lobster, is always outstanding and worth the 25 minutes it takes to make. Located in the South End, the cozy restaurant &mdash run by chefs Michael Lombardi and Kevin O&rsquoDonnell &mdash has collected rave reviews and awards ever since opening in 2016.
Hot Lobster Roll: Mare
The battle for lobster roll supremacy in Boston may be stressful for restaurateurs, but it&rsquos a delicious research project for diners. Variables include the type of roll, whether the lobster meat is hot or cold, and if it&rsquos served with mayonnaise or not. For the purist, Mare in the North End offers a top-notch version, made with the meat of a two-and-a-half-pound lobster and nothing else, served in a brioche roll made fresh daily at sister bread bakery Bricco Panetteria. Snag a seat on the patio for great views, cozy fire pits and a glass of wine to enhance enjoyment of your lobster roll.
Dive Bar: Bukowski Tavern
This little spot, tucked into the outside corner of a parking garage in the Back Bay on top of the Massachusetts Turnpike, meets all the requirements of a classic dive bar: It&rsquos cash only, it&rsquos got an exhaustive beer list, it features dishes like &ldquowhite trash&rdquo cheese dip, the music is loud and the staff can be friendly, or not, according to whim. Can&rsquot pick a beer? Spin the beer wheel and live with the consequences. Regulars can join the &ldquomug club&rdquo to earn their own mug (which is then hung from a hook on the ceiling) by drinking their way through the beer list within six months.
Steakhouse: Grill 23
For more than 30 years, Grill 23 & Bar has set the bar for what a steakhouse should be, and while it has the requisite white tablecloths, enormous portions and servers clad in formal jackets, the beef is what really matters. It comes from a farm in California that raises vegetarian-fed, hormone- and antibiotic-free cows, which makes a difference in the taste of the beef. Seafood and produce, however, are sourced locally. A perfect meal here might be a plate of raw oysters, the 14-ounce dry-aged prime New York strip, sides of broccoli rabe gratin and truffle oil tater tots, then the sublime coconut cake to finish.
Tacos & Tequila: Loco Taqueria
This lively South Boston restaurant always feels like a party, with a giant bar in the middle of its large room. The tequila and mezcal menus likely also have something to do with that. Those who can&rsquot settle on one of the dozens and dozens of choices can go for one of the flights, such as the bartender&rsquos favorites or the Tour de Mexico. Fun and inventive mixed drinks include the Rainbow Dragon, a mai tai made with tequila. Tacos range from a somewhat traditional Baja-style fried fish, with charred jalapeno, pineapple aioli, pickled cabbage and avocado, to the fun General Tso&rsquos Taco, with sweet and spicy glaze, pineapple rice, sesame and cilantro. The raw bar is outstanding, with gorgeous dishes like oyster ceviche topped with passionfruit, mango, pineapple, pomegranate, habanero and citrus.
Deuxave has everything you could want in a French restaurant: a gorgeous setting, well-informed servers and spot-on food. Chef-Owner Chris Coombs opened this contemporary French restaurant in 2010 in the Back Bay to wide acclaim and it&rsquos as good as ever. Start with the nine-hour French onion soup (the richness of the broth is worth the intensive prep) and dive into the spiced Long Island duck breast with huckleberry jus, sautéed bulgur and a kale salad. Allow your server to suggest wine pairings &mdash they know what they&rsquore talking about here.
Southern-Style Brunch: Buttermilk & Bourbon
If Southern food &mdash including puffy beignets, buttermilk biscuits and fried chicken and waffles &mdash is your idea of a perfect brunch, then Buttermilk & Bourbon awaits. The latest enterprise of Chef Jason Santos of Citrus & Salt and Back Bay Harry&rsquos, Buttermilk & Bourbon firmly embraces Southern sensibility with a creative spin. Bananas Foster pancakes, deviled egg toast and bruleed grapefruit switch up brunch standards. Pair the food with a pitcher of hurricanes or something from the DIY bloody Mary bar, then end with a soft-serve mimosa (watermelon sorbet and a split of Champagne).
Once upon a pre-pandemic time, lining up outside this North End landmark was a rite of passage for any Boston pasta lover who wanted to experience a cozy, comfortable setting for linguini with clams or calamari, lobster ravioli, and other seafood-leaning mains like the zuppa di pesce, a sized-for-two splay of shrimps, scallops, mussels and more over pasta. Nowadays you’ll probably find it a little easier to get inside, but there’s also takeout and delivery available if you’d rather wait until everything (including that famous queue) is back to normal.
Pammy’s in Cambridge has updated its dining room with stylish table dividers to enhance guest safety. / Photo by Pat Piasecki
Heartbreaks, pink slips, freezing temperatures—all these and more can be soothed by a plate of pasta with Bolognese sauce. We find the nonna-approved panacea at the spots below.
The Lumache pasta served at inventive Cambridge trattoria Pammy’s is a Bolognese dish that breaks the rules—and receives a pass from us. It starts with a snail-shaped pasta made on-site from hearty semolina flour and cooked to a toothsome, al dente texture. The Bolognese sauce that accompanies it gets a surprising jolt from gochujang paste, a spicy Korean ingredient that cuts the richness while adding an entirely new spectrum of flavor.
For a plate of Tagliatelle Bolognese that’s just as indulgent as it should be, put your trust in Barbara Lynch’s Fort Point Italian restaurant. Sportello’s chefs add chicken liver to a sauce that already includes pork, veal, lamb, and cream for extra richness and an outstanding depth of flavor. It’s doused over silky tagliatelle, which is made fresh daily.
Fox & the Knife
If your expectations of Bolognese involve fat noodles swimming in red sauce, allow Fox & the Knife to subvert them. The house-made pasta in the Tagliatelle Bolognese is cut thin to balance out a hearty sauce made with pork, veal, wild boar, fresh thyme, and just a touch of tomato. Between the starchy noodles, crumbly meats, and freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, this flavorful dish features layers of texture.
East Boston favorite Rino’s Place serves red sauce Italian with a capital “R,” Bolognese included. The sauce used in their iteration simmers veal, pork, beef, diced onions, carrot s, and celery with fresh plum tomatoes. You can choose between nine house-made varieties of pasta, but we recommend the rigatoni for its sauce-soaking abilities.
We want to know: Who makes the best Italian sub in Boston?
The Italian sub at Centre Deli. Photo by Katherine Taylor for The Boston Globe
These 114 restaurants serve the best fried clams in Massachusetts, according to readers
What makes a perfect Italian sub?
Is it the softness of the bread? The ratio of salami to mortadella? The banana peppers? The anticipation you feel when your go-to sub guy hands over the gargantuan sandwich, wrapped in flimsy paper and slightly damp with olive oil?
There are variations on an Italian sub, but in its most basic form it features a long bread roll stuffed with a variety of cold cuts (salami, mortadella, capicola, ham), provolone cheese, a smattering of vegetables, olive oil or dressing, salt, and pepper.
Whatever your perfect Italian sub looks like, we want in. So tell us: Who makes the best Italian sub at sandwich shops and restaurants around Boston? Once we receive your recommendations, we’ll compile a guide to the best Italian subs in the city.
Where to Find the Best Italian Food in Boston - Recipes
UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE THE ONLY SPECIAL AVAILABLE MONDAY THROUGH FRIDAY WILL BE CHICKEN PARMIGIANA PANINO OR PASTA.
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Casa Razdora is one of Boston’s most authentic Italian Restaurants. Step into a convivial dining atmosphere where every visit feels like a repatriation. Order for pick-up and enjoy genuine Italian food.
At Casa Razdora, your comfort and satisfaction is assured with each meal freshly prepared and brought to your table, delivered, or served to go. Whether you’re a novice patron or a seasoned connoisseur, our menu offers a range of traditional Italian dishes fresh pasta, traditional-style pizzas, antipasti, deli-style sandwiches, beverages and desserts.
Our food tastes fresh because it’s made fresh. Everything on our menu from handmade pasta and sauces to antipasti, pizzas and
award-winning sandwiches are made from scratch. At Casa Razdora, our emphasis on traditional cooking techniques and authentic recipes assures a premiere dining experience every time you stop by.
Stop by for lunch and learn why we are known to have the Best sandwich in Boston. Order ahead and take home a classic Italian dinner.
Coppa is close to being the perfect neighborhood Italian restaurant. In the summer, you can post up at a shaded sidewalk table on a quiet South End corner. And its menu of small plates and pizza changes enough to keep you on your toes. Unfortunately, it’s also really hard to get into, but it’s open for lunch and in the afternoons, so the next time you “work from home,” make your way here and have the wood-oven baked gemelli with a glass of red as you dial-in to a conference call you’re not going to pay attention to anyway.
Before you lie to a potential employer about your ability to multitask, remember this: you’re better off doing just a few things and being great at them than trying to do it all. SRV in the South End is an Italian restaurant that doesn’t bother with pizza or large protein entrees. It just focuses on pasta and small plates, and it does them all really, really well. There’s a great creamy polenta with fried shrimp, a clam risotto that isn’t too rich to finish, and a squid ink tagliatelle that’s balanced well with some sweet lobster. It’s all good and it’s served in a big comfortable space that has outdoor seating, light fixtures made of crystal decanters, and a wine bar.
Giulia on the edge of Porter Square has a “pasta table” by the kitchen. You can book it for a big group and then eat a family-style pasta meal that the kitchen staff spent all day making by hand. But even if your dream isn’t to eat a meal at a table where you might need to spend the night wiping flour from your sleeves, you should get here anyway, because it’s the type of intimate spot that you’ll want to come to every time you’re in the mood for “a nice little Italian place.” You might have trouble deciding between all the different pasta options, but you can take solace in the fact that there are no bad choices here. Just know that you’ll have to make reservations at least a month in advance.
La Morra in Brookline is down the street from a number of hospitals, so it’s not unusual to be intermittently serenaded by ambulances while you’re having a meal here. But that white noise will easily be drowned out by some outstanding food, including choices from a cicchetti menu, which is essentially Italian-style tapas. The fried anchovies wrapped in sage leaves and chicken and duck liver pate, in particular, are the perfect negroni companions - and their tagliatelle bolognese is one of the city’s best. If you end your night with a cheese platter, tiramisu, and a digestif, there’s always the hope that a nice ambulance driver could give you a ride home.
Sorry&mdashlooks like you screwed up that email address
One of the most underrated aspects of the Italian meal is the digestivo. There you are, looking around to see if anyone will notice you loosening your belt and feeling reluctant to head back to your place, when all of a sudden, another drink appears. And what a pretty glass it comes in. Pammy’s on the edge of Harvard Square has an extensive list of these digestifs, which is nice, because with a fireplace and a menu of things like taglierini with oxtail and mussels with squid ink arancini, you won’t want to leave any time soon.
Fat Hen is usually a place you can walk into on any weeknight. You should take advantage of that, because the small spot out in East Somerville has a tiny but outstanding menu of small-plate pastas and interesting entrees like swordfish with beans, pickled ramps, and wild watercress (the last of which sounds like something you’d feed a horse, but is actually quite flavorful). The seasonal agnolotti is our go-to second course on the nightly $65 four-course prix-fixe meal here.
Having an opera-singing bartender isn’t one of our requirements for making this list, but it’s a pretty good start. The bartender at Mida on the South End/Roxbury border occasionally pauses from shaking a martini to sing a few bars of an aria that we’re not cultured enough to identify by ear. Thankfully, this place also has a strong menu of things like seared scallops with bone marrow and golden raisins, and it’s in a cool space where you’ll happily spend a few hours before going back to an apartment that is, sadly, entirely bereft of teardrop lamps, comfortable leather booths, and anyone who knows how to sing the overture to La Traviata.
If you’re one of those people who looks at a map and pictures “here be dragons” written over any neighborhood the T doesn’t reach, then you’re missing out on one of the city’s best Italian restaurants in Roslindale Square. Delfino is a tiny spot that makes big plates of things like open-faced lobster ravioli and a veal saltimbocca that bleeds cheese like a wounded Frenchman. It’s crowded just about every night, but you can usually walk-in.
Even though it’s so crowded, the North End is still plenty romantic thanks to its twisting streets, corner cafes, and the hourly reenactment of the make-out session Paul and Rachel Revere engaged in before he set off on his midnight ride. (OK, we may have made that last one up.) If you’re looking for a romantic North End night yourself, Prezza on Fleet Street is your best bet. It’s a white-tablecloth spot far from the tourists on Hanover, and with a menu of things like crispy shrimp with cherry pepper aioli and smoked ricotta ravioli with braised veal, you’ll be eating better than they do as well.
If you’re the kind of person who likes foods with bread, then the flavorless bruschetta at most Italian restaurants is probably pretty depressing. Thankfully, you have a whole host of excellent crostini options at Bar Mezzana - the fig, gorgonzola, and salami one is particularly enjoyable. There’s also some great pasta, like the paccheri with lobster green onion and tomato, as well as a crudo list that’s longer than The Irishman.
Seeing as how Benedetto is in the Charles Hotel and likely serves every head-of-state, Nobel laureate, and TED-talking social media disrupter who visits Harvard, it’s not surprising that this Harvard Square spot feels pretty high-end. But the prices aren’t actually that unreasonable for a white tablecloth place that has caviar and black truffle on the menu. If you don’t want to wait for a special occasion to come here, you can always grab a seat at the bar with a barrel-aged cocktail and one of their excellent small plates, like the pecorino with almond panforte or the vitello tonnato with pickled alliums.
Sorellina in Back Bay is pricey. And with plush white chairs, glimmering surfaces, and lots of professional people drinking martinis, it also feels like a restaurant that the high-powered but unfulfilled career woman in a Hallmark movie would patronize (that is, just before she meets the hunky horse-trainer, moves out of the city, and spends long mornings casually brushing the coat of a horse named Honeysuckle). But if you don’t mind overhearing conversations about ETFs and mutual funds while you eat, it’s one of the better fine-dining Italian restaurants in the city. Save it for a special occasion and get the chestnut cavatelli with wild boar.
7. Nebo Cucina and Enoteca
With a traditional yet novel menu, Nebo Cucine and Enoteca is the brainchild of the Pallota sisters, who were inspired by the family recipes of their mother and grandmother. Carla, who also happens to be the restaurant's chef, and Christine actually grew up in Boston's North End, making the neighborhood the perfect choice for their restaurant. Capturing the true essence of dining in an Italian home, Nebo has a strong menu of traditional favorites. For example, the light and unbelievably creamy burrata makes a perfect starter alongside the smoky cozze (skillet-roasted mussels). Meanwhile, the golden Milanese or the popular zucchini lasagna are great options for a main course.
520 Atlantic Avenue, Boston, MA 02210, Phone: 617-723-6326
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