Sunday, February 21, 2010

A North End Tour

As much as I love exploring the streets of Chinatown, the North End is another corner of Boston that my husband and I love to rediscover every few months. Sometimes we bring the kids to the New England Aquarium, while at other times we enjoy going on our own, sharing the pizza back at home.
There is a fabulous triumverate of well known pastry places, including Modern's and Mike's. Yet we prefer Maria's Pastry Shop. First, the atmosphere is more personal, less chaotic and we just like Maria herself. We go for three things in particular. First their version of almond biscotti or quarasimali. With just a hint of cinnamon and huge, freshly roasted almonds, the cookies have a balance of chewiness while still being crispy. Next, my husband enjoys the homemade torrone or nougat.
Again, Maria never skimps on almonds and these are nestled in a chewy, white marshmellowy mass. I prefer the sfogittelle or pastry shells folded over sweeteened ricotta with a hint of nutmeg and orange.
At home I warm these up for a few minutes at 350 and eat them for a breakfast treat. But if you can, eat them while they are still warm while eating breakfast right at Marias. My children enjoy her moist blueberry muffins and zuccherati, a crunchy bagel-shaped, sesame covered bread stick. For something special, pick up her cannolis that she fills while you are waiting.
I always stop at a speciality store, prefering Salumeria Italiana for higher end products, such as fresh cheese, meats and Balsamic vinegar. For a wide range of pastas, J. Pace and Sons is easy for one stop shopping. Finally, little Polcaris offers personal service and great prices for everything from chesnut, chickpea and semolina flour by the pound to a range of coffees, nuts and vinegars.

We love the pizza choices in the North End so much that we always buy way more than we need and freeze the rest. We always stop first at Umbertos for their sicilian style pizza covered in browned mozzerella, freshly fried panzoritti (filled mashed potato balls) and arancini (filled risotto balls). They sell out early (by 2:00 pm!) and lines move slowly, but the trade off is very special and very inexpensive treats.

We can't leave the North End without taking home at least one (!) pizza from Pizzeria Regina. Their pizza is our favorite by far, baked in oven built in 1926. The crust is perfection-thick and chewy, covered in a sauce that is just acidic enough and balanced by creamy, shreds of whole milk mozzerella. Because parking can be so tricky, we have also just called in advance and driven by to take a pie home. While it is never as good as when you get it right out of their oven, it is still worth it.

Maria's Pastry Shop, 46 Cross Street, 617-523-1196
Polcaris, 105 Salem Street
J. Pace & Sons, 42 Cross Street.
Salumeria Italiana, 151 Richmond Street, Boston, 617-523-8743
Pizzeria Regina, 11 Thatcher Street, (North End), 617-227-0765
Galleria Umbertos, 289 Hanover Street, Boston,


  1. yum. i want to go to each of these places. i haven't been to the north end of boston for a while. must be time for another visit. thanks for the recommendations.

  2. Maria's is my favorite, too. It is so off the radar, in comparison to Mike's and Modern, but it is just as good if not better!

  3. We are so going back after our trip to Rome, thanks for the tip.

  4. If you are in the Ashland area and don't want to travel to the north end for sfogittelle, try going to Gaetano's Bakery ( Medway on Rt 109. Great stuff without the traffic of Boston