A September 2005 trip
to Boston by notso62
Quote: The North End is one of my favorite neighborhoods in Boston! From the historical sites to the AWESOME Italian restaurants, it is truly a gem!
Keeping with the area's Italian heritage are some of the city's best Italian restaurants. There are over 100 between the area of the Big Dig and the waterfront. Some of the best are not on Hanover Street (the main tourist draw), but on the side streets of Salem and Prince. If you do get a chance to eat in one, prepare for one of the best Italian meals of your lifetime!
The North End, like most other places in Boston, is riddled with historic sites that add to its charm. Paul Revere's house on the cobblestone section of North Street is a must-see stop on any historical tour. The Old North Church is the famous place where the phrase, "One if by land, two if by sea," came into play in the Revolutionary War. Every site in the North End is well preserved, and guides are available during the tour hours to give a better explanation of the history to newbies.
Though the streets are narrow and a bit confusing to navigate, you can always find your way around this neighborhood to the main tourist attractions by following The Freedom Trail. It is a large painted red line visible on the sidewalks that connects all the main historic sights this area has to offer. There also are large signs pointing out attractions that make being a tourist easier than in other places.
Most restaurants in the area advise patrons to make reservations on their busier nights (Thursday to Saturday), but don't expect to be seated promptly at your reserved time. Sometimes an hour wait past the reservation time is well worth it, sometimes not.
Coupons for tours of the historical sites can be found at any hotel concierge or visitor information center throughout the city. Admission to most of the historical places of note is either free or under /person.
The North End is entirely walkable from the Haymarket and Aquarium T stops, but if you must take a cab, try to know your way around first so they don't take you for a ride.
There are two parking garages and other valet options in the North End, but these are pricey ( or more for a day). Street parking is mostly resident-only. Boston meter maids ticket early and often. Park your car at your own risk if you do decide to drive here.
On our first visit, I ordered the gnocchi marinara, which was awesome, and my boyfriend had a pork roast on a bed of mashed potatoes with apple ravioli, which he said was one of the best meals he'd ever eaten. The sauces and ingredients here all taste like they were prepared the instant you ordered them, as everything tasted very fresh and was delicious.
Though it's sometimes difficult to get a table during tourist season, this restaurant’s staff is always polite and professional. They never make diners feel rushed to complete their meal and are on top of their service game, topping off glasses of wine and checking up on their guests with a smile, even when they are super crowded. The large picture windows in front of the restaurant that look out over Richmond Street make this a good place for patrons to leisurely people-watch, but the view to the inside of the restaurant is what probably attracts most passersby to stop in for a meal. Reservations are recommended for extremely busy nights (Friday and Saturday). Otherwise, they might not be able to seat you for an hour or so.
Prices here are a bit much, but are extremely worth it. The average price of an entrée is about $30, with the specials on the more expensive side. Be prepared to fork over about $100 for a dinner for two, but you shouldn't mind if your dinner was as good as mine have been in the past at Monica's.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on September 22, 2005
143 Richmond St.
Restaurant | "Al Dente Ristorante"
I, however, was quite disappointed with the overall experience at Al Dente.
I made a reservation for two for 9pm on a Saturday evening (the only spot they had "available"). We showed up at 8:55pm and were made to wait outside on the sidewalk of Salem Street for 45 minutes (since they have no bar or waiting area inside).
When we were finally seated, they seated us next to a very noisy kitchen at a crumby little table. This reminded me of a little mom-and-pop diner, not a chic Italian restaurant, as the prices would have indicated it would be.
Between the noise, the wait, and the lackluster entrées (the marinara sauce tasted like it came from a can, with no spices), I would never eat here again. There are far more elegant and pleasant restaurants in the North End for the price of the entrées at Al Dente.
On the plus side, though, our waitress was very nice. She bought our food out quickly and served everything with a smile. She also checked in on us a few times, though she was very busy with her other tables of large parties. Many different wines were offered by the glass here (you are typically more limited in "by the glass" selections in other area restaurants), which was unexpected, but a nice change from the norm.
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on September 22, 2005
109 Salem St
Boston, Massachusetts 02113
+1 617 523 0990
I was skeptical at first. In my opinion, Chinese food in the mostly Italian North End section of Boston was very questionable. I was pleasantly surprised by Billy Tse's delicious sushi, appetizers, and entrees. I ordered the Vegetarian's Delight and was surprised by the heaping helping of vegetables and rice that arrived on my plate. I think I finished maybe a fifth of what was there. They also let the patrons pick and choose what they want in their meal, so don't be afraid to ask for "no mushrooms" or "not too spicy" here. They always happily complete any request.
My boyfriend has been addicted to Billy Tse ever since we tried it. He orders takeout and sushi from there on an almost weekly basis and loves it!
The service in the restaurant is very good, friendly and efficient. Takeout delivery is usually delivered in the area within 30 minutes by a polite delivery person.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 22, 2005
Billy Tse Restaurant
240 Commercial St.
Restaurant | "Bacco Ristorante"
The ambience of Bacco is very nice as well. The hostess always greets every party with a smile, and there is a very nice bar downstairs where patrons can enjoy a drink or two while waiting for their table to become ready. The martinis here are delicious. On busier nights, even if you have reservations, you could expect to wait up to an hour for a table to free up. If you're desperate and don't want to wait for an upstairs table, there is more casual (and noisy) seating area downstairs where they can accommodate quick dinners.
Upstairs the ambiance is nice as well, with the attention more set on formal dining than downstairs. The tables and booths are all very comfortable and are set up so that larger parties do not interfere with the intimate diners. The wait staff is very friendly and efficient. They also are very helpful in making suggestions as to what to try and what wine might compliment.
The prices at Bacco are reasonable for this area of the city, but exceptional once you factor in the quality of the food. Be sure to try this restaurant the next time you are in Boston's North End.
Bacco Ristorante & Bar
107 Salem St.
Carmen's small stature is in no way an indication of the quality of the cuisine served here. Entrées and starters are top-notch, prepared eloquently by the on-site gourmet chef. Even the salads had an attention to detail that is unparalleled in other area restaurants. Entrées like the roasted pork loin both are presented in a spectacular flourish and taste fantastic.
The staff at Carmen is very helpful but known to be abrupt with customers that come late for their reservations (space is definitely a premium there). Our waitress, the few occasions we've been there, has always been pleasant and professional.
Prices at Carmen are a bit steep, but typical of the gourmet Italian restaurants in the area. It is well worth the few extra bucks to dine here.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 12, 2005
33 North Square
On our first visit, my friend ordered the steak tips (which were very good) and I had a mandarin Asian-inspired salad, which I thought was delicious as well. The Living Room's specialties are seafood dishes—watch for the great deals for lobster dinners.
Though it's sometimes difficult to get a table during tourist season, this restaurant’s staff is always polite and professional. Even when they are very crowded, they manage to accommodate everyone. The large outdoor veranda is a great place to dine alfresco on a nice spring or summer day and people-watch.
Inside, there is a large lounge/bar area that is set up, well, like a living room. There are large sofas, a fireplace, throw pillows, warm lighting, and even a plasma-screen TV. It's a great place to go and watch your favorite sports team and still feel like you're in an environment like home. They also make awesome martinis here, so it's definitely worth going beyond your own living room to The Living Room
Prices here are reasonable, with the steak tips topping out at about $30. The average price of an entrée is about $15 to $20, with the specials on the more expensive side.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on October 14, 2005
The Living Room
101 Atlantic Ave.
Boston, Massachusetts 02110
Goody Glovers has a menu of pub fare as well if you are in the mood for a snack or a light meal. Their sandwiches are moderately priced (under $15), or you can enjoy a cup of soup (under $10) to warm you up from the chilly Boston weather.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 23, 2005
48-50 Salem St.
Boston, Massachusetts 02113
In the summer, the Villa Francesca has prime seats, with open-front windows for dining alfresco. Be sure to make reservations though; otherwise, your wait for a table can be quite lengthy.
The Ristorante Villa Francesca serves traditional Italian fare. The menu includes the usual suspects like Eggplant Parmesean, Veal Rolotini, and various pasta dishes. There aren't many surprises or dishes that are very creative, but the Italian food is very good and authentic. What it lacks in imagination it more than makes up for in taste. Ingredients and spices are fresh and delicious.
The waitstaff at Villa Francesca is very friendly and professional. They are very good at recommending wine to go with your meal and describing the specials or dishes in more detail. Their excellent at being attentive to the patrons no matter how busy they get.
The dishes at Villa Francesca are a bit pricey, but are in the typical price range for the Italian restaurants in this area. Dinner for two will set you back for about $100 once you include wine, but it is pretty much worth it for the quality of the meal.
Ristorante Villa Francesca
150 Richmond St
Boston, Massachusetts 02109
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 12, 2006
141 Salem Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02113
The staff at the North Street Grille does their best to make sure all of the patrons are served quickly, yet with a smile. The small dining area and counter space is often packed with customers for the small waitstaff to care for, yet they do so without much ado. Whether you come in monthly, everyday, or once in a great while the waitpeople always make you feel like you're one of their best customers with the attention they give.
Aside from the service, the main reason to go to the North Street Grille is their phenomenal food. Brunch favorites include the stuffed french toast (they have a peanut butter and jelly version which cannot be beat) and the chocolate chip pancakes. Also very good are their omelets which come with fillings like salmon, asparagus, and aged cheddar cheese. You can't find these ingredients in just any breakfast dive, and that is what sets the North Street Grille apart from the many.
Lunch dishes include everything from salads to sandwiches to veggie burgers. Again the menu focuses on traditional comfort food, but with ingredients you don't see on every menu to set your Grille experience apart from the rest. Their entire menu is also available to go—which is great for when the dining room cannot hold another person, but you are craving something specific from their menu.
The North Street Grille has modern yet tasteful decor which helps to further enhance your dining experience. The pleasant mint green walls, bamboo centerpieces, and art on the walls from local artists are all nice changes from traditionally dingy diner decor. The booths and counter spaces are also all very clean and polished feeling. The full-service bar behind the counter may make the patrons forget that this establishment is only open for breakfast and lunch, but it is perfect for morning cocktails like bellinis and mojitos.
Prices at the North Street Grille are kept low—most entrees are under $10 and most drinks are about $5-$7 (cheap in Boston for a cocktail). This makes it even easier for locals to dine here regularly which is why this restaurant is one of Boston's hidden gems.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on June 3, 2006
North Street Grille
229 North St.
Finally, for my boyfriend's birthday, I decided it was time to stop putting things off. Taranta had been featured recently on the show "Phantom Gourmet" (local to Boston), and that triggered enough renewed interest with us to make it our restaurant of choice.
Walking in the front door of the Restaurant on the end of Hanover Street, I was pleasantly surprised to see the owner, Jose Duarte, manning the door--- greeting customers warmly as if it were his main job at the busy restaurant. As soon as he seated us, he bustled off to bus some tables and oversee the kitchen. I had seen Jose's profile on the "Phantom Gourmet" episode, but I didn't expect the kind of service (most restaurant owners in the North End are neither seen nor heard).
Jose designed the menu at Taranta to be a blend of both his Italian and Peruvian ties. He uses ingredients unique to Peruvian cooking and his family's recipes to spice up his Italian-based cuisine. The results are phenomenal.
I had the Pasta Pomodoro Della Nonna- a wonderful homemade papparadelle (a fat ribbon pasta) with a sauce that was just amazing. The sauce had so much spice and flavor- it beat all the other everyday Italian sauces I have tried over the years in the North End. The homemade pasta had a great flavor and texture- I don't know what unusual was in this recipe, but its taste and texture with the sauce were perfect.
My boyfriend had the pan-seared tuna; he loved it judging by his cleaned plate (an unusual thing for him with such a large portion). I then offered him a taste of the left over pasta dish on my plate, and he proceeded to devour what I had left of that. Jose's recipes are just that good...
Taranta is quite expensive- on average $30-$40 per entrée which is about $10 higher than the rest of the neighborhood it's in. But I assure you the extra price is well worth it. The service was impeccable, the food fabulous, and we didn't have to wait in a line of tourists to get in. I would definitely return to try some more of the extensive menu.
Go to www.tarantarist.com to make reservations.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on October 8, 2006
210 Hanover Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02113
Restaurant | "Joe's American Bar & Grill"
There is a reason why there was no line at Joe's that morning - or any morning for that matter. It's just not very good. My eggs (which were whipped beyond fluffy to souffle-like) were the least of the problems on my plate. The potatoes were greasy and the fruit had not been destemmed (why serve strawberries with the hull in a fruit salad, I ask?). My boyfriend agreed that his food was not very good as well and was quite annoyed that he couldn't get a bloody mary before noon at this restaurant - even though it's listed on the brunch menu as a "free" extra with the price of a meal.
Joe's does have a very nice waterfront location conveniently located in the busy North End of Boston. The picture windows look directly at the boats in the harbor, which might be one of the few things this restaurant has to offer that others do not. During the summer, Joe's also has a nice outdoor seating patio for dining al fresco.
Service at Joe's is very friendly - if not overly attentive (probably due to the lack of customers within). Our food came out quickly and aside from the Bloody Mary refusal, we had no complaints that pertained to our waitress or the staff.
Prices are pretty reasonable for this type of casual American food, but I still can't recommend this restaurant for anything other than a last resort for dining out. The food is just that terrible - no good service or view could compensate.
Member Rating 1 out of 5 on December 17, 2006
Joe's American Bar & Grill
100 Atlantic Ave
Boston, Massachusetts 02110
Old North Church
193 Salem St
Boston, Massachusetts 02113
+1 617 523-6676