Friday, August 22, 2014

North End Food Tour- Secrets of Where the Locals Shop!

When you think of the North End, what comes to your mind? For me, it’s much overpriced Italian food, streets so narrow you couldn’t get a bike through and the lines and lines of tourists waiting to get day old cannoli’s at Mike’s Pastry. Don’t get me wrong, I love going to the North End, the authentic Italian food, the people the history, it’s quite the special gem in Boston. But with so many tourists and so many restaurants on Hanover Street that bring in the crowds, I have to ask myself, where to the locals go?

My answer came in the form of (ironically), North End Walking Tour by Free Tours of Boston, a 2 ½ hour tour of some of the best local eateries in the North End.

We began our tour at J. Pace located on Cross Street, a place known for their authentic Italian food and spices and delicious sandwiches (Park Lane is the best!). Mike was our host who explained more about Pace’s, who also gave us a few samples of the food they sell.
Mike, our host from J. Pace

Sample of the goodies he treated to us

Rows of pasta...

...and rows of olive oil!

Next stop (my personal favorite), Maria’s Pastry Shop, right next door to J. Pace. Mike’s Pastry might be popular with the tourists, but Maria’s is a favorite among locals. Unlike being in a display case all day, Maria’s cannoli’s’ are made to order and taste is so much more fresh and flavorful. I ordered one for myself complete with chocolate chips, and devoured it in about 5 minutes.

Our next stop was one of the probably hundreds of pizza places in the North End- Ernesto’s located on Salem Street. What makes Ernesto’s stand out from the other pizza joints is not only the variety of flavors, but the sheer size of one slice of pizza is equivalent to about 2 ½ slices of “normal” sized pizza.

Already feeling stuffed; we were only ¼ of the way done so I had to make room for more delightful food at our next stop- Polcari’s  Coffee. This shop has been around for generations, and it’s a landmark in the North End. Anyone who lives in the North End comes in for authentic coffee and goods and for their Lemon Italian Ice, (the machine used to be outside on the sidewalk that you could do yourself, now it’s inside behind the counter). I snagged myself an Italian Ice to wash down the cannoli and pizza, being only $1 how could I resist?

Lemon Italian Ice in hand, we ventured off to our next stop – Monica’s Mercato & Salumeria. I’ve never actually been here before, so it was a pleasure to discover a local store that sells freshly prepared pasta and ravioli including ‘squid ink’ pasta- actual ink from the squid. Guess you can’t knock it til you try it!

Can you guess which one is the 'Squid Ink' pasta? 

Just around the corner on Richmond Street is another, well known to the locals, groceria, Salumeria Italiana. Here you’ll find lots of homemade bread, pasta, olive oils and sauces, perfect for a great Italian dinner.

Our second to last stop was at Cirace’s Wines on North Street right around the corner from Hanover Street. If you like wine (and who doesn’t?!) then Cirace’s is defiantly place you need to stop by. Not only do they sell wine from all around the world but they also offer beautiful gift baskets at different prices, from a small house-warming gift to a beautiful one of a kind wedding gift, you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for here. Be warned, there is a LOT of glass and glass bottles inside, be were of any bags you might have with you- I, myself was so nervous walking around the store!

Love the selection gift baskets!

Our last stop was a good one, Café Paradiso, located right in the heart of Hanover Street. What I loved about this restaurant was not only the view for people watching is great, but it was an all in one shop for what exactly what you might be craving- gelato, coffee or a cocktail, they have it all!

So there you have it, next time your in the North End, you can beat the lines at Mike’s, get an amazingly large slice of pizza for lunch, pick out the perfect wine for your housewarming gift and sit out with a cup of iced cappuccino while dreaming of the squid inked pasta you’ll have for dinner tonight.

What’s your favorite place to visit in the North End?

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