3 Hours in Boston’s North End

My initial reaction to the prospect of moving from New York City to Boston was the sinking realization that I was about to bid farewell to all forms of “culture”; i.e. good food, sights and music.  I believed Boston didn’t have an identity, nothing to make it different or stand out from its northeast peers, and while this still holds partially true, it would be unfair to describe the North End this way.  The North End is anything but lacking in character.  Its Italian roots are enough to explain the friendly, boisterous and often rough-around-the-edges wait staff you’ll encounter while consuming delicious Italian or Italian-inspired cuisines.  I’ll admit, it took me a while to cozy up to the North End and it wasn’t love at first sight but these days I look forward to opportunities to romp around (I mean dine) there.  So the moral is yes, if you’re in Boston, visit the North End and if you have an evening or if even if you don’t, cancel your plans and do the following.

1) Drinks at Trattoria el Panino
The sangria is delicious and as refreshing as orange Gatorade on a particularly dehydrated morning.  It gets even more refreshing and delicious when served on their roof deck in August.  I wish that roof deck were mine – the high chairs, view of the open sky, exposed brick, mini bar – did I just describe paradise? But beware, first stop is for drinks only so if I were you I wouldn’t let my eyes linger too long on the food menu.  I met a friend for birthday drinks here after dinner.  Maybe it was the way the air kept hitting my nostrils but the aroma of pesto, lobster meat and blush sauce were too much for me to handle so I gave in to some homemade gnocchi in tomato sauce and never looked back. Second dinner isn’t a sin right? Oh, but I guess gluttony is. So it goes.

2) “Choose your own middle” I tried to be clever with a twist on the whole “choose your own ending” thing but really it’s that I couldn’t pick a favorite between my two favorite North End eats: Bricco and Daily Catch.  If you’re on a romantic dinner date (and he’s paying) definitely Bricco, but if you’re a few dates in, things are going well and you both love seafood, go with Daily Catch. The only caveat with the Daily Catch is that they don’t take reservations and depending on how nice it is outside you may end up waiting anywhere from twenty minutes to an hour.  Note: the space is tiny with something like five tables and the kitchen crammed into the same room.  I went to Bricco for restaurant week last year and everything about the experience from the wine to the chocolate decadence at the end was delicious.  The ambiance is very romantic though and on the quieter end so it’s not really a spot for a rowdy evening.  Daily Catch has some of the freshest fish I’ve had in my life, at least in the States, and that’s saying a lot being as fish was a staple  growing up in our house, since my people (the Bengali’s) live on the Indian coast and by my estimates consume more fish than any other human species on Earth. Anyhow my point is the fish is fresh and cooked damn well here. My favorite entree is the marsala monkfish and anything that has the house tomato pasta sauce on it.  The calamari squirted with some lemon juice is not a bad place to start.  Their one vice might be that they don’t have dessert but that’s what our third stop is for…

3) Head to Cafe Vittoria for some dessert.  If it’s a nice night out you might just grab some gelato and stroll up and down Hanover but otherwise, don’t miss out on the large steaming mug of hot chocolate or the tiramisu: TDF (to die for).  Sip your hot chocolate take small lady-like bites of tiramisu and just sit back and relax.  See wasn’t that great?