I have always been an avid fan of Italian food, even before I knew what Italian food really entailed. Pasta, pizza, tiramisu, I would eat it all. However, living in a city without a large Italian population deprived me from a larger variety of the cuisine. I didn’t know what I was missing until recently, when I traveled across the country and visited the North End of Boston.
Boston, MA is a historical city, and the North End alone contains many of the city’s historical sites. Also known as Little Italy, the North End boasts attractions from Paul Revere’s house and the Old North Church to the burial grounds of John Hancock. The Freedom Trail passes through the neighborhood, bringing tourists and locals alike to wander its cobblestone streets and enjoy its bustling activity. In the mid-1800s, Italian immigrants first began to immigrate to the area, and the Italian population steadily grew through the 20th century. Now, the neighborhood is laden with Italian barbershops, tailors, and to my delight, food shops.
Walking through Little Italy, I was overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of restaurants. Almost every door led to either a restaurant or bakery, and through the windows, I saw that each restaurant was filled with happy customers enjoying lunch. The menus outside the restaurants looked delicious, and it’s a mystery to me how anyone within a 50 mile radius would be able to resist coming everyday.
My cousin, a native to the Boston area, was showing me around and recommended Pomodoro. Although she had never personally dined there, it was reputed to be the best Italian restaurant by her friends, so we decided to give it a shot. I am so glad we did; completely unassuming from the outside, the few dishes that we ordered were incredible.
The restaurant was comprised of a small room with only a few tables. Cozy and comfortable, it gave off a casual yet refined vibe. Upon arriving, we were warmly greeted by the single waitress, who brought us bread to start off–it was the first sign of an amazing meal. The rolls were warm and light, and instead of the usual butter, we received a bowl of olives soaked in olive oil. The replacement was both healthier and more memorable than what I was accustomed to.
Next, we ordered arugula salad, seafood linguine, and baked cod–my cousin, mom, and I were all about the balance between vegetables, meat, and carbs, and cod is so quintessentially Bostonian. None of us were particularly hungry, so we decided to share the appetizer and two entrees. That way, we would also have more variety.
The salad came first, and to our surprise, the waitress brought out two plates of it. The kitchen had made extra, she explained. Wow. I would not expect a restaurant to give out extra food arbitrarily, but it was delicious and I couldn’t complain.
The linguine and cod arrived soon afterwards, and they were absolutely divine. The linguine was tossed with shellfish, shrimp, squid, and tomatoes. With a cup of Parmesan cheese on the side to sprinkle over the pasta, the dish was both flavorful and satisfying. However, the true surprise came with the cod. Dare I say it was the best cod I have ever tasted? The meat was tender and juicy without any fishy aftertaste. It sat on a bed of tomatoes and vegetable filling, and we quickly devoured it.
After finishing the last vestiges of both entrees, we sat musing over the quality of our lunch. We were ready to ask for the check, when the waitress brought out tiramisu for each of us, compliments of the kitchen. We were already impressed by the friendliness of the staff, the comfortable ambiance, and the flavorful food, and this was the cherry on top. Authentic Italian tiramisu: one of my favorite desserts. Yum.
Although we were completely stuffed after lunch, we decided to grab a quick snack for later from a nearby Italian pastry shop. There were many to choose from, but we decided on one of the better-known shops: Mike’s Pastry. Conveniently, it was directly across the street from Pomorodo, and we slowly sauntered over. Inside, there was a huge hoard of people yearning to get to the front of the line. Not accustomed to pastry shops being so populated, I wondered if there was a special promotion going on. But apparently, Mike’s Pastry is so well known that it always attracts crowds of hungry customers.
Mike’s Pastry specializes in cannoli, which is an Italian pastry I had never previously tried. It is composed of a pastry shell filled with flavored ricotta cheese. The sides are then dipped in anything from nuts to chocolate chips. We purchased an original yellow cream cannoli, in addition to an amaretto one. The people at Mike’s pastry sprinkled powdered sugar on the cannolis before packaging them with their signature Mike’s Pastry packing method–they placed them in a cardboard box and tied the box with string dangling from the ceiling.
The cannolis were delicious, albeit messy to eat. I attempted to break off a piece of the pastry, but the shell gave way and I ended up with fingers smeared with cheese. I found it easier to eat with a spoon, but I’ll admit that I’m usually a messy-eater.
Back home in Seattle, I don’t think I will be able to find any places that offer cannoli as good as the ones I had in Boston. However, I just discovered that Mike’s Pastry has an online store here. They ship!
I’m going to have to scout out all the Italian restaurants nearby sometime soon!