Nico Ristorante's crimson walls, plush red drapery, and sparkling chandeliers seem designed for romance, as do the extensive list of fine wines and the menu full of classic yet sophisticated dishes. Chef Salvatore Firicano and his crew use locally sourced produce and other fresh ingredients as the tools of their trade, selecting farm-raised mussels and littleneck clams to serve over grilled tuscan bread and stuffing 2-pound lobsters with shrimp and scallops. They use a variety of artfully hand-crafted fresh pasta, from fusilli and rigatoni to tiny, toothsome bundles of potato-dumpling gnocchi.
The restaurant is a part of The Varano Group, a collection of Boston dining establishments created by celebrity restaurateur Nick Varano. Varano's other lauded endeavors include the star-studded Strega Ristorante, Strega Waterfront, and the newest location Strega Prime Italian Steakhouse, located just ten minutes north of Boston.
For dessert in Boston’s North End, make your way to La Summa, tucked away in an unassuming neighborhood location on Fleet Street. The ground floor eatery actually has residential housing above it, with beautifully designed black wrought iron railings that dazzle. Named after the owner’s grandmother, this neighborhood restaurant is popular with locals who come here for a cup of hot coffee, a sampling of limoncello or a nice frothy cappuccino to linger with over a cannoli. Dessert might also include a sampling of tiramisu or creamy ricotta cheesecake, with long conversations and an amiable waitstaff rounding out the evening.
It's one thing to sit down to a perfectly nice three-course meal, surrounded by your close friends and loved ones. It's quite another thing to sit down to the same meal surrounded not only by your friends, but by a slew of shifty-eyed murder suspects. Such is the situation guests find themselves in at Mystery Caf?, America's original murder mystery dinner theater.
Like the perfect crime, the idea behind Mystery Caf? is equal parts simple and brilliant. The line between dinner guest and audience member is blurred as a crew of potential murders attempts to evade suspicion by serving a delicious three-course meal. All the while, guests answer a series of questions based on their observations; at the end of the meal, the individual with the most correct answers wins.
Popular though it may be, the mystery dinner is only one of several gut-busting comedy acts sponsored by Mystery Caf?. Another is ComedySportz Boston, a lightning-fast improv competition in which two teams vie for points by playing in a series of goofy improv games. Regularly held at the Davis Square Theatre in Somerville, ComedySportz has all the elements you'd look for in a more traditional sport: breakneck speed, a rowdy audience, and a referee who governs the action and decides if the losers get to live.
One of the most popular yoga studios in the North End, the aptly-titled North End Yoga offers Pilates, barre classes, mysole style and vinyasa flow. Sessions here are offered at all levels, spanning the gamut from basic beginners to experienced yogis, with each class taking place inside one of three brightly painted rooms. They also feature an introductory 30-day new member monthly special, allowing uncertain exercisers the opportunity to work through North End’s variety of seated (and standing) postures, breathing practices and relaxation methods designed to strengthen and lengthen muscles. After an invigorating class, slow things down with an on-site massage provided by a licensed massage therapist or with a Rolf practitioner, who rubs out tension using knuckles and elbows to provide better balance and a revitalized body.
Gray-hulled naval ships sit stoically by weathered docks, as sailboats and yachts dart to and fro in graceful traffic. The tide ebbs and flows around islands, piers, and against harbor walls under the Boston skyline. Hestia Cruises' four ships glide among this nautical throng, carving wakes across the busy waters on seasonal cruises in the morning, afternoon, at sunset, or under the light of the moon. As the classic 1948 motor yacht Full Moon rumbles through the water, on-board tour guides divulge facts about harbor history and point out ideal landmarks to photograph. The ship's open decks host passengers for sightseeing tours, and its staff also guides morning cruises with massage services or yoga classes, evening voyages with wine and whiskey tastings, and photo-shoot cruises.
Captains also ferry visitors past harbor sights on an EPA-acclaimed private catamaran or the 32-foot Catalina sailboat Hestia, where passengers can help pull lines, unfurl the main sail, and make a mix-tape of sea shanties. They also pilot a rigid inflatable boat—built to Navy Seal specifications—for adventures to far ends of the harbor at speeds of up to 40 miles per hour. The speedy craft lies low to the water, letting passengers feel the harbor's salty spray while hunched securely on saddle-style jockey seats.