On a street populated by numerous Italian trattorias, it’s almost impossible for a restaurant to stand out unless it offers something unique. Maurizio’s does just that, by offering an alternative to generic Italian food with its menu of Sardinian specialties. Chef/owner Maurizio Loddo opened the restaurant next to the Paul Revere Mall in 1993, and continues to feature a menu that combines a passion for Italian and a flair for the Mediterranean. The house bruschetta is but one example, topped with black olives and capers, while the pan roasted salmon is served over a saffron risotto. Signature Sardinian favorites include Malloreddus alla Campidanese, a hearty plate of pasta topped with a sausage and lamb meat sauce, then tossed with vegetables in a red wine sauce. The space itself is simple, if colorful, with vibrant walls, wrought iron touches and various sized paintings on the wall.
Located next to St. Leonard’s Peace Garden in the North End is the cozy Italian eatery Panza. The friendly and accommodating wait staff treats guests like family serving up hearty dishes of baked ziti with meatballs, or lobster ravioli and potato gnocchi Bolognese – all offered at reasonable prices. There are some creative plates here, like the slow braised spare ribs with sweet Sicilian barbecue sauce and a “free form” lasagna made with rotating layers of black pepper pasta, mushrooms, chicken, creamy ricotta and fresh spinach. The signature veal Panza is their take on traditional marsala, but served with toasted pine nuts, spinach and sun dried tomatoes. With light Mediterranean tones, hanging chandeliers and simple wood accents, Panza is a great place to enjoy simple Italian cooking in Boston’s North End.
After resettling in the United States at age 9, Naples native Francesco Pellino worked hard hours each week as a dishwasher and chef's assistant to pay his way through college. Though he graduated with honors in accounting, Francesco's passions lured him back to the food industry. He opened his first establishment as an energetic 28-year-old, taking the chance to showcase his zeal for authentic Northern Italian cuisine. Rustic and self-described as "somewhat peasant and chic," each of his dishes shows the care in which it's crafted. House-made ingredients such as Francesco's own no-yolk salad croutons, fresh ciabatta bread, and handmade-to-order plates of porcini mushroom ravioli infuse the menu to leave his guests as satisfied as a zamboni in Antarctica.
Pellino's Ristorate's quaintness extends to the restaurant itself. Tucked in a cozy corner house with exposed-brick walls lined with bottles from the expansive and carefully curated wine list, the upscale dining room hosts meals and inspires Shakespearean soliloquies at starched white tablecloths.
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.
It isn’t often that diners find restaurateurs handing out free desserts and appetizers to the dining room, but such generosities are commonplace at Pomodoro, located in Boston’s North End. The Hanover Street owners want their guests to feel like family, and it’s exactly these memorable touches that keep the masses coming back for more. The cash-only restaurant is small in size but big on portions, like the seafood fra diavlo that’s chock full of local clams, shrimp and calamari and served up in a nice spicy red sauce. The rich and creamy bucatini carbonara is made with crispy pancetta and Romano cheese, and tossed in a white garlic cream sauce. Dim lighting and close tables keep a youthful, energetic tone – just be sure to grab reservations, and waits can often be lengthy.
One of the most popular restaurants in the North End for dinner is Assaggio. Located adjacent to St. Leonard’s Peace Garden down a narrow one-way street, the Italian grotto-like restaurant offers a full bar inside the brick façade. While red sauce dishes certainly make an appearance on the menu here, Assaggio specializes in a taste of authentic Italy, with appetizers like hot Italian stuffed cherry peppers, prosciutto with melon and hot antipasto with fried calamari and arancini. Main courses include the hearty specialty chicken stuffed with prosciutto, eggplant and smoked mozzarella topped with sun dried tomatoes, broccoli, artichokes and roasted red peppers tossed in a white wine sauce. Order freely from the full bar, then relax as the North End scenery walks by.