Growing up across the street from the historical North End building where Villa Francesca now stands, Guglielmo Ranauro never guessed that he'd open a restaurant in 1976 and name it after his beloved mother. Ranauro was inspired by her traditional cooking and wanted to create a place where other people could get an authentic taste of Italy.
Today, Ranauro has handed over the family legacy to longtime manager and prot?g? Tomas Salmeron. Salmeron and his culinary team continue to follow those classic recipes, turning fresh-caught fruits of the sea into a daily seafood prix fixe menu. Furthermore, they transform chicken, lamb, steak, and veal into dishes you might find while strolling through a Tuscan piazza or steering a one-person submarine down a Venetian canal. The eatery?s extensive wine list, which includes 140 Italian and international varieties, earned a 2012 Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator. Even the ambiance points diners in the direction of Italy: tin ceilings and stained-glass accents add Old-World nostalgia, and the exposed-brick walls are anchored by Romanesque archways and paintings of bustling village scenes.
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 nearly 20 years, Sonie has been a staple to Boston’s fashionable Newbury Street. With enormous French doors that open up in the warmer months and a people-watching scene like no other, the popular restaurant remains one of the best places in the city to see and be seen. Sonsie is open for brunch on weekends, weekdays for lunch and daily for dinner, and attracts a young trendy crowd sporting the latest designer duds – likely from the nearby boutiques. Dinners and late-night drinks are also a staple here, with favorites that range from wood-fired pizzas and miso braised short ribs to sea scallops, roast chicken with herb jus and a classic steak au poivre. A wine cellar on the lower level of this tall, elegant, wood-lined and sunlit space holds some 200 bottles from around the world, many available by the glass.
Even with a plethora of restaurants to choose from in Boston’s North End, Il Villaggio manages to stand out, and not just because of its prime location on Hanover Street. The glassy restaurant offers Mediterranean-leaning takes on classic Italian dishes, like a semolina gnocchi served with creamy pesto sauce. With white tablecloths on a small number of tables, Italian wine bottles placed carefully on skewed shelves and chandeliers that look like freshly trimmed branches, the homey restaurant also serves up classic Italian comfort food from its open kitchen in the back. The chefs here use fresh mozzarella and churn out generous portions of lobster ravioli, chicken parmesan andlasagna to the masses that always seem to be queuing up out front.
City Wine Tours' experienced wine ambassadors take groups on enlightening viticultural explorations in New York City and Boston. Each two-hour walking tour stops by upscale restaurants, neighborhood boutiques, and hidden grape-springs known for their unique wine offerings. Guests sip and sample along the way, trying up to six different varietals, while guides expound on wine tasting, pairing, and history. That focus on entertaining education has proved a winning formula?City Wine Tours' walking excursions have been praised by media outlets including Zagat and the Boston Globe.
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.