Apr 28, 2019

The Boston Diaries 7: The North End .. In the Rain.

Well hello and welcome to a picture heavy post.


I'm sitting here with my 'one for the road'  sweetgreen kale Caesar celebrating having survived checking out of the hotel, getting to the airport, getting through security and not losing a single thing!  Present me is thanking past me profusely for having the foresight to get that salad for the road.


I've had the best time in Boston and I hope to return again soon.


It's only taken until my penultimate day in this beautiful city to learn that Dunkin' Donuts is a Massachusetts based company.


Which explains not only why there are so many outlets through Boston but also that its stores are apparently a unit of distance and geography when Bostonians direct each other to presumably non Dunkin' Donut locations.


As you can gather from the photos, it's been just a little wet in Boston.  



Regardless of this, I persevered like the trooper that I am.  I stood in line for a good twenty minutes for my sweetgreen.  In hindsight, I should've just gotten the app and pre-ordered like quite a few locals do during the week.  Such is the love and volume of business during the week that there's a second counter across the back of the restaurant that purely caters for orders.  A staff member also stands where the pre-orders are despatched (in first name alphabetical order) who chases up orders for any pre-order person who seems to be waiting for more than a minute.


At this point, I think you should also know that the Uniqlo wind and water resistant wrap skirt I bought before I came is well worth the money.  It's a very practical piece to travel with.  Coupled with the Uniqlo extra warm tights, I stayed toasty through the afternoon of outdoor sightseeing that followed lunch.


I was a little early for my tour so I managed to see a bit more of the Freedom Trail beforehand.



Old State House is the oldest public building in Boston.  It is currently a museum of history but was previously the seat of the Massachusetts General Court.


26 Court Street is not part of The Freedom Trail but it is an interesting and striking building all the same.  It sits on the oldest piece of land owned by the city of Boston.  It was a jail in past life, then a court house.  I'm not sure what its current incarnation sees it doing.



I was lucky enough to tour near North End with Audrey from Boston Foodie Tours.  Despite the horrible weather, the tour did go ahead and we were treated to an afternoon of fun, good food and entertaining stories about Boston's past and present.  Audrey is a wonderfully engaging, thoughtful and knowledgeable guide and I thoroughly recommend going on one of her company's tours for a unique and informative take on the places that matter when it comes to food in Boston.



On sunnier spring days, the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway is an oasis of greenery in the middle of major roads and current redevelopments.  It's a chain of parks that stretch along the North End and its location was chosen because Rose was born in the area.  Rose, is of course, the matriach of the Kennedy family.


Things are a bit all over the place beyond the greenway.  Competing local Italian families own the valuable land where empty buildings and demolition sites now live.  The roads are being rebuilt in anticipation of the increased traffic relating a casino that's opening close by.  Apartments are going up at the speed of light too,  Boston is the third most expensive city to live in here in the US.  In Audrey's words, they are also almost proudly the country's worst drivers by infringement notice numbers.  I kind of sensed that during my travels in Back Bay....




We discovered a fresh produce market on our travels, right by the location of the official Boston Public Market.



Held from Fridays through the weekend, the lovingly assembled fruit on display is acutally sourced from second-grade produce and sold at bargain prices to the local community.


Rain, hail or shine, the co-ordinator of the markets can be found manning a stall and he chatted to us as we walked by.


At the border of the market are these commissioned works of art embedded into the road.


Each image represents an element of life in Boston. 


As re-development and expansion marches through the area, plans are afoot to ensure that these public artworks get conserved through the city's process of reinvention.

The green sign at the bottom of the photo states in a low key way that a golf club meets within.  But not really.  It's actually the place to go if you're an older Italian gentleman who wants a flutter with your crew.....

North End is a living, breathing archive of Boston's migrant history.  


The Italian community has its roots here and their elders LOVE to chat.  We bumped into said community elders along our walk and they all had something to share with Audrey and the tour group.  Cigarette in one hand, perfectly polished loafers and precisely cut long coats - this was a generation that always looked their best whenever they step out the door.  And here I am at approximately half their age with my roots showing and in my activewear at any chance I get.

A few founding families in the community still hold significant property interests in the area.  Buddy (names to protect those with rumoured underworld connections) owns the palatial residence in the photo above.


Parked across the street is a truck bearing the name of the plumbing business Buddy founded.  Children and grandchildren now run the business and it serves the pipe and water issues of much of the North End.


Nate Swain, a local artist bestowed the gift of his talent to the buildings of North End.  This is one of his works.  


Walking the streets of North End proper transported me to the world of famous Bostonian celebrities.  It is said that the likes of Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Mindy Kaling and Steve Tyler stop by for a taste of home whenever they're in town.


One place that all of the above names visit (as well as Leonardo DiCaprio who I believe is not a local) is Regina's Pizzeria.  It's been recognized consistently as the place for pizza in the US.



It doesn't matter who you are, you have to follow the rules once you get inside.  No tour groups are allowed inside, you can't eat takeaway at the bar if you change your mind and if you're famous - you need to deliver a photograph of yourself for the wall of fame.  Preferably autographed.

As a commoner let the record state that their plain cheese pizza is the bomb dot com.  And I'm not even a huge pizza fan.  The crust is perfection, the cheese to sauce ration similarly on point and it all tastes so fresh and soul restoring.  The grim cold and wet weather also aided my enjoyment of that piping wedge of heaven.


Monica' Mercato was our next stop.  The deli and pizzeria is a labour of love that the owners created in a tribute to their mother, Monica Mendoza.  Photos of Monica with her boys adorn every possible inch of wall space inside.  The staff uniform also features her likeness.  


One of Monica's specialities is the Italian meat sandwich.  The little bit of extra at this store is the balsamic glaze that tops the meat.  You can see the bottles of it available for sale to the public on the ledge just above the meat slicer in the photo above.

Monica and her family,\
I'm not exactly a meat sandwich fan but Monica's version has made me cross from nay to yay.  They bake their own bread and it makes the sandwich.  Along with that famed balsamic glaze.


They sell other staples of Italian life including freshly made pasta.


Jimmy Fallon is huge fan.


is a local bakery with a loyal following.  It's open 24 hours a day and everyone in the family regardless of the profession they trained in pitches in and does a shift here and there at the store.



Bricco on Hanover Street is more than it seems from the street.


Behind the front facing restaurant is a collection of laneway buildings that house a deli and an adjacent bakery.



The house-made ravioli are bestsellers and feature all manner of creative fillings.


Another hit is the marinated calamari.


The bakery is out the door and down a flight of stairs.  


It may be kind of hidden but everyone seems to know how to get here.  From locals, to tourists and also chefs from local restaurants who pop by around four in the afternoon to get their bread for the dinner trade.



These are a Bricco tribute to Boston - filled pastries in the shape of lobster claws.


The large puffy loaves of bread at the very top of the rack are not for eating as such.  Chefs buy them to make their own breadcrumbs.  The bread on its own isn't good for eating, Audrey reckons.  Is that not next level having bread baked specifically to make crumbs from it?



Just as well I was on the treadmill every day in Boston.  How else would I find room for all their amazing bread?



The local cannoli wars feature two main rivals with fiercely loyal supporters.  Those who love Modern Pastry's cannoli state it's the choice for locals. The ricotta is 'less sweet' and the cannoli tubes are piped fresh to order.


The store is a riotous celebration of Boston and also Italy expressed through baked goods.


What is not to love with all that colour, chocolate and cream?


I really should've planned my stay better and gotten to North End earlier in the trip to give myself time to sample a broader range of its culinary delights.



Mike's Pastry is Modern's main rival and just a few blocks away down Hanover Road.


While the cannoli are pre-filled, its point of difference is that cannoli shells are made on site while many other places including Modern source there's from a central (and very good) supplier.


I love how Boston gets so atmospheric and moody with the rain.


More of Nate Swain's art.  Those aren't the leaves of a tree behind the cherry blossoms, it's a mural Nate painted.


This street sign is an icon of Hanover Street and represents the origins of many of its Italian residents.


This pizzeria was shut pretty early for a Friday night. The reason?  The moment it sells its last slice, its blinds down and front door locked, thank you very much.


Our night ended with a pasta dinner at Lucca.


What a dramatic way to present garlic and mozzarella bread!


I loved the spicy kick in the orecchiette pasta but the ragout of the rigattoni which I didn't get a photo of was beyond amazing.  I'm so glad I had the chance to sample such authentic Italian food on this trip.  And you thought I was in Boston just for Trader's, Dunkin' and sweetgreen, didn't you?


After my thoroughly enjoyable evening with Audrey, I had to return to the hotel to face the tedium of packing for the long journey home.  Two things eased the pain.  The first was my organic peach Bellini from Eataly and my take home cannoli from Modern.



I have no words.  You need to get yourself to Modern for cannoli plural when you visit Boston. 



The North End is easy to access by train from places like Back Bay where many of the city's hotels are.  In addition to the culinary delights, the New England Aquarium and parts of The Freedom Trail are within easy walking distance.


And that's a wrap, for today / tonight I think.  I've begun the long journey home and am in transit in LA.  It's all good though.  I've had a lovely dinner, a shower and some time to walk around before that final flight.

Be well.

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