Rooftop gardens, shops bulging with fresh meats and vegetables, and restaurants and cafes that serve freshly-made pasta, pizza, pastries and espresso define Boston’s oldest neighborhood. The historic North End, which covers less than two square miles between Cross Street and Boston Harbor, is a go-to destination for Boston’s best Italian food. It’s also becoming a hip shopping zone, thanks to several new boutiques that have recently opened. For those who are visiting Boston, the North End is a charming place to explore.
Getting to Boston’s North End
The North End is easier to get to than it used to be. Before the Big Dig road construction project, an elevated highway separated the North End from the rest of the city. Now, rather than navigating confusing roadways and scary traffic, pedestrians can walk to the North End via the Rose Kennedy Greenway, a mile-long stretch of parkland. It’s also an easy walk from TD Banknorth Garden, where the Boston Celtics (basketball) and Boston Bruins (hockey) play. Sports fans congregate before or after the game for drinking and dining. Tourists flock here from Faneuil Hall, following the historic Freedom Trail to Paul Revere’s House and the Old North Church.
Brief History of Boston’s Oldest Neighborhood
The North End has been continuously inhabited since 1630. Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, the neighborhood was the city’s principal residential district and included a community of free blacks. Irish and Jewish immigrants who settled here in the 19th century eventually moved on, replaced by Southern Italian immigrants. They have maintained a strong presence, even as the neighborhood has become gentrified in recent years. The local community celebrates saint’s days and feasts, mostly in summertime. Lively and colorful, these events feature religious processions, outdoor entertainment, and an abundance of food sold by street vendors.
Specialty Food Shops in Boston’s North End
The North End is considered one of Boston’s best dining destinations. To bring home a taste of Italy, visit Maria’s Pastry Shop at 46 Cross St. for house-made cannoli and melt-in-your-mouth marzipan. Try Salumeria Italiana at 151 Richmond St. for imported pastas, artisanal balsamic vinegars and other Italian specialty foods. Don’t miss a stop at V. Cirace & Son at 173 North St., a third-generation wine store that’s been in operation here since 1906.
Best Places to Eat in Boston’s North End
There’s no shortage of good restaurants in Boston’s Little Italy. For great pizza, the classic choice is Pizzeria Regina (11 1/2 Thatcher St.), where the brick-oven pies are topped with tangy sauce and the crust is perfectly thin but chewy. The flavored dipping oil is irresistible. Another fun spot is Pomodoro, at 319 Hanover St. This tiny eatery is a local favorite, thanks to moderate prices and swoon-worthy dishes like veal scallopine with sweet onion balsamic sauce. Upscale Bricco draws hungry throngs to 241 Hanover Street, for lusciously airy house-made pasta dishes (try the pumpkin-stuffed tortelli), and unexpected combinations like paparadelle with wild boar and porcini mushrooms in a red wine sauce.
Shopping in Boston’s North End
Boutiques are blossoming in the North End, thanks to the influx of hip young professionals to the neighborhood. Prices are typically higher than at chain stores, but the shopping experience is more intimate. For the perfect pair of jeans, try Injeanious at 441 Hanover St., where owner Alison Barnard stocks more than 30 brands of denim. Twilight, on 12 Fleet Street, specializes in date-night duds for women, while Velvet Fly (424 Hanover St.) features a mixture of vintage and modern clothes that share a whimsical, unique sensibility. Shake the Tree, at 67 Salem St., features interesting gift items, funky housewares, and baby gear.
Boston’s Italian North End is a delightful place to visit, for a post- or pre-game dinner or a romantic stroll around a charming area that dates back to 1630. Its two square miles are lined with inviting restaurants and unique shops, making it a favorite among Boston neighborhoods.