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Desperately Seeking Best Red Sauce

  • s

Californians traveling through New England with one Saturday night in Boston. Group of 8 adults want great Antipasta, Chicken Parm, Linguine with Clams, Spaghetti&Meatballs, tableside Caesar. Good wine list. From the board I've gathered the following (in no certain order):
Lo Conte, Cibo, Il Panino, Artu, and La Summa. Help!!! Information overload. Will be celebrating special occasion so price (within reason) no object. Many thanks in advance.

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  1. I'd add Antico Forno. But I don't think any of these places do tableside caesar (very little of that in Boston). I also didn't think Artu was an esp. red sauce kind of place but others would know better.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Joanie

      We've been to Antico and enjoyed it; a bit too casual for this occasion.

      1. re: Stonerose

        None of the places you listed are nicer than Antico Forno. Well, I don't know Lo Conte but the others are all fairly casual. La Summa is a cute little space but doesn't seem nicer than AF in my opinion. Artu is quite bright, Il Panino is small and packed.

        1. re: Joanie

          Thanks for that info, Joanie. It's so hard to pick that up from the websites. Any ideas?

        2. re: Stonerose

          Antic would be my choice as well.

          Unfortunately good food from the type of establishment you describe and somewhere more upscale than Antico do not go hand in hand. You are going to sacrafice food quality for atmosphere unfortunately.

        3. re: Joanie
          Adam Castiglioni

          Davide (326 Commercial St.) does tableside Ceaser.

          1. re: Adam Castiglioni

            Now that's a great Chowhound tip! I didn't know anyone did that in Boston - we go to Cafe Escadrille in Burlington for classic tableside - good to know. Will definitely check out Davide this week. Thanks again.

            1. re: Adam Castiglioni

              How's the rest of the food?

              I ate there years ago and enjoyed it but it rarely gets mentioned here...sort of "off my radar."

          2. Go to Dom's. He'll come to the table and talk to you and create a meal just for you.

            Second to that - I lived in the North End almost twenty years and L'Osteria remains my favorite red sauce restaurant in the neighborhood.

            3 Replies
            1. re: pam

              Wow such speedy replies! I will check them out; hopefully, they have a website. Is Dom's the name of the restaurant?

              1. re: Stonerose

                I agree with the L'Osteria rec. Definitely a red-sauce place - very moderate prices.

                Link: http://www.losteria.com/

              2. re: pam

                Sorry, but Dom's would never be on my list.

              3. The tableside Caesar may be tough to find (I've had more luck with that in NJ than in MA), but as far as everything else you mentioned, here are a few of my favorites:

                Al Dente, Salem Street, Boston
                Cibo, Hanover Street, Boston
                L'Osteria, Salem Street, Boston
                Rino's, Saratoga Street, East Boston

                My favorite red sauce is probably at either Rino's or Al Dente...

                1. I like Cibo but it can be tough for parties larger than 4 people. It's small and the don't even have a dessert list so as to facilitate turnover, which they will be seeking on Saturday night.

                  1. c

                    Avoid all the North End restaurants. They are not worth the hassle of getting parking, waiting for a table, over- paying for mediocre food. Go to Carlo's in Brighten (next to Rangoli's and Pho Pasteur). May have to wait a little to be seated. During the week is easier than weekend, but food is good basic Italian. Best value in Boston.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: catspercapita

                      Nothing against Carlo's, but it's quite possible to not over-pay for mediocre food in the North End if you do some research.

                      1. re: Dax

                        ...and that's exactly what I am trying to do with this post. Thank you all - you're suggestions are most welcome! Keep em coming.

                        1. re: Stonerose

                          This isn't in the North End, but The Colosseum in Salem, NH has everything you are looking for - they do a wonderful presentation of tableside Caeser salad. They also take reservations and the food is terrific. The link is below.

                          Link: http://www.thecolosseumrestaurant.com/

                    2. If you are looking for lots of fine dining atmosphere, and good food, I have had good meals at Mamma Maria on North Sq. It's pricey, but the atmosphere is a step up from the other places mentioned, and the food is very good. It is a bit fancier than the traditional red sauce places, but they serve a antipasto "tower", which is really good. They have ceasar salad on the menu, but I don't think they make it at the table. You can check out their menu at menupages.

                      Link: http://boston.menupages.com

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: mwk

                        While I'm a fan of Mamma Maria (perhaps the most formal, white-tablecloth restaurant in the North End, a great occasion place, with fine service, beautiful small dining rooms, and great wines), its menu is very Northern in focus. The current menu has no Caesar salad (an invention of a Mexican restaurateur, by the way, not Italian at all), and only a single red-sauce dish. They are mostly about non-tomato-based pasta sauces, roast meats, mushrooms, salumi. Think Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna, not Campania and Sicily.

                        My favorite Italian red-sauce places tend to be outside the North End. Vinny's at Night (though crowds from recent press attention have made it a pain), Carmen's Kitchen in Eastie, Carlo's Cucina in Allston (though it's not exclusively Southern, either).

                        Trattoria Toscana is perhaps my favorite Italian restaurant in the city right now; the chef's focus is on Tuscany, and his food is simple and beautiful, very Tuscan in spirit, but his pasta sauces roam all over the map, and are superb.

                        Taranta is one North End place that does beautiful Southern dishes, and not just the Neapolitan and Sicilian classics, with real creativity and flair (and occasional, interesting Peruvian accents). I'm also a fan of Carmen, a smallish, intimate, casual place, leaning mostly in the direction of Naples.

                        Zafferano in Eastie does beautiful versions of the cuisine of the chef's native Avellino, real Campanian food, not an Italian-American kind of place at all.

                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                          Yes, it looks like the menu posted on menupages is a bit out of date. I mentioned Mamma Maria because of the idea of a "special occasion" place. However, if the goal is really Southern Italian Red Sauce type places, I'd vote for La Summa.

                          I had a wonderful meal there, with all the "traditional" Italian food such as stuffed artichokes (delicious), arancini (rice balls with red sauce for dipping),homemade gnocci in red sauce and homemade Pappardelle with eggplant in red sauce. The did have Ceasar salad on the menu, but not made at table.

                          Portions are large, prices are very reasonable, and the service was excellent. Overall, the atmosphere is not on a par with Mamma Maria, but certainly with L'Osteria, or Giacomo's. Plus, they have very good homemade desserts, and they take reservations.

                      2. Lots of options. You won't go wrong with LoConte's, Osteria, Artu..(never been to Cibo or La Summa)

                        Il Panino just added an outdoor patio and I had a very nice lunch last weekend..Caesar; but not done tableside. If it's a nice night, that might be the way to go.

                        I also like Massimino's..a little away from the action on Hanover

                        1. t

                          You've got lots of great options and some great suggestions here but if I were you my top choices would be:

                          --Il Panino
                          --L'osteria, Lo'Conte or Al Dente (all on the same stretch of Salem and all good)
                          --La Summa

                          I think Antico Forno is great but you won't find a lot of traditional red sauce stuff here (i.e. chicken parm or marsalas etc) because most everything is cooked in their brick oven. Il Panino has a great antipasto and excellent pasta and other dishes. I didn't know they put in a new outdoor patio but that just seals the deal even more for me. The only downside --you can't make reservations here...and I'm not sure you can at any of the others, either (maybe La Summa?) so you'd really need to get there early, or be ok with waiting.

                          1. i love antico forno, but agree that it's not what OP is looking for.

                            what about giacomo's on columbus in the south end? for months, i vetoed it for dinner, assuming they served the sort of red sauce cuisine that involved pasta swimming in a vat of lame tomato sauce. i bit the bullet a few weeks ago and it turns out i was totally wrong!

                            maybe we were lucky on our first visit, but i'd go back on the rare occasion that i'm seeking italian comfort food.

                            n.b.: i know the original's in the north end, but i've never been.

                            Link: http://menupix.com/boston/restaurants...

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: coookie

                              I agree, I feel the same way about the South End Giacomo's. I avoided it for years, assuming it was a tourist trap with overcooked pasta and just so-so food. It's actually very good for what it is: italian american comfort food and I highly recommend it if that's what you're looking for. However I can't vouch for the North End spot (again, always struck me as a tourist-trap), so if the poster is definitely hoping to stay in the north end, I stand by my other recs.

                            2. To me, Mother Anna's is the definition of "red sauce" Italian in the North End. When I'm in the mood for Italian like my wife's Nonni used to make, this is the place we go.

                              menu: http://motherannas.tripod.com/id18.htm

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: Bob MacAdoo

                                I like Mother Anna's as well. And they take reservations :).

                                1. re: Bob MacAdoo

                                  I agree that Mother Anna's is a very good choice for red sauce dishes. Also, as others mentioned, La Summa is a really nice, old-fashioned place with some home-y items on the menu such as stuffed artichokes and stuffed peppers.

                                  1. re: Bob MacAdoo

                                    I was on the verge of mentioning it, but I think the phone rang or something. :-) Yes, their red sauce is about the best in the North End. And they also have one of my favorite dishes there--the chicken creation (chicken with eggplant, prosciutto, cheese, etc.).

                                  2. I've always enjoyed Cantina Italiana for "old school" red sauce dishes, though it does look like a tourist trap. I had a steak covered in red sauce there that I thought was pretty good. They do have caesar salad, but I don't know if it's assembled tableside. Limoncello had some decent red sauce items as well.


                                    1. Now the task will be trying to decide where. Many thanks for the abundance of replies!