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Best North End Italian

We're coming to Boston from New York and we'd like an upscale, yet traditional North End Italian restaurant. We are considering Lucca, Bricco (although I know the famed chef left). Any other possible suggestions.

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  1. Those are two places I whose food has slipped a bit recently in my estimation. My favorite upscale places include Mamma Maria (mainly Northern, somewhat formal, a rare white-tablecloth experience in the neighborhood), Prezza (jazzy modern Italian with half the menu devoted to grilled, chophouse fare), Sage (a tiny, high-craft kind of creative Italian), Taranta (strong seafood, with a chef who works in some flavors from his native Peru), and MarcO (another small place with a talented, creative chef). I've also had some great meals at Carmen, a small, intimate trattoria-style place, but haven't been back in a while. Make reservations.

    1. It's been a year or so since I've been, but I liked Terramia an awful lot.

      1 Reply
      1. re: CMACDC

        Pomodoro, La Brace, and Limoncello

      2. I second the Sage recommendation. The gnocchi there is to die for. The place is tiny, so you will want to make a reservation. I also really like Tresca. The menu has some modern flare, but also has old favorites. Tresca also has a great selection of wine..but no liquor.

        1. La Brace, Eclano. Both off the beaten path.

          1. MC covered it well (especially Sage), as did some of the other posters (good ideas with Terramia, Eclano, and La Brace). I'd add La Galleria 33.

            Still, in the end, I'd go with Sage or Mamma Maria. Not exactly original ideas to be sure, but the two overall, best, one-chance-to-eat-in-the-North-End choices. IMO of course.

            1. I too recommend Terramia... consistently great service and food. I know many recommend Mamma Maria but when I took my family and friends to the restaurant, we had a horrible experience there to the point where we'll never go back. Usually, I'm willing to give a restaurant a second try but the dining experience was so appalling and there are so many great restaurants in that area that it didn't seem worth trying again.

              1. Personally, I avoid the N End as its a pain to get around and I don't think the restaurants there are that great. Mama Maria was good years ago, not now. If I had to pick a place, Sage would be my first choice, but as described above, tiny (maybe 8-10 tables), Prezza is also vg, especially if you like wine (one of the best lists in N End).

                Best Italian in Boston area IMO is La Campania in Waltham. In Boston proper, I'd go to Davio's... it's not a traditional italian place (more Italian/steakhouse type of thing) but food, service, ambiance, wine is solid and it's easier to get to and deal with.

                3 Replies
                1. re: WineTravel

                  I've eaten at Mamma Maria's fairly regularly for years, and the food is as good as it's always been.

                  I WOULD recommend taking the T to Haymarket instead of trying to drive to or in the North End. That said, the walk from Haymarket to any restaurant in the NE is all of three minutes, tops.

                  Sorry to sound defensive, but I live in the North End and love it. And while I like Davio's - Davio's is a good friend of mine - it's no North End.

                  BTW, Wine Travel, have you tried Neptune Oyster, Eclano, La Brace, La Galleria 33, Tresca, or any of the other newer places? Might change your opinion.

                  1. re: Bostonbob3

                    Wasn't trying to slam the N. End, but just saying its a pain to deal with the restaurants there. No parking, and on a busy day is teaming with tourists. Don't feel there's many places that are worth going thru that for. When I do go I go "off peak"... ie. during the week, not in summer. Now, that said, LIVING in the N End is a whole different story. Having the places there as my neighborhood joints that I can just walk over to would be great... you're lucky in that regard.

                    Also, a place I like in the N End is Neptune Oyster Bar. Being able to pop in there anytime I wanted would be a treat.


                    1. re: WineTravel

                      Is it just me or does that web site bring you to a front page that does nothing? I never understand places these days without a good working web site, esp. once you've been open a while. Eastern Standard just got theirs going even after Great Bay and Foundation were up for a while.

                2. Neptune's website has posted a "coming soon" notation since they first opened. It makes me crazy!!!

                  1. Agreed. Every restaurant these days should have a working web site. Only posted it so people could get the address/phone.

                    Neptune sb especially embarrased on how long its taken as they've been open for what is it... over 2 years. Next time anyone goes, give Jeff (the owner, he's ALWAYS there) a little ribbing. Jeff's a great guy though... he'll probably agree with you that it sb up.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: WineTravel

                      well anyway in my opinion the top 5 north end restaurants are

                      La Brace
                      La Summa

                      I want to try either Carmen, Lucca or Marco next but ive heard mixed thing about them all

                      1. re: Caserta44

                        Can I ask why you like La Summa? I know a few posters have praised it, but the one time I was there I found everything overly breaded and overly, insipidly sauced.

                        1. re: Caserta44

                          Caserta--I had excellent parpadelle with tomato and eggplant at La Summa...my mouth waters just thinking of it.

                          You cannot go wrong with Limoncello. I also have had excellent cioppino twice at Fiore (go figure--I was almost scared away by the summer people on the rooftop bar). The broth was outstanding. They also have a nice cheese plate appetizer.

                      2. After reading continual raves about Sage's gnocchi, we tried them last yr. NOTHING to write home about on our visit. In fact, our dinners gave us no impetus to return and we haven't.
                        Believe me, we were disappointed. However, well worth the hype is La Campagnia in Waltham.It has both a lovely space and some innovative and wonderful food. They often serve seafood that is on the unusual side and difficult to find in boston restnts.
                        And their breads also are inventive and special.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: opinionatedchef

                          I like La Summa for a couple of reasons they have the best risotto in the North End in my opinion. I think the pasta is pretty good. But I also like the veal in limone sauce