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Jun 28, 2007 08:54 AM

Is Taranta "Italian" enough?

I have some friends coming into town tonight. In typical tourist fashion, it's all about the North End for them.

I'd like to take them to Taranta for selfish reasons--I've never been. Plus, it always gets high marks on this board. Will they be bummed out and think it's "weird" because of the Peruvian influence? I'd like to broaden their horizons, but not to the point where they're unhappy with the selection.

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  1. I don't think it's Italian enough, if the North End is what they're looking for. But that said, I'm also not a fan of Taranta and on my couple of visits I found it to be rather overrated (IMHO).

    1 Reply
    1. re: MB fka MB

      I agree, at least on the "not Italian enough" comment. If they're hoping for a classic North End experience, Taranta isn't where I'd take them.
      Il Panino, Al Dente, Cibo, Artu, maybe Prezza all come to mind for first-time North enders.

    2. Interesting, I was going to say the opposite of the above posts.

      The Peruvian influences are of course present, but I'd say that if you didn't know to look for them, you might not even notice they were there. At most, you might notice that a few of the ingredients (cassava root in the gnocchi) seemed a bit more progressive and international than at a traditional Italian restaurant.

      The Italian tastes and feel are much more omnipresent, from the straight-ahead antipasto platter through the pastas and secondi. Some dishes have Peruvian ingredients, many don't.

      One thing Taranta is definitely not is Italian American. But to me, there's a lot of genuine southern Italian cooking going on throughout the menu.

      1. If there's anyone whose cooking is closer to the spirit of authentic Southern Italian cooking (including little covered cuisines like Sardinian), as opposed to the highly Americanized Italian cooking practiced in the majority of North End restaurants, I'd like to hear about it. I think Taranta also does some of the best Italian-style seafood in the neighborhood. The Peruvian touches aren't omnipresent and are easy to detect if you want to avoid fusion-y dishes. (There's a helpful glossary of South American ingredients right on the menu.)

        However, most tourists headed for the North End expect and want the experience to be about huge plates of pasta oversauced with marinara, and heavy, gloppy parmigianas. Taranta is not the place for these folks. You have dozens of options on this score, most of them roughly interchangeable, in my book.

        1 Reply
        1. re: MC Slim JB

          I agree wholeheartedly with MC Slim JB. I had a risotto at Taranta a few weeks ago that re-defined risotto for me.

          Certainly depends on expectations, but I have brought both sophisticated and unsophisticated dining guests to Taranta, and all have been happy. If it was still in the North End, I would also recommend Sage.

        2. Looking at the menu online, I was kind of thinking finlero and JB's responses would be more typical. But, as I've said, I've never been there, so you never know.

          I guess I should have added more info:
          This is not their first trip to the North End. More like their tenth or more.
          I think they want "The North End!" more for it's vibrancy and feel, although yes of course they are big fans of Italian food.
          They usually end up in crappy places of the Florentine and Fiore variety.
          I was thinking of L'Osteria, which would be a couple steps up in improvement for them, but I'd like to do something slightly different. They're both of Italian-American heritage, so can get decent "old school" Italian anytime they want.

          I think I'm convincing myself to go to Taranta. Or Prezza. LOL.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Alcachofa

            "so can get get "old school" Italian anytime they want"

            Alcachofa, haven't you answered your own question? If they like good food, have even a scintilla of adventurousness and won't find a Taranta-like experience anywhere else soon...duh?

            Obtw, Taranta is not over-rated at all, IMNSHO.


            1. re: Alcachofa

              Thanks for clarifying. That all being said, I do think Taranta could be a good choice. Prezza too. I guess I was thinking this was their first visit to the North End, and though I think Taranta is good, it's not the place that would immediately come to mind for such an outing. Osteria is ok but in a "red sauce/chicken parm" sorta way so if you are indeed looking for something a little different, than sure, try it.
              I've only been to Taranta once. It was ok, but honestly not all that memorable so that's why I don't think of it often, Perhaps, based on all the positive recs here, I should give it another shot .

              1. re: Alcachofa

                I vote for Prezza but I have not been to Taranta. I find Prezza's food to be more refined than gloppy Americanized red sauce style.

                1. re: emilief

                  Hey emilief,
                  There's absolutely nothing wrong with Prezza, and a lot right. But don't ya think it's about time to go-with-the-flow and try Taranta?


              2. From a long-time North Ender:

                I love Taranta. Yes, it's "Italian enough."

                Take them. And yourself.

                6 Replies
                1. re: Bostonbob3

                  Heartily agree. You'll love it. I do.

                  1. re: Bostonbob3

                    Taranta? Yum. Yum yum. Yum yum yum.

                    I'd say it in Italian if I knew how ...

                    1. re: Bob MacAdoo

                      "Yum" is "yum" in Italian.

                      Taranta is "squisito."

                      1. re: Bostonbob3

                        Well, now, that post was pure serendipity. Thanks Yum Yum for the lesson in Italiano. Bravissimo!

                    2. re: Bostonbob3

                      Taranta having been, and remaining, one of my all-time favorites, I will say I wish they'd occasionally bring back some of the super-Southern, not at all Peruvian specialties they served early on, particularly the spaghetti w/ sea urchin & bottarga and the chocolate eggplant. Just now and then, just for kicks...

                      1. re: Bostonbob3

                        Yep, totally agree with BobstonBob:

                        "I love Taranta. Yes, it's "Italian enough."

                        I think you and you're friends will love it to.

                        PS. It can be warm on a hot night near the kitchen on the 2nd floor, so ask for the first floor or a table closer to the windows....