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Favorite Little-Known Italian Restaurant Outside of Boston Proper?

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I definitely have a few, including Abbondanza in Everett, Pellino's in Marblehead, and Pasta Lina's in Medford, but I'd love to hear about a few more. Has anyone tried Fiorella's in Newton? Sweet Basil in Needham? Angelo's in Stoneham? Any other favorites out there?

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  1. Sweet Basil is great for rustic country Italian (big flavors). The space is TINY, only a few tables and a counter, so don't go there if you are on a tight-time frame or if you don't want to walk out of there with eau du garlic permeating your clothes.

    7 Replies
    1. re: olives

      Georgie D's Place in Stoneham is relatively new, and has excellent Italian. I also like Venetian Moon in Reading (awesome chicken marsala) and Ristorante Serena in Malden.

      1. re: RichardA

        Is that an old menu up on the Ristorante Serena Web site? $6.50 for tortellini pesto is pretty reasonable!

        PS Don't listen to me, I was looking at their lunch menu. Doh! Anyways, here is their Web site:

        http://www.ristoranteserena.com/

        1. re: RichardA

          I like Georgie D's, too. I have a GC to Venetian Moon- will have to get there soon. Have never heard of Ristorante Serena. Will have to see if they have an on line menu. Am going out for dinner this evening- not sure what kind of food we will decide upon- I was leaning towards either Fuloon or All Seasons Table, but one in the party is pretty picky, so we may be better off with Italian.

          1. re: RichardA

            Found the menu for Ristorante Serena- did not realie it was in Maplewood Square. Lots of seafood offerings. Sounds promising. Thanks for the tip.

            1. re: RichardA

              Is Ristorante Serena new? I just drove by there last week.

              1. re: taxi

                It opened around the start of 2007.

            2. re: olives

              Sweet Basil has expanded and the space is not nearly so tiny now. It is still difficult to get a table though.

              oops, this was supposed to go under the Sweet Basil post.

            3. One of my favorite Italian places outside of Boston proper is La Vita Mia in Saugus. I'm sure a lot of people know about it, but it doesn't get mentioned here to often.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Infomaniac

                LVM is our favorite too. And, I love that they have a take out menu too.

                Molise in Wakefield *used* to be on our favorite list until the night when, as the next in line to be seated, 4 people pushed ahead of us and told the hostess they had a reservation. The policy at the time was No Reservations. We had been there for 45 minutes.....we didn't stay.

              2. Fiorella's is pretty good, but I prefer Francesca's, also in Newton (Adam's St, in Nonantum). The dining room is tiny, but with nice atmosphere. The pizza is very good, as are the pasta dishes.

                3 Replies
                1. re: fbf242

                  What are the hours for Francesca's? I can't seem to find anything online about it.

                  1. re: hiddenboston

                    I don't know, but it is possible that there are some days that it is closed, as I seem to recall a few times that we have tried unsuccessfully to go or order food (my family has been ordering pizza from them for 20ish years). I think they are only open for dinner.

                    1. re: fbf242

                      also, the last time I was there--a few months ago--they had gone to cash only. However, their traditional red sauce dishes are authentic and delicious.

                2. Right now, my two Italian favorites outside of Boston are Gennaros in Quincy, and the Venetian in Weymouth. Gennaro's has excellent quality, reasonable prices and large portions. The food tastes homemade, and has some punch to it. You can smell the garlic in the air when you walk through the front door.

                  The Venetian is also very good, especially the pork chop and vinegar peppers dish, which I will go back for every time.

                  1. Not sure how little known, or even if I would classify it as Italian since the menu has many other choices, but I really like the Pleasant Cafe in Roslindale. Thin crust pizza and some of the best veal dishes around. AIthough I do think it's strange that if you want to eat at the bar, the wait staff from the dining room takes your order and you pay separately for your food and drink. Always liked Vin & Eddies in Abington as well and no one ever seems to post about that place.

                    1. Vinny's at Night in East Somerville...not so little-known though. Definitely my favorite!

                      1. Not so obscure, maybe: Delfino in Rozzie, Grapevine in Salem, La Campania in Waltham, Saporito's in Hull, Carmen's Kitchen in Eastie.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                          MC, what is the atmosphere like at Carmen's Kitchen? Is it nice inside?

                          1. re: hiddenboston

                            The look is sort of half pizza parlor, half nice/casual sit-down restaurant, a lot of stone work inside. One of the owners is a fairly, um, well-known North End figure (he also owns Fresh Cheese); he's often there with his posse in the corner. Very friendly place. Awesome oversized meatballs, lots of simple, classic dishes like broccoli rabe with sausage and a ton of garlic, and linguine with EVOO, anchovies, and more garlic. Sound kind of Sicilian-American? I think it is. Big portions, low prices.

                        2. Chiming in for Metrowest, The Parlor in Upton. A 'suburban' version of the Franklin. Stones Public House chef left last month so I can't say yet.

                          1. The Pasta Market in Malden. The best.
                            Also, for dessert - authentic homemade Italian gelato go to Lil N Chicks in Saugus along with expresso and cappucino.

                            13 Replies
                            1. re: taxi

                              Forgot to mention the North End Cafe in Saugus, on Rt1 North. Casual, reasonable priced and very good food.

                              1. re: RichardA

                                Thanks for the remind. Been meaning to try that place.

                                1. re: RichardA

                                  Apparently they no longer have the restaurant and are concentrating on the catering biz.
                                  http://northendcafe.mealagent.com/vie...

                                  1. re: Gio

                                    Chianti in Beverly

                                    1. re: ipsofatso

                                      I haven't been in a while, but I was going to say Chianti. The nicest people own it too, and love what they do.

                                    2. re: Gio

                                      Thanks Gio for the update. It must have been fairly recent.

                                      1. re: RichardA

                                        So sorry to be the bearer of bad news. : (
                                        I was hoping it would be yet another wonderful place to go.

                                        1. re: Gio

                                          Angelo's in Stoneham (rt. 28), is my favorite Italian now.

                                          The cheaper pizza shop side, has very little atmosphere, but you can have excellent food for moderate prices.

                                          And they have an extensive menu!

                                      2. re: Gio

                                        Nope, I was in that shopping center today and poked my head in to check on this. They are most definitely still open for restaurant business.

                                        1. re: Gio

                                          nope they still are a restaurant, my parents eat there almost every Friday... and i love the north end cafe

                                      3. re: taxi

                                        We absolutely LOVE the Pasta Market in Malden - best eggplant parm I've ever had. Also love their angel hair amalfitana.

                                        Abbondanza in Everett is another favorite. They have great gnocchi.

                                        1. re: lulu806

                                          i have had 2 bad dinners from pasta market! i wouldnt reccommend it.

                                          1. re: chachachow

                                            Perhaps we have different tastes then - I've eaten there on a regular basis since they opened (approx. 5 years ago) and never had a bad meal. I continue to highly recommend it.

                                      4. Might be a little upscale compared to some others but my favorite is Bistro 5 in Medford. Love the squid ink pasta!

                                        1. Sweet Basil is yummy! Huge portions, great bread, a spaghetti bolognese [more like pappardelle, I think] that I dream about. Cash only. BYOB for I believe $5 corkage. There is pretty much always a wait, although now there is a bit of space to wait in, and sometimes they bring out little nibbles for those waiting. One option on a night you have to wait is to go down the street a little ways to Masala Art for a drink and they will call you on your cell when your table is ready.

                                          1. Assuming you don't consider Cambridge part of Boston proper, I'd vote for Trattoria Pulcinella. The couple times I was there I was quite impressed.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: tatamagouche

                                              La Campania in Waltham... always great.

                                            2. I've always enjoyed Mezzo Mare at Nantasket/Hull, across from the Red Parrot. They do a good job with down home, rustic, southern Italian style recipes. Also has great pizza. Good reasonably priced wine list. Very casual. Real fresh fish! You won't go wrong here.
                                              Enjoy,
                                              CocoDan

                                              1. I like Fiorellas in Newton a lot. I haven't been to Francescas or the other popular fav around the corner Vecchia Roma. But Fiorella's is more convenient in that it's open when I expect it to be (it seems like I'm always too late/wrong day for Francescas or VR). Their red sauce is very good and their veal parm excellent. Instead of bread on the table they give you baskets of pizza dough sprinkled with a garlic/herb/olive oil mixture and some piping hot marinara. Very yummy. I have found their salads to be eh, and sometimes their specials are a little too over the top with ingredients thrown in. But the simple things are quite good. Stick to red sauce items. People rave about their pizza but I think it needs a little more salt in their dough. The place is inexpensive, easily accessible (good parking, good hours), is very family-friendly, and has a patio for summer dining. It's not a destination place, but a solid neighborhood place that I'm happy to have around. Now that I think about it I really have to have that veal parm again soon, it's one of the best around.

                                                6 Replies
                                                1. re: Scruffy The Cat

                                                  I think this is a good summary of Fiorella's. It's a nice place to have in the area, particularly when you're in a veal parm kinda mood, but not worth venturing out to.

                                                  1. re: Scruffy The Cat

                                                    The thing about Fiorella's is the brick oven for the pizza, which sets it apart from other options in the area.

                                                    I am always surprised that brick oven pizza is not bigger in the Boston area. That cooking method always seemed to be the best, as least as memory serves. We love our Regina and Santarpio but they use regular ovens.

                                                    There was a place called Ippolito's River Restaurant in Derby, CT that had the best brick oven pizza, but it was demolished from a gas explosion in the late 80's-early 90's.

                                                    1. re: Bob Dobalina

                                                      Doesn't Pizzeria Regina still use their original brick oven from the 1920s?

                                                      Either way, now I'm hungry for pizza....

                                                      1. re: Rubee

                                                        PR in the North End uses gas, not coal. But the site has been a baking place since the 1880s, so the natural yeast on premises are more complex, it seems.

                                                        1. re: Karl S

                                                          Although what you said sounds compelling, any wild yeasts in the air are easily overwhelmed, flavor and effect-wise by any (necessary) commercial yeast added to the dough. Unless they really were using a wild biga for the dough:

                                                          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biga_(br...

                                                          Not just talking trash, I work with a bunch of microbiologists.

                                                          1. re: StriperGuy

                                                            So where do microbiologists go for pizza? ;-b

                                                  2. Vecchia Roma Ristorante on Watertown Street in the Nonantum section of Newton.

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: alt11

                                                      I really like Demainos in Revere. Very old-school Italian red sauce but damn good at it. Also pretty decent Pizza.

                                                      1. re: phatchris

                                                        I agree with Demaino's. I love their veal bella-bocca.

                                                      2. re: alt11

                                                        Vecchia Roma. Great prices, great portions, really soggy pasta. Tasty, though. Only been once, so I'm not well-versed.

                                                      3. Norwood: Abbondonza II on Washington St. & Joe & Maria's on Rt. 1
                                                        Medfield: Basil's on Frairie St.
                                                        Newton: Fiorella's
                                                        Dedham: Brickhouse on Bridge St.
                                                        Framingham: La Cucina on Waverly St.

                                                        4 Replies
                                                        1. re: ShelT54

                                                          Do you mean La Cantina on Waverly St in Framingham? I've went once and thought it was mediocre. Am I wrong? I've been looking for some good Italian in town, and have heard the woman at the Columbus Club cook up some good stuff on weekends.

                                                          1. re: Framinghound

                                                            I had a pretty poor meal at La Cantina Italiana a couple of months ago. Maybe they were having a bad day, but I don't see myself giving it another shot.

                                                            1. re: Framinghound

                                                              Tell me about the Columbus Club...Do you have to be a member to get in?

                                                              1. re: Framinghound

                                                                La Cantina used to be a sweet family style restaurant with a bar downstairs. They've gone "upscale", which means redecorating and higher prices, but not better food IMHO.

                                                                We tried North End Treats on Rte 30 by Speen Street a few weeks ago. It's take out only, but man was it good! Brick oven pizza, prepared pasta dishes to go, and lots of tasty looking desserts

                                                            2. Portabello's in North Attleboro
                                                              Cafe Assisi in Wrentham
                                                              The Rome in Franklin

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: caspad

                                                                La Vita Mia in Saugus.
                                                                La Campania in Waltham.
                                                                Luciano's in Wrentham.

                                                              2. I like Maggios on Revere,Street in Revers especially their chicken and white wine sauce (comfort food) another good spot is on Route 1 North in Saugus called the North End Bistro. They have very large subs during the day and at night it is a restaurant with some interesting items on the menu, not your usual red sauce. Monte's on Eastern Avenue in Lynn has been spruced up. Old school north shore Italian food, lots of cheese on everything. Of the three I suggest the North End Bistro on Route 1.

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: nobreadinthe breadbox

                                                                  The North End Bistro's restaurant is closed. They only do catering now.

                                                                  1. re: taxi

                                                                    Not sure where you're getting your info, but as I mentioned earlier, I went in there after I saw that posted here, and it doesn't seem to be correct. The server I talked to told me they are still operating as a restaurant. This is the North End Cafe in the plaza where Truly Jorg's and Our Glass is.

                                                                2. Luigi's, in Sudbury...

                                                                  7 Replies
                                                                  1. re: galleygirl

                                                                    little known:

                                                                    Il Camino

                                                                    1. re: Bighead

                                                                      Il Camino? Never heard of the place. Where is it?

                                                                      1. re: hiddenboston

                                                                        omerta

                                                                        1. re: Bighead

                                                                          As far as I understand it, the goal of chowhound is to SHARE good restaurants and food resources in Boston. When we share these Boston resources, the businesses succeed and then are around for the long haul.

                                                                          I can think of a dozen little hole in the wall gems barely getting by who are helped along by Chowhound alone. Keeping stuff secret really benefits noone.

                                                                        2. re: hiddenboston

                                                                          It's a good thing more Chowhounds aren't bound by a loyalty oath to keep secret their favorite restaurants' locations. I suspect the one that Bighead is talking about is in Leominster (which makes it a rec for the New England board).

                                                                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                            that is the one MC slim

                                                                            1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                              Thanks, MC. I was scratching my head wondering where the heck Omerta, Massachusetts was when your post came through.

                                                                      2. Where is the Luigi's in Sudbury? I know where the Luigi's in Wayland is. Hmmm...

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: RiceRulz

                                                                          Oh yeah, Sudbury, Wayland; I just can't figure out where one ends and the other begins...You are thinking of the same place.

                                                                        2. Bon Caldo, or Rte 1 in Norwood, turns out excellent, higher-end Italian food. I was skeptical at first, since "Bon Caldo" isn't proper Italian (language), but it turns out it's the chef-owner's last name. More Northern-Italian style, but the food is very good, and the wine list (Wine Spectator Award-winner, so they say) has an amazing selection of Italian wines.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: winedude

                                                                            My favorite little known restaurant is the Bella Costa in Framingham. The owner is very friendly, their veal is incredibly tender. A friend of mine said the risotto was over cooked. But everything that I get there has been great.

                                                                          2. We enjoy La Scalas in Randolph. Whenever we come up for a visit it is one of our stops.

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: joda

                                                                              I used to love LaScala's but it seems to be hit or miss these days.

                                                                            2. Fiorella in Belmont. Looks and feels like a local pizza and grinders joint but the food is really excellent.

                                                                              Also, though not exactly "little known", any list of Italian restaurants outside Boston must include Il Cappriccio in Waltham.

                                                                              1. Angelo's is very good, also Ralphies in Salem NH and Ciao in Merrimac, MA

                                                                                1. My all-time favorite is still Gaetanos, in Stoneham. I returned there time and time again for the past 13 years. The only thing I had which I didn't like was the chicken marsala (quite surprising). They used chunks of boiled ham instead of prosciutto (which is optional, I know, in a marsala recipe) and the taste was just flat. But considering the hundreds of meals I've had there and this was the only bad one, I consider that a pretty good record. Drinks are excellent and very generous!

                                                                                  1. If you're willing to go a bit further outside of Boston proper, Filho's Cucina in Groton is outstanding. The only dish I've had there that I didn't love was linguini with white clam sauce, but everything else is really, really tasty.

                                                                                    1. Capellinis on rte 38 in Chelmsford is a pretty good old school neighborhood. type place..

                                                                                      1. It's a haul from most of you, but I can't believe that no one's mentioned Cafe Il Cipresso in Tyngsboro. It remains a redeeming factor in the heinous line of cookie cutter chain restaurants up and down the DW strip part of old Rt 3. It's in a strip mall behind the Firehouse restaurant and no more than 2 minutes from Academy of Nortre Dame.

                                                                                        They make their own pasta. You can definitely taste the difference. I've run into tourist trap places in the North End that fail in comparison to my favorite little gem in the distant north. Their meat sauce is classic and so meaty. Their prices are really reasonable, too.
                                                                                        They've changed owners in the last couple years, and I can taste the difference, but it's slight and still great. It's worth the trip.