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May 23, 2008 07:15 AM

North End Restaurants For Pasta Dishes?

Help please. Father-in-Law, Italian American in town and wants to eat tonight in the North End. He wants a variety of pasta dishes to choose from. We'll also be dining with one vegetarian. Doesn't have to be fancy/top-of-the-line restaurant but has to be good, authentic. He's particularly fond of gnocchi.

Just to know, I'm familiar with this thread:
In fact, last night we ate at Maurizio's based on the rating in this thread (wow, and dinner was great!) but in this case I'm asking not just for a good restaurant but a good restaurant known for delicious pasta dishes.

Anybody have specific recommendations?

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    1. re: Taralli

      Those were the exact two places I was going to suggest as well.

      Prezza's homemade pastas, including the gnocchi "a la Bolognese", are highly regarded on the board, but it tends to run pretty expensive.

      It may sound bizarre, but Taranta, a Puglian-Peruvian fusion restaurant, makes a terrific cassava root gnocchi. This place has almost singlehandedly raised my opinion of so-called fusion cuisine; the Peruvian accents are there, but I'd actually argue that it's the most authentic Puglian restaurant in the city.

      1. re: finlero

        Taralli & finlero, thanks for the suggestions.

        I had already checked out Prezza's site and while personally I'd love to eat there (and definitely will in the future) their menu doesn't seem to offer the variety of pasta options I'm hoping for.

        Taranta also looks awesome and totally suitable for me and my wife but doesn't exactly fit the criteria for tonight either. They list six pasta dishes, all of which look good to me but only one is vegetarian (and to me six doesn't exactly seem like a wide variety). Plus, while the Peruvian fusion idea sounds terrific, I'm not sure that's what Dad-in-Law envisions.

        Anything more in the traditional vein of homemade pasta specialities? Anyone know of a place that offers the tried-and-true pasta menu that keeps you coming back to try another dish?

        1. re: lescaret

          Unfortunately not the North End but I would highly recommend Trattoria Toascana in the Fenway if your father-in-law is willing to venture outside the North End for authentic Tuscan cuisine and delicious pastas.

      2. Try Massimino's

        207 Endicott St, Boston, MA

        6 Replies
        1. re: kallis33

          Hey everybody, great suggestions. Rabia's looks like it fits the bill nicely and other threads speak highly of it. Massimino's looks like it would work too. I'm leaning toward Rabia's but if anybody has strong opinions either way, please persuade me!

          Regardless, will report back on which we opted for.

          1. re: lescaret

            Hey everybody, reporting back. We ended up going to Rabia's and the good news is that three of four of us liked the food but the good news ends there.

            Friday afternoon, sunny, beautiful in the North End, we arrived fifteen minutes early for a 5:30 reservation. Though one family had just eaten and were leaving as we arrived, we were pretty much the first party of the evening. Greeted pleasantly, told to choose either side of the restaurant, we chose the side with the bar and the open window onto Salem St. Sat down. And waited. And waited. The bartender polished glasses, waitresses scurried around putting things in order, two waiters busied themselves doing ... what exactly? We couldn't tell. Finally we asked for menus. Our cloak of invisibility broken, we were attended to by a waiter who instantly rubbed us the wrong way.

            Picture a 30-something Bruce Springsteen-looking guy on qualudes. Ingratiatingly 'cool', like hipster jazz 1950s session player cool. The only thing lacking were sunglasses. I asked him what dishes the restaurant was known for. "They're all good" he purred. Now when a waitperson tells me that everything on the menu is good, either he/she doesn't know the menu, doesn't care, or everything is mediocre.

            Things did not get better. We ordered appetizers and entrees and wine. Despite our being the only guests there, the appetizers took more than 15 minutes to arrive. We reminded ourselves to relax and not be uptight about it so we enjoyed them - two of us got the soft shell crab appetizer (special of the day) and they were delicious (though mine was on a bed of wilted mesclun, the red-leaf lettuce edges black with decay, one of my personal pet peeves). Thankfully, my sister-in-law's garden salad was wonderfully fresh and she loved the dressing (a parmessan cream style).

            When our entrees came, Mr. Hipster asked if we'd like fresh parm on our pasta dishes. Indeed we would. Unfortunately, between our table and the ten paces he needed to go to fetch the parm, the drugs must have kicked in because the minutes ticked by and he didn't return. Finally, we flagged someone down and asked for the parm. Our errant waiter saw us and gave us one of those "D'oh!" shrugs like "Oh yeah, THAT'S what I was doing."

            As I said to start, three of us liked the entrees but mine was mediocre at best. I had the ravioli di mare. All I could really taste was the heat from the pepperocini that it was made with. The ravioli were tough and rubbery and the calamari the same.

            So. That was my Rabia's experience. The irony is that, walking around before going to dinner, we'd stopped in to look at the menu at Piccolo Niddo (sp?) a sunny, airy place on Lewis & North Sts. The owner greeted us, joked with us, I got a great vibe from the place and we almost decided to eat there. I wish we had. With all the restaurants to try in the North End, I won't be going back to Rabia's anytime soon.

            1. re: lescaret

              Sorry about that experience. Next time better to listen to Chowhounds' first recommendations. :)

              Prezza and Taranta were excellent recommendations and Piccolo Nido is one of the finest off the beaten track places in the North End.

              1. re: continuum

                Prezza and Taranta didn't have the menus Lescaret was looking for, and they're more expensive. Rabia's generally gets favorable reviews here, and I've been tempted to try it myself. I think I'll scratch it.

                It seems the holiday crew was working (barely), but I think a restaurant should stay closed instead of using its D-list crew. It sounds like the kind of situation that could be amusing if you're out with friends, but that kind of service (not to mention lettuce decay!) can put a big damper on dinner with relatives unless you're indulging in qualudes yourself.

                Sorry about the crap experience. At least you may have stumbled upon a gem in Piccolo Nido in the process for the future.

                1. re: pollystyrene

                  Thanks for clarifying, pollystyrene. That was my point but didn't feel like re-iterating.

                  The silver lining is indeed that I'm really psyched to try Piccolo Nido. The vibe was definitely right.

                  1. re: lescaret

                    Piccolo Nido has an interesting following - a later crowd who seem to be in the restaurant business or know about the business. I am not quite sure about this just an impression and some anecdotes from neighbors. What I like about the place is that the owner is friendly and will make just about anything you ask for off of the menu if he has the ingredients. It is well off of the beaten path as far as restaurants go but they have stayed in business for quite a long while which means they are doing something right.