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Mar 11, 2009 02:24 PM

Modern Pastry

I have a couple questions about Modern versus Mike's (I've done some board sleuthing and haven't found any answers). Is Modern the place to go even if I don't like cannolis? I'm more of a fan of cake, brownies, and cookies (usually with some amount of chocolate). Does Modern have more stuff than their pastry case displays? I've gone in a couple times to get a glimpse of what they have, and it doesn't seem like much. So any recommendations? Every time I go to the North End, I tell myself to get something from Modern, but I instinctively go to Mike's (especially for the huge M&M cookies). But this week I'm determined to go to Modern. Is the strawberry cheesecake too rich or is it really good?


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  1. Try Maria's, around the corner facing the artery parks on Cross St next to J.Pace. It's old world goodness. And cheaper. The cookies are terrific and the various other pastries - like sfogliatelle (filled with ricotta) and the lobster tail (filled with a cream filling) - are super. I haven't had her cakes.

    4 Replies
    1. re: lergnom

      I agree - go to Maria's. Both Modern and Mike's lack authenticity and are there for the tourists not the folks who appreciate real Italian bakeries.

        1. re: RichardinJP

          I've lived in Boston most of my life, so am not a tourist, and I prefer Mike's. I don't understand why just because a place is popular it is deemed a tourist trap.

          1. re: pollystyrene

            Well I don't understand why a place is popular just because it is so big. They have a huge counter. Some of the young ladies who work behind the counter are nice.

            Maybe it is deemed a tourist trap because they have these nice plastic bags that say "Mike's Pastry" that all the tourists walk the freedom trail with, and take back to their hotel on the T.

            To me the problem with Mike's is that their products just aren't very good. Pretty much everything I've ever tried from there is just too sweet. And for me to say that, with the sweet tooth that I have, it must really mean something. Most of their items don't seem very fresh either.

            The more people who to to Mike's, the shorter the line at Modern, so I'm not complaining.

      1. In my opinion, there is nothing worth getting at Modern aside from cannolis. Nothing is impressive to me there, nor has it been for most of the people I know who have had other stuff there. Although they do sometimes have these pretzel rods dipped in chocolate and caramel that are supposed to be amazing, but they never have them when I go in for a cannoli. If you aren't bothered by rude service, the cheesecake at Lulu's right near Modern is really good. My pal gets the lemon meringue cheesecake every time and loves it. Have fun!

        10 Replies
        1. re: chicken pot pie

          Just don't get the cupcakes at Lulu's. They're dry and among the worst I've had. I don't think the NE bakeries are good for cookies, brownies, etc. I love Mike's, but whenever I've strayed from cannoli and lobster tails, I've been disappointed. I remember a peanut butter fudge brownie that was particularly dry and bland. Maybe you should stick with the M&M cookies!

          1. re: chicken pot pie

            Does not sound like you are even going to the same bakery... I have eaten nearly everything they make at one point or another and the pastries never cease to amaze. See my post below. If you are categorically trashing what I believe to be one of the best pastry shops in Boston, please detail a few more things that you have actually eaten that were bad. If you are eating chocolate dipped pretzels that is not much of an example of an Italian pastry...

            1. re: StriperGuy

              Did not mean to offend. I am not categorically trashing Modern. I tell everyone I know to go there for cannoli. However, was not impressed with eclair, chocolate mousse-style cake, tiramisu, cheesecake, strawberry shortcake-type thing, others... Never actually ate the pretzels, as I said in my post, but heard they are awesome. Ricotta pie was good, I am sorry I neglected to mention that. It's all just a matter of opinion. I thought that was what this board was about: sharing opinions. I don't claim to be an authority on the North End just because I live there. I was just sharing a response to a post regarding what to get at Modern, aside from cannoli. I would probably not get anything other than cannoli. Have a good day.

              1. re: chicken pot pie

                Aaaah I understand. I don't mind if you dis a place with some detail and the place desserved it. In short we agree. Pretty much anything they do that has an American ring to it: cheesecake, strawberry shortcake, eclairs, etc. is not really noteworthy.

                That said, anything old-school Italian usually shines. Do yourself a favor and try something ITALIAN at the ITALIAN bakery. You probably won't be disappointed. Their cassata, macaroons, torrone, and florentines in particular shine.

                1. re: StriperGuy

                  Had a damn fine custard zeppole there this afternoon. Could have used more cherries, but then, there are never enough cherries in anything for me.

                  1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                    I believe custom only permits 2 or 3 cherries in the making of zeppole.

                    1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                      Thos are zeppoli di San Giuseppe which they only make this time of year. YUM!

                      1. re: StriperGuy

                        Yep, we know that. I'd been hoping for a visit to Modern while they're in season.

                        What I can never remember is the season when they make the ricotta pie with wheat berries - is that for Easter?

                        1. re: Allstonian

                          Think it is the few weeks surrounding Easter proper.

              2. re: chicken pot pie

                Everything I have ever had at Modern Pastry has been outstanding, especially the ricotta pies. I've been to all the local bakeries and similar bakeries in Philadelphia. None surpasses Modern Pastry to me.

              3. I'm more of a Modern than a Mike's fan myself, quite like the amaretti con pignoli. Service has always been cordial to me. Maria's is my go-to for sfogliatelle; I really should try other things there. Maybe time for a little North End cookie crawl.


                2 Replies
                1. re: MC Slim JB

                  You really have to try the riccota pie with the chocolate layer in the middle at Maria's. It's positively the most amazing treat I've ever had.

                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                    Yup - the pignoli cookies are good at Modern - does Mike's even make them?

                  2. Modern blows Mikes out of the water. Pretty much anything they make is awesome. Mike's is mostly junk, made from commercial mixes for tourists. Modern quite the opposite. The only thing I eat from Mike's is the black and white cookies and the pistachio cookies.

                    From Modern, just go in and try something, anything, not just cannoli. Their chocolate truffle bars are insane as are their Florentine cookies, cassata, Almond macaroons, ricotta pie, etc. etc.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: StriperGuy

                      That said, I think it's best to stick with Italian pastries at any of the Italian bakeries in the North End. I've been pretty consistently disappointed at Modern when I've strayed away from the Italian specialties to such items as the eclairs and the black and white cookies (I will have to try one at Mike's!)

                      So if your preference is indeed "cakes, brownies, and cookies (usually with some amount of chocolate)" then I think you're not going to be impressed at Modern (except possibly by the excellent Florentines), or at Maria's for that matter.

                      1. re: Allstonian

                        I am shocked at the long lines out the door whenever I pass by Mike's. Do they pay all the concierges in town for tourist business?

                        1. re: joebloe

                          I actually quite like the cannoli at Mike's (which are all I've really had there) though I like the ones at Modern more. It's just kind of an institution and something people associate with the North End. There is much better street/stand food than you find in Faneuil Hall, but people still flock there. It's not necessarily a bad thing and every city has places like that (not that Mike's has the same amount of historical significance as Faneuil Hall, but you see my point).

                          1. re: joebloe

                            Although Mike's might be average by Boston standards, I've heard from visitors to Boston (yes, I talk to tourists sometimes) that it's far and away better than can be found in many parts of the U.S.

                            In that case, Modern might make some tourists' heads explode, and that would be bad for tourism overall, I think.

                          2. re: Allstonian

                            I agree, it would never even occur to me to eat a brownie or non-Italian cake at Modern.

                          3. re: StriperGuy

                            I love the dark chocolate Florentines at Modern.

                            1. re: StriperGuy

                              I've had good ricotta pie from Mike's and they sell a wider variety of marzipan animals (lambs for easter or, in my case, for a Seder).

                              I have a strong preference for Maria's, as noted above. I used to like Modern a lot but they renovated to make it look like a Milanese pastry shop, keeping only the sign, and it's not the same for me without the torrone piled on the side, etc. I've never been a big Mike's fan but none of these places suck.

                            2. I think this is one of the questions that everyone has their own favorites. Its based on not only taste, but what you grew up on. I personally really like Mikes...but, it is also the place that I went as a kid, so there is that familiar taste. I don't really get the cookies/brownies and such, I always go for the Lobster Claws, which are so amazing at Mike's. It is all about the cream in the middle and a fresh outside, and it is made perfectly there. But, I have never heard a bad review of Modern either!