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Need North End Restaurant for visiting parents and awful toddler

My parents are visiting later in the month and my mom wants to go to the North End. We'll be a group of six: mom, dad, me, hubs, impeccably behaved 6yo daughter who eats anything, and an impatient, loud, grabby, generally terribly behaved toddler. He's lucky he's otherwise charming and easy to parent in almost all other aspects of life, so we've decided we'll keep him. :-)

Ideas? I guess the default in this situation is Antico Forno - loud, not cramped, reasonably priced - but I was hoping to come up with something else. We also used to go to Trattoria Il Panino frequently in the pre-hellion years, but I'm not sure they can accomodate our group.

Perhaps someone out there with a similarly awful diner in the family has a suggestion I haven't considered? I'm at a loss - our older child was a wonderful diner from the get-go. Apparently that was not a result of my expert parenting skills but just the luck of the draw. (Tip: for anyone else out there with a similarly well-behaved child with a very adventurous palate, don't go patting yourself on the back just yet. :-))

Oh, and leaving the little troublemaker at home isn't an option - Grandma wants to eat with her darling grandkids.

Thanks for any suggestions!

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  1. Surprised no one has told me to stay home yet. :-)

    I wanted to specify that what I'm really looking for is a place that won't give us the stinkeye for having a kid who needs a highchair and is relatively loud. Would like some place that is not super cramped, out of concern for others, and this knocks out many places. We used to go to Pomodoro with our daughter and not think twice about it (and they were so sweet to her). Never in a million years with this one. Also need not too fancy (but not Galleria Umberto either, not what mom's looking for).
    Also would love to get decent service so we're not waiting around forever (that's when the native gets restless). Bringing his food out early or bringing food for him is not helpful because when he's done, he thinks everyone else should be done.

    I'm asking too much here, aren't I.

    5 Replies
    1. re: MrsCheese

      With all due respect, MrsCheese, it sounds like from your last sentence you reread your own post, and answered your own question. We also went through this phase with the little cookie. If you don't want to cook, how about ordering in and everyone can enjoy themselves without the added stress. I totally understand Grandma's request, but sometimes the kids just aren't able to cooperate at that moment in time. The little cheese might be able to cope with the situation in 6 months - one year from now, and everyone will then enjoy. I don't know your child's Grandma, but I know my child's loved the idea of us all going out, but wasn't happy when it wasn't the experience she was hoping for.

      1. re: CookieLee

        "I don't know your child's Grandma, but I know my child's loved the idea of us all going out, but wasn't happy when it wasn't the experience she was hoping for."

        Ha, this is so true! Honestly, we'll be fine at Antico Forno if that's where we end up. He's not *that* bad - I think I tend to exaggerate a little. :-) I was just hoping someone might point out someplace I'd overlooked.

      2. re: MrsCheese

        I feel your pain MrsCheese, but I'm afraid I haven't got much, as I don't do the North End much except for quicky lunch stuff....but I too have a young one (now 5) who is a tricky eater (won't eat anything new or different), he's well behaved (for the most part, until he gets too bored), but not an adventerous eater like your first sounds like. I hope you find something to accomodate

        1. re: MrsCheese

          Terrible food , but La Famiglia would work.

          1. re: MrsCheese

            Does Grandma want everyone to sit at the table the entire time? Our usual strategy is to study the menu ahead of time and order as soon as possible. Then one of us takes the 3-year-old for a walk around the neighborhood and the other bribes the 6-year-old with Angry Birds until the food arrives.

            And then there are the times that I have to get both kids doing calisthenics, out there on the sidewalk until the food is served... Make 'em do jumping jacks, toe touches and (in extreme cases) squat-thrusts until they are short of breath and then they'll be ready to sit down :-)

            A friend of mine uses a less physical approach: she keeps a special bag of toys, that they only bring to restaurants.

          2. Giacomo's... Have pops tire him out on the greenway while you wait in line. They're in such a rush there it shouldn't take long to be in and out.

            Please post the date, time, and restaurant you decide on.

            5 Replies
            1. re: Beachowolfe

              Thanks. I thought about Giacomo's but it's Memorial Day weekend and I'm afraid the wait will be even worse than usual. A reservation would be ideal.

              As far as date and time, I'm planning for Sunday May 27 around 5:30 (going out early is a must with this one).

              How bad is Giacomo's on a Sunday afternoon? Do you know how difficult it is to get a table for 6 in there? My mom would love it because Rachael Ray recommended it. /roll eyes/

              1. re: Beachowolfe

                "Please post the date, time, and restaurant you decide on."
                I just realized this was a little weird. You're trying to avoid us, aren't you!

                1. re: MrsCheese

                  I actually think your toddler sounds adorable, and I'd love to see him in a restaurant, and try to amuse him, but I am the 1% here, or maybe the .1%. Your mom's reaction would be hard for me though. I can't recommend anything in the north end, but you might do fine at Vinny's in Somerville. Especially at 5. Though probably not the atmosphere your mom is looking for.

                  1. re: MrsCheese

                    Well..I guess I would recommend Strega. Not because I think they are specially suited for your situation in any way..but because I don't go there and I doubt many Chowhounders do. :-)

                    Okay..but in all seriousness, most places in the North End are not big and roomy and loud enough to drown out a screaming toddler. Usually the tables are quite close together and I doubt your neighbors in the dining room will be amused by your son should he decide to start screaming.
                    In fact..the only one I can think of that's loud enough to do that is Pizzeria Regina.
                    Another suggestion would be for you to go to any of the restaurants at an off peak time. If that's not possible, then I guess go to a restaurant that can accommodate your party, and if your son acts up..then take him outside until he calms down.

                    1. re: MrsCheese

                      Not you, just your obstreperous offspring. Thanks thesaurus dot com!

                  2. HA! Love your post, and had to laugh because my 6 yo is also impeccably behaved, and we are way too smug about it. Now #2, who is 3 mths old, better live up to her sister's example... We'll see.

                    Honestly, Antico Forno seems like it would be perfect to me... We ate there over the summer, and it was absolutely delicious - I was pleasantly surprised - the risotto was outstanding, and I'm very picky about my risotto..

                    1. I agree with the Antico Forno recommendation, and would also recommend Artu. I always see families with strollers coming into Artu, and the place is quite child friendly.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Pegmeister

                        And the last time we were at Artu we walked out mid meal because of a generally terribly behaved toddler and haven't returned in five years. I faulted the restaurant staff as well as the parents for their lack of consideration to other diners.

                        1. re: RichardinJP

                          I understand, and I've been in the same position. I recommend Artu because the dining room does attract a lot of families and strollers. When dining there, I opt to sit at the bar and out of ear shot. It's hard to pass up their shrimp scampi pizza or even the potato and prosciutto pizza.

                      2. I know Grandma wants the North End, but maybe she could be convinced that somewhere else (Chinatown?) would be better with such a little tike. The fantasy of a lovely meal with the whole family is simply that.......just a fantasy. My daughter is almost 18 now, and it's already hard for me to remember how difficult it was trying to get her to sit through a meal in a restaurant. By the time I'm a grandmother, I'm sure I will have completely lost touch with the reality.

                        Antico is boisterous enough, but there isn't any running room and if the little one needs to move around it will be tough....and if the weather doesn't cooperate, going outside for a bit will be difficult as well. How about Full Moon Cafe in Cambridge? They are so well setup for this type of situation, with great adult and kids food, and that lovely play area to keep young kids busy while adults can relax over wine and decent food. Most places in Chinatown would be good for space and noise level considerations as well.......

                        1. We ate at Trattoria Il Panino a few Sundays ago, and there were several families in the outdoor patio area. Good luck to you!

                          1. I'd give Benevento's a try; it's a pizza place that serves other standard Italian fare. Dependable, flavorful food in my experience, and it tends to be a little off-the-radar, which will work in your favor on a holiday weekend. They used to have an outdoor space too.

                            1. I would recommend La Summa. Had dinner there with friends last week. We sat by the window at a table for 4, there was a table for 2 next to us. They could put them together and you would have your own little section. They take reservations so you could call and ask to be seated in the window area. It's a "family" owned restaurant so they probably wouldn't mind the kids at all. It's not very big but in the window section you're near the door so can take the little one outside if you have to. We enjoyed the food and it's not too expensive.


                              1. Thanks so much, guys! Plenty of ideas here. Appreciate it!

                                gimlis1mum: Calisthenics! lol

                                ScienceChick: Chinatown - if only! That would certainly be my preference - but definitely not what mom has in mind. Mom and Dad are from the Midwest, you see. :-) My kids do great in Chinatown - my daughter's fave food is dim sum, and the little one usually has plenty of entertainment. We even have done hot pot with success!

                                and RichardinJP: appalling that someone's kid would be so awful as to make you walk out mid-meal. I hope everyone understands that my post was a bit tongue in cheek, mainly to get some attention to the thread - my kid is terrible compared with his sister at that age, but she was exceptional. I'd never let my kid piss everyone around us off (or run up and down aisles, or do any of those other awful things I see some people let their kids do). I do have to retain a little smugness here (wink* sallyt)

                                Wish me luck!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: MrsCheese

                                  Thanks for that clarification and you certainly did get some attention to your thread. Hope your family has a great time wherever you go. Best wishes.

                                2. I am laughing in commiseration with you. I was also a perfect chowmom with number one, who still eats anything and loves to try new things, and failed miserably with number two, who hates food and thinks he should just be able to take a nutrient pill and a box of cheddar blast goldfish to live. However, his behavior at 15 years is significally better than it was at 15 months, so there's hope for you.

                                  And I also recommend Artu. They don't hate kids there and the food is decent. Went with a friend and her ill-behaved children a few years ago, and still got great service.

                                  1. I would say NO WAY to Giacomo's - there is NO ROOM for a little one to even think about moving around a bit there, unless someone wants to take them out onto Hanover and run about. I second the rec for La Summa. There is always plenty of room in there (not ever crowded) the food is good and you feel like you are in your Nonni's living room. Go up Hanover to Fleet on the right and head to La Summa.

                                    1. i have had some good food at panza, right across the street from giacomo's. (same owners, i believe.) the times i have been in, it has been on the early side and i did see babies in high chairs. it's also a small place, but feels less cramped than some other joints.

                                      as somebody who has worked in restaurants all my life, children shouldn't be running , or even toddling, underfoot on the dining room floor. it's very dangerous. sounds like you know the ropes with your kid and will take him outside if he gets wild. i'd still try to get in for dinner EARLY. it's a holiday weekend, the north end will be MOBBED. many places open at 5:00.

                                      not too late to plan to get sandwiches and picnic out on the greenway. merry-go-round, sprinklers where kids can splash, and grass for them to run around like maniacs. :)

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                                        Never heard of Panza, thanks for the rec.

                                        1. re: MrsCheese

                                          Panza is a good suggestion. Giacomo's not so much.

                                          I suggest when little boy blue acts up, you send him and grammy out on the street and enjoy your night out.

                                          1. re: Bellachefa

                                            I made a reservation - it looks perfect.

                                            Beachowolfe - fair warning.

                                            Thanks all!

                                            1. re: MrsCheese

                                              Just keep in mind that a lot of restaurants in the North End care a lot more about keeping the seats filled than making sure a table is actually available at the time that you show up for your reservation. Probably the earlier you eat the better so they won't try to squeeze in a seating ahead of you if it fills up.

                                      2. We had an early reservation (5:30 p.m.) at Taranta the Saturday night before Easter. The seven of us were seated in the uppermost room, and we had it to ourselves. I was able to be as loud and obnoxious as I wanted without bothering anybody. The only problem was peeing. The bathrooms were three floors below. At that time of day the food came out quickly -- but, as others have suggested, studying the menu beforehand and being able to order (at least apps) right away might further speed things along.

                                        The food was very good.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: FoodDabbler

                                          I forgot about Taranta - I've sat in that room on the 3rd floor. It would usually be my least favorite place to sit but you're right that it would probably be perfect for this.

                                          I hear ya on the bathrooms - if I remember the stairs are a little treacherous on a couple glasses of wine.

                                        2. We went to Panza. It was perfect! Thanks so much for the recs. the ornery one was so much better than usual being seated next to his favorite grandpa. we all had a really great meal and I breathed a sigh of relief. Well definitely be back. Thanks all!

                                          2 Replies
                                            1. re: MrsCheese

                                              After all the worry, do you remember what you ate? Or is it all a blur? My, how I remember those days.

                                              So glad you actually had some fun.

                                            2. MrsCheese- loved this thread! Glad to hear of your success.