LA Natives Visit Boston
My girlfriend and I just came back from a trip to Boston and I wanted to just share some of our experiences.
Rino's Place - Rino's was down the street from where we were staying via AirBNB. We had the fried calamari for an appetizer which was fantastic; light, crispy and well paired with sliced banana peppers/pepperoncinis instead of the ubiquitous marinara. My GF's lobster ravioli was better than my vongole, but both were delicious. Huge portions of tasty Italian-American food with some regional specialties. I'd say for all visitors to pick stuff off the "Lunch Specials" menu since they were typically more interesting than the dinner menu. We only waited an hour or so before being seated at 7PM on a Thursday night.
Neptune Oyster - Our wait was about 45mins-1 hour when we arrived around 1230PM. We sat at the bar and the bartender was nice enough to give a few raw oyster recommendations and we shared a hot lobster roll. While I've read reports on here about poor service, we had no problems. The oyster was fresh, sweet and briny in the way that great oysters are. The lobster roll was massive although the roll itself started to lose structural integrity towards the end; likely due to the massive amount of melted butter. Really good regardless.
Pizzeria Regina - Dinner was at the original North End branch of the chain. We showed up right around 630PM and luckily grabbed one of the last few open tables. Ordered a 10" Giambotta and 10" Puttanesca to share, both well-done. Unfortunately, the pizzas were a bit of a miss in our opinion. The crust was unevenly cooked with some parts charred black with others well-crisped. The crust lacked flavor and the toppings seemed to overwhelm the cheese, sauce and crust. Perhaps it was our fault for picking the wrong toppings but the pizzas weren't balanced and the cheese couldn't hold the pizza together nor did it impart any real flavor. The atmosphere was fun though.
Ned Devine's - We did the Freedom Trail the next day and ended up eating at Quincy Market. While the food court itself was jam packed with throngs of people, a staircase led up to much more subdued atmosphere at Ned Devine's. The clam chowder here was suppose to have won some awards and we could see why. The chowder was rich, creamy with a good clam flavor. The diced clams were plentiful and the potatoes perfectly cooked. At no point was the chowder gloppy but seemed to just coat our mouths with rich flavor and then finish pretty cleanly. We also shared a cobb salad. At $7 a bowl, the clam chowder was easily on par with the prices downstairs but in a much more organized and calm setting.
Myers+Chang - We had reservations at 715PM for this Chowhound favorite. Unfortunately, our experience was sub-par. Not being terribly hungry, we decided to share just a few items. We ordered the roasted shiitake mushroom omelette, the shiitake/chinese greens potstickers, and the wok charred udon noodles. The omelette itself was overcooked and the shiitake weren't well integrated into the flavor of the omelettle. It tasted exactly like it looked, omelette folded over the mushrooms; the mushrooms themselves lacked any "roasted" flavor. The potsticker filling was way over-processed into a paste and devoid of texture. It was just a mush and if I hadn't known what was in them, I wouldn't have been able to really taste what was in them. The dumplings skins were also a bit tough. The udon noodles were pretty good. The noodles carried a great wok-cooked flavor without being burnt at all. My gripe about this dish was that it lacked complexity. It just tasted like a slightly spicy oyster sauce. I was looking for something that would give it life but nothing was there. Service was fine. If we visit Boston again, we'd like to give this place another try but for now, it's a miss for us.
Mike's City Diner - Great little diner serving huge portions. There was a line at about noon on a Sunday, but it moved fairly quickly. I had eggs benedict with home fries and my GF had the turkey hash with grits. While the eggs benedict were definitely competent, I really enjoyed the turkey hash. Great crisp/sear with a rich turkey flavor. Definitely not mushy. Service was kind and attentive. We were stuffed when we left.
Santarpio's Pizza - After our sub-par experience at Regina, we decided to try this pizza place that our AirBNB host recommended. We shared a single mushroom, sausage, and peppers pizza. This was a much better pizza experience. The crust was evenly cooked, crisp, and with a good, not overly bready chew. The cheese was flavorful and was even. The toppings were loaded more judiciously which served to present the individual ingredients better. I could taste the peppery sausage and fresh green peppers. The atmosphere was great and even though we weren't locals, the staff made us feel welcome. My vote for pizza in Boston goes to Santarpio's.
Cannoli showdown - Not to incite another flame war, but we did a comparison. We're admittedly not cannoli connoisseurs just FYI. In the epic battle of Mike's vs Modern Pastry, our vote went to...Caffe Paradiso. Right next door to Modern, this coffee shop was comfortable and made our cannoli to order. The shell was light and flaky and the ricotta maintained its integrity with a nice hint of sweetness. If we were to choose between the two heavyweights, our vote goes to Mike's. Despite the throngs of people and warnings on this board, we really enjoyed the cannoli from Mike's. The shell was crispy although a bit "heavier" than the one at Modern. The major issue we had was that the ricotta filling at Modern was overly processed. It was so smooth that it was denser than the cream at Mike's and also sweeter which covered up the ricotta flavor. I was also interested in trying Maria's Pastry over the weekend but we were cannoli-ed out.
Thanks for all the great eats Boston! Hope this helps future visitors to Boston.
I agree with Fly and Bella: Regina is a cheese+1 *max*. It's reckon it's the best in Boston by a long stretch, but sticking to minimal toppings and asking for it to be well-done is crucial.
In Australia, you tend to order pizzas with a *lot* of toppings. (I have very few bad things to say about the food there, but the pizza... it's a different thing, let's just leave it at that.) Whenever I have Aussies come visit me, I take them to Regina but explain that it's a different kind of pizza and you shouldn't do it that way. If they insist, I make sure we order a plain cheese or a cheese+1 for comparison, and every single time they've wished they'd taken my advice for the whole order.
I'm not sure why it is, and part of me feels like I shouldn't call it the best pizza around if it's only the best pizza under certain conditions... and then I have one, and all my doubts go out the window and I start giggling with delicious glee again. I think I've decided to view the well-done cheese and cheese+1 pizzas as specialties of the house: they might not be fully representative of the menu as a whole, but they're precious enough that it doesn't matter if they're the exception or the rule.
Thanks for all the info. I guess we got sucked in by the myriad of options. I personally like a simpler pie but thought I'd give their "specials" a try. It was much easier at Santarpio's due to their limited selection compared to Regina. We'll give it another shot if we visit again. Lots of good eating still to be had!
Nice trip report. You definitely hit up a good variety of spots.
If you didn't like the crust at Regina's, you just may not like the pizza there. Honestly, last time I got a cheese pizza at the North End Regina's I didn't think it was anything special. I actually prefer the pizza at Stella's in Watertown which is near where I live.