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Visiting Boston for first time-would love some Foodie help

I will be arriving in Boston this coming Friday, May 3rd. So my first request is for a good restaurant somewhere between the airport and Salem where my friends live that we can hit after I land for dinner. Thai, Italian, Sushi, New England, Seafood, anything would be fine. I would prefer it to be on the casual side with really good food.
Second: Pastries and Bread! So where are the best bakeries in Boston? I don't like cupcakes/cakes. I am wild about well made chocolate croissants, crostada's, galettes, pies, cookies and really good bread. I guess to be more specific, French, Italian or New England bakeries.
Third: Would love a recommendation for a good Italian restaurant in Boston (or between Boston and Salem) with local, seasonal ingredients, housemade pasta/Napolitano style pizza? Something like Pizzaiolo in Oakland, CA.
Third: Dare I ask? The best clam chowder?
Fourth: Is there food that Boston is famous for other than Lobster rolls and claim chowder that I should try? I have read some of the other discussions and definitely plan to go to Neptune Oyster for the lobster roll, Island Creek Oyster Bar and West Bridge (I like the lunch menu better at WB so will most likely do lunch there).
Fifth: A delicious deli, bakery or restaurant between Salem and the airport that makes really special sandwiches with local, organic ingredients and awesome bread. I want to pick up something to take on the plane for my flight home.
Sixth: I love visiting Farmers Markets while traveling. Where is there a really quality Farmers Market worth visiting in Boston or between Boston and Salem? FYI, I will only be available to go to a FM Sat-Wed.
Last, I think: exceptional gelato or ice cream in Boston or between Boston and Salem.
thanks in advance for your ideas!

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  1. Alas, it is a bit early for Farmers Markets here in the Boston area. Most start up in June. (Right now the only local produce is coming from hoop houses, stuff like spinach and maybe radishes.)

    On the other hand, it is never the wrong time of year for ice cream. If you can get to Cambridge, try Toscanini's or Christina's. If you happen to pass through Belmont or Lexington, try Rancatore's. While not exactly between Boston and Salem, these three are in the general area of Boston and well worth a visit.

    6 Replies
    1. re: PinchOfSalt

      The Brookline Winter market is still happening each Sunday and SOWA opens on May 5th complete with Farmers' Market.

      Copley Square and the rest of the city markets begin opening mid-May.

      Penny
      http://www.bostonzest.com/

      1. re: PinchOfSalt

        POS, Since I am not quite sure of all of the places that my friends will be taking me to sight see, we very well may be in the Belmont or Lexington area-- so I appreciate you throwing Rancatore's in there. Sounds like Toscanini's should not be missed so I will definitely make it there.
        Too bad about the FM's. In CA we have year round FM's so I forget at times we are a bit spoiled in that regard. I'll have to catch one on the next trip.

        1. re: houndbythebay

          As noted by BostonZest, there are a few winter markets still happening. However it is just not the time of year for a great variety of local produce. In April and early May there are overwintered crops (like parsnips), storage crops (like winter squash), and the very earliest of spring crops (like radishes or spinach grown in hoop houses). After all, it is not uncommon for us to get some snow in April and frost is still a possibility going into the first week of May or so.

          1. re: houndbythebay

            The owners of Toscanini's and Rancatore's are brothers.

          2. For Italian w/ Neapolitan pizza I'd urge you to go across the river to Cambridge and hit Gran Gusto. Top 3 in any genre of Boston pizza, could argue the best.

            For ice cream, Toscanini's was voted best in the country by NYT, and has lots of fans here. Also in Cambridge. Most like their 'burnt caramel' flavor, my fav is the B3, but you can sample all you want and decide yourself.

            3 Replies
            1. re: HungryMack

              HungryMack, thanks for the Gran Gusto idea. I just checked their menu and it is EXACTLY what I was looking for. Thank you!!!! I will let you know how it goes. Can't wait! I also plan to try Toscanini's-maybe more than once. If it's the best ice cream in the country, once will not be enough. :-)

              1. re: HungryMack

                I made it back to the SF Bay Area so I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed Gran Gusto. I made reservations for my first night in town as I couldn't wait to try it. My friend and I shared the Roman pasta dish (I believe it was called "Tonarelli") and a Margarita pizza. Both were excellent! We also shared a piece of their Ricotta cheesecake which was definitely worth the calories. Obviously, ricotta gives the cheesecake a much grainier texture than cream cheese does so if your palate only likes the smooth version then you would want to steer clear of this one. The only disappointment was the salads. While the ingredients were fresh, they were way too heavy handed with the salt. The service was good too.

                1. re: houndbythebay

                  Happy to hear that you enjoyed Gran Gusto :)

              2. my geography is fuzzy but I think you'll go through Waltham on your way to Salem, so I'd try Il Capriccio or La Campagna for dinner. We are not renowned for our French bakeries: I like Japonnaise of the available options.For bread, Clear Flour in Brookline is head and shoulders above most others. I'd second Gran Gusto for pizza and, when in Cambridge, second Toscanini for ice cream though Christina's is good also. I would go to Prezza for Italian though it's hardly a "pizza" joint, and I still like Regina's or Otto's for pizza. Domenics in Waltham might do for your sandwiches between Salem and airport though there are others As to what's "Boston" beside seafood, I'd suggest you hit the wonderful Armenian stores and bakeries in Watertown, and perhaps try Portuguese food (Casa Portugal comes to mind).

                1 Reply
                1. re: teezeetoo

                  If she is heading there from Logan mostly likely she would go via route 1 (Lynn, Revere, Saugus) which takes you thru a dining waste land full of mediocre places you can find anywhere-5 guys, Chilis, Margaritas, fast food, etc.

                  Closer to the airport is Santarpios In E Boston for pizza.
                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/834526

                  A boston tradition would be Kelleys Roast Beast in Revere. Also a location in Saugus.

                  http://www.kellysroastbeef.com

                  Or for tiki type dining you could go to Kowloon in Saugus. Lots of folks go for the experience and scorpion bowls. Food is what you expect.
                  http://kowloonrestaurant.com

                  There are plenty of farm stands on the North Shore but as mentioned it is really too early for good, local produce other than greens. Here is a thread that mentions some up there. Most have great bakeries for bread, pies, donuts, etc
                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/899702

                  Here is a link to the chow blog on what to eat near the Peabody Essex Museum. If you have time definitely visit. It's wonderful place.
                  http://www.chow.com/food-news/120854/...

                  ETA: Karls just recently moved from Saugus to Peabody. Worth a visit and could meet your sandwich needs.
                  http://www.karlssausage.com

                2. With regards to bread bakeries... my two favorites in Boston are the Clear Flour bread bakery in Brookline (not to be confused with Flour) and Iggy's in Cambridge (best bread and sticky buns)... both are very very small (not large/hype like Eataly or Le Pain Quotidien in NYC). I also like Finale Park Plaza on Columbus Ave for great pastries. For all the rest, I would take a trip down to Charles street in Beacon Hill (which is an enjoyment in itself because it is one of the most beautiful areas in the U.S. to just walk around). There you will find great pizza/Italian food at Figs or Toscana (a bit expensive though) or the best inexpensive diner-type breakfast/brunch you'll ever have at a wonderful place called The Paramount (lines out into the street start early on weekends - WONDERFUL pancakes). Then, adjacent to The Paramount - on the corner you'll find Cafe Bella Vita where you can have good gelato and you can walk around outside with your cone a visit the Public gardens... With regards to farmer's markets... they have them all over the greater Boston area, but I think it's a bit early (some start in June). When I lived there, I always went to the one at Copley square. Have a great trip. Boston is absolutely beautiful!

                  1. Salem has one of the best bakeries around IMHO. Try their almond croissants. Flaky and buttery with a creamy almond paste in the center.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: Pegmeister

                      Pegmeister, thanks for the tip on the bakery in Salem. That is great news. I will coerce my friends to take me there each morning if possible. And will try the Almond Croissant for sure.

                      1. re: Pegmeister

                        What's the name of the excellent bakery in Salem?

                        1. re: Allstonian

                          That would have helped wouldn't it! The name of the bakery is AJ King

                          1. re: Pegmeister

                            AJ King really is an awesome bakery, good sandwiches too.

                            1. re: phatchris

                              +1 for A & J King. If you go on Saturday, they have Oatmeal Cinnamon Raisin Bread, in loaves and rolls. It's not to be missed!