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Italian restaurants that would impress an Italian in Boston and/or Central MA

Hi--The boyfriend is coming to visit. He's born and raised in northern Italy, though lives in Mexico right now.

He's not a terrible food snob, but he's...Italian. And he's missing Italian food. On a previous trip we spent a little time in the North End and he found it really charming--we got pizza at Regina's (which he thought was great) and went to a couple Italian specialty shops, which he also loved.

My question: which Italian restaurants would you take an Italian to in Boston? And I actually live in Worcester (I'm in school), so I'd also love any suggestions in central MA. I don't mind driving.

Thanks so much! M.

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  1. If he's missing traditional Northern cuisine, I'd bring him to Erbaluce first. Gran Gusto does a very traditional take on Campanian, the North End Daily Catch, the same for Sicilian. Ribelle features a very creative American chef's take on Italian cuisine, quite untraditional, but very good. Another American doing an eclectic mix of regional cuisines (including wood-fired pizza) with an emphasis on small plates, really fine, is Coppa. If he wants a quality version of Italian-American cuisine, I might bring him to L'Osteria or Massimino's. For another pizza stop, consider Picco.

    http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

    15 Replies
    1. re: MC Slim JB

      That's a great list, MC. I'd add La Morra for its Venetian slant and maybe Il Casale.

      1. re: MC Slim JB

        i would recommend ribelle; if he is from italy, he does not need to try traditional italian cooking.

        Or i would go out and try something completely different.

        1. re: cambridgedoctpr

          Since "he's missing Italian food" I think traditional is probably good.

          Not sure that Erbaluce is quite authentic (I think we've been through this before). He'd likely enjoy Pasta Beach or Trattoria Toscana as long as the latter doesn't have the dryer exhaust coming into the dining room.

          On the higher end- Mamma Maria is excellent.

          1. re: Beachowolfe

            I had one of the worst Italian meals in my experience of the last few years in Boston at Pasta Beach a few months ago. An expensive bust.

            I'd love to hear some recent reports on Trattoria Toscana. I'm nervous about it since Zamir Kociaj left.

            http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

              1. re: Gabatta

                Does the name of a place reflect the quality of the meal?

                1. re: CapeCodGuy

                  totally shouldn't, but i'm willing/embarrassed to admit both that the name has contributed to me not giving it a shot, and, psychologically, i'd probably hold it to higher expectations (eg i'd be looking for a reason to say "god well with a name like pasta beach of course it turned out to be not great"). maybe on a slightly more principled position, you could draw a correlation that if someone comes up with a name you really don't like, it may say something about the kind of atmosphere/food they will put out

                  but that would be ahead of time, not actually during the meal, and also of course these things are contextual- maybe the title is meant to be super tongue in cheek, or has some sentimental attachment, and i just don't know enough about the place...

                  1. re: valcfield

                    I've never tried the Boston Pasta Beach to be truthful, but the Newport Pasta Beach is quite excellent. I believe it's the same owners, but I am not positive. (And I agree that the name fits better perhaps in Newport than Boston)

                    1. re: CapeCodGuy

                      I tried the two pasta beaches some months ago within a couple weeks of each other.

                      Newport was good. Boston Pasta Beach, not so much. I can do better with a microwave, canned pasta sauce, and a piece of swordfish.

              2. re: MC Slim JB

                That seems out of the ordinary, it's been generally positively reviewed here and my own experience follows suit. Believe it's also one of the few places where the Italian ex-pats tend to frequent. Maybe I'm remembering incorrectly?

                I also don't recall it being "insultingly expensive", have prices gone up?

                Maybe you caught them on an off day, it happens.

                1. re: Beachowolfe

                  I'd heard those things, too. Sample size of one, but it was bad from start to finish.

                  http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                  1. re: Beachowolfe

                    The expats (the consulate is nearby) go to Pasta Beach for the pizza primarily (though now there are more places doing this type of pizza whereas before it was pretty much Pasta Beach or Gran Gusto) which in my experience they execute pretty well.

                    It's definitely not expensive by Boston standards and a lot more solid than some of the places mentioned here though I wouldn't make a special trip for it.

                2. re: Beachowolfe

                  You know, I have no idea of what is "authentic." My friends from Aosta in the Piedmont love Erbaluce. I don't know whether that's because its authentic or just very good.

                  1. re: teezeetoo

                    i'd go for good over authentic any day, and i was really knocked out by Ribelle.

                    1. re: teezeetoo

                      Actually, Aosta is not in Piedmont. Aosta is the capital of Valle d'Aosta another region norh of Piedmont.

              3. I really like Terramia, and it's not spoken of here all that often so it might go unnoticed. Never had a bad meal there. If he's got the itch, this place will scratch it.

                http://www.terramiaristorante.com/

                2 Replies
                  1. re: CapeCodGuy

                    Was at Terramia recently and enjoyed it but wasn't blown away. What are the best things there?

                  2. I love the (mostly) Tuscan West Medford gem - Bistro 5.

                    http://www.bistro5.com/menus/ala-cart

                    1. How's Prezza these days? I feel like at some point it was thrown around in these sorts of recs as a good but expensive place.

                      also, @teezeetoo, that's one of the reasons i vastly prefer saying 'traditional' as opposed to 'authentic' is that, though they can perhaps be equally subjective, 'traditional' (in my mind) at least sounds less like one is trying to say that something is intrinsically good *because* of that quality, whereas 'authentic' to me implies anything else is a fraud/inferior/etc. :)

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: valcfield

                        I also think it's easier to triangulate on a set of ingredients, techniques, and styles as falling into a broad culinary tradition, one that has room for different levels of formality, an understanding of home vs. restaurant cooking, regional and familial variations, as done natively vs. in exile, period variations (e.g., 1960s vs. 2010s), etc.

                        By contrast, authenticity seems to imply an assertion of some kind of authority to certify, to grant sanctioned status. Where does one earn the credentials to bless what is "real"?

                        http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                        1. re: valcfield

                          even if its food of the culture I was raised in, it's only my family's take on that food. I like "traditional" valcfield, and even that requires a reasonable degree of knowledge. I've travelled extensively and I can recognize generalities, but especially in Italy I note that food can vary from village to village using the same ingredients with lovely different outcomes. So I always am suspicious of "authentic." Why not say whether you like it or don't and why?

                        2. Massamino's on Endicott St In the North End