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Best Italian restaurant - limited to Boston itself

Sorry if this a topic that comes up often, I'm wondering about the current favorites, but limited to Boston. We will be coming at the end of July, staying at the Revere Boston Common, so while we can walk 15-20mins or take a short cab, I want to stay relativeraly close to the hotel (so no cambridge, east Boston, somerville).

From reading the board I have on a short list Erbaluce (can anyone point me towards a menu, I just want to get an idea for the prices), Coppa, maybe Sportello or Trade.

Just curious if there is a concensus best (or few bests) Italian in Boston.

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  1. Erbaluce is right down the street from the Revere. It is expensive - I think we spent about $250 with a decent bottle of wine for a birthday dinner there.

    We also love Pasta Beach in the Boston Harbor Hotel, right on the water. The service is not stellar but the owner and chef is Italian. The pizza is excellent and the pasta is usually very good as well. It's less expensive than Erbaluce.

    For more casual Italian eats, there's Scissors and PIe on Newbury Street with a Roman chef making pizza that you buy by the ounce. There's also the recently opened Piadina Cafe at 75 State St. for a quick piadina sandwich though their menu is pretty Americanized.

    11 Replies
    1. re: Bugsey34

      Pasta Beach made me about the best linguine with white clam sauce as I've had (and I'm a fan), just a metric ton of clams in it (annoyingly shell in though, I kind of hate that.....shell the bulk of em and leave maybe six around the edge of the plate for garnish), and a great briny flavor

      1. re: devilham

        Pasta Beach is the worst. The guy in the red pants is a moron. Nebo is very good and a few blocks up from Pasta Beach. It is pricey but I'll take it over Pasta Beach any day.

        1. re: surferbettygal

          I've been to Pasta Beach about a half dozen times - once for dinner and rest for lunch. I love their linguine with white clam sauce - the essence of the clams is perfect as well as the al dente pasta. It's great every time. Last time I was there I had the special which was linguine and clams with fresh arugula and crabmeat which made the dish even better. I've had their pizzas too which have been great. Folks that I have eaten with there have generally been happy too. I've never had a problem with their service. I also usually sit at the bar and can certify that the chefs are Italian as that's what they speak to each other in. It's odd that people either love or hate Pasta Beach.

          MC Slim - when was the last time you were there and how often have you been. Perhaps time to try them again?

          1. re: Jacksup77

            That sorry meal was a year ago. Worse, I chose it as a sendoff dinner for a departing work friend. I apologized. I may give it another spin at some point, but when a place is pricey and flops that bad, it's hard.


            1. re: Jacksup77

              I agree on the linguini with clams Jacksup77, it was near perfect (again, if they had shelled the clams, leaving just a few shells for garnish, it would have then been perfect), and had no problem paying the price for a very good plate of pasta. I wonder if that's maybe their best dish though, as my son did not care for the pizza, nor did I, it got soggy too quick.

        2. re: Bugsey34

          Sorry to say I had one of the worst Italian experiences in Boston of my recent memory at Pasta Beach: an expensive disaster of a lunch.


          1. re: MC Slim JB

            what did you get MC? I do agree it's pricey for lunch (that's what the wife and I, seven year old in tow did as well), but my pasta was well cooked and the sauce was spot on....perhaps the simplicity of linguine in clam sauce saved me from your fate?

            1. re: devilham

              A salumi/formaggi plate (quite mediocre), nizzarda salad (a big mistake), zuppa di frutti di mare (bleh), and a couple of pastas not memorably good or bad enough to recall. Overbearing, smarmy service did not help. Shocking check, too. Basically a fiasco.


              1. re: MC Slim JB

                sounds bad, sorry to hear it! The price is hefty, so if the food was sub-par, I would also be pissed (especially with bad service).

                1. re: devilham

                  I think they could have gotten away with a $17 or $18 salumi / cheese plate of that quality in, oh, maybe 2004, or at an Italian-American place in the suburbs today (where it would be $9), but nowadays the bar is set rather higher.


            2. re: MC Slim JB

              I have never had a problem with the food but serious problems with service, mostly servers that don't know literally anything about their own menu, or things like what an Aperol Spritz is. I schooled one poor young server on the difference between Brunello di Montalcino and grappa di Brunello di Montalcino when he brought the wrong one to the table!!! Lots of turnover so you rarely see the same people. There is a relatively new manager though, so that might change things. The owners aren't there regularly so it depends on the manager.

              The pizza is still among the top 5 options (for Neapolitan) in the Boston area in my opinion. The carbonara, gnocchi and spaghetti ai frutti di mare are reliable classics that we've gotten several times. We would never put up with the service situation (though it does remind us of when we lived in Italy, except for the menu ignorance) if the food wasn't as good as it is.

          2. I love Erbaluce but be advised that it is a particular chef's take on Northern Italian/Piedmonte food and it is not to everyone's taste. Cinquecento in the South End is a more classic Roman trattoria and a short cab ride. Prezza in the North End is a short cab ride and is excellent upscale Italian and Lucca on Huntington is fancy and engaging, expensive and walking distance for you. Davio's and Via Matta are not among my favorites but many like them and they are close to you. Da Vinci is also walking distance and is affordable with excellent homemade pasta.

            5 Replies
            1. re: teezeetoo

              Good call on Cinquecento, that's another great option.

              1. re: Bugsey34

                Cinquecento: good food, but so loud it was impossible to talk among a table for four. I will never go back except if I know they won't be busy.

                  1. re: yumyum

                    Must be a function of when you go. I was there early on a weeknight and it was fine. I hate loud, so I'm glad I missed the gshrei!

              2. re: teezeetoo

                Exc post. Agree w/ no on Davio and Via Matta.

                I do think it's important to mention that Erbaluce is a particular Piedmontese-raised chef's take on Piedmontese.

                and st, his menu changes every day so he doesn't post it daily; just gives you an idea of it on his website.

              3. hi st, welcome in advance! how many dinners are you here for?
                lots of threads for you to peruse. Erbaluce and Prezza are def the ones i see mentioned the most on CH. Both are high-end experiences. For less high-end, there is a much bigger pool of favs in the No End. Coppa is a tiny artisinal/charcuterie specializing spot in the So. End. Its chef, Jamie Bissonette, also co-owns 2 other spots and just won Food and Wine's Best Chef Northeast this year.

                best No.End Italian 04/ 2014 and 05/2014 :

                best red sauce italian:
                scampo (charles st., base of beacon hill, close to you
                )prezza- no. end :
                Please let us know how you like your dinners so we can share the info with future visitors like you!

                1. Can you give a little more clarity on what you're looking for? Red sauce Italian-American? Northern Italy? Southern Italy? How about atmosphere: Coppa and Erbaluce are at totally opposite ends of the spectrum.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: mkfisher

                    Definitely more modern Italian than red sauce italian. Well, more Italian that Italian-American is what I mean.

                  2. While not the best Italian in all of Boston, I like Teatro a lot especially since it is a lovely 5 min walk partially through the park (Boston Common) from your hotel. From your short list, I would go with Coppa. And while not traditional Italian, I like Sorellina for a splurge meal which is a 10-15 min walk down St. James street from your hotel.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Gordough

                      yeah, Teatro is our "goto without having to plan or think" place, we live very close. it is consistently good, a good value, and sometimes excellent.

                      the Conchiglie (sea shells), Maine Lobster, Vermont Butter is quite good.

                      1. re: Carty


                        That is by far my favorite dish at Teatro. So rich. Not for the faint of heart. Actually would have been a good nomination for the "dishes so rich they will send you the bone yard" thread.

                        They also have it at their sister restaurant L'Andana in Burlington. It is a much larger portion (the dinner size) but much more expensive too. Great dish. Sort of a pasta version of the warm lobster roll with butter.

                    2. Ok, thanks for the additionnal recommendations. I'm surprised to not get even one comment on Sportello, is it because it's out of the way, or just not that special.

                      16 Replies
                      1. re: sweettoothMTL

                        Sportello is very good. It has two issues: 1) Weird layout, inspired by Lynch's first restaurant industry job at a Brigham's ice cream shop. Most of the seating is a wraparound diner counter, so it's a bit odd for more than three patrons dining together unless you get seated at one of the communal tables. 2) It's a Lynch restaurant, so it's always a little more expensive than it has to be.

                        My favorite in-town Italians are Erbaluce, Coppa, Prezza, and Sorellina. They are all quite different from each other.


                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                          Thanks for the quick and clear reply!

                          From looking at menu, seems like Coppa is the most affordable. How are the prices at Erbaluce, about the same as Prezza? Could not find any pricing online to get a ballpark idea. Thanks

                          1. re: sweettoothMTL

                            I'd say Sorellina and Prezza are the priciest. Erbaluce is slightly less fancy-looking and less costly than those two (apps in high single digits to mid-teens, pastas mid-teens to low twenties, entrees mostly in the twenties, a few low thirties). Coppa is the most modest, though not cheap: those small plates can add up. Note that the first two have full bars; the latter two have beer, wine and cordials (and cocktails based on them) only.


                            1. re: sweettoothMTL

                              i will second slim's list here and caution to not judge affordability simply by menu pricing. for example, portions at prezza are MUCH bigger than at coppa. i'm a small female and feel like the coppa portions are "dainty" :), while entrees at prezza are way too big for me.

                              prezza and sorellina are much higher-end in feel too. the latter is a spectacular space, done by one of the city's best known restaurant designers. both will seem like more of a special occasion place, while coppa is quite casual with kitchen towels as napkins, metal chairs and tiny second-hand tables. erbaluce is a rustic environment, but the food and plating feel more formal.

                              sorellina and teatro are part of the same hospitality group which across the board offers some of the finest service in the city.

                              1. re: hotoynoodle

                                I'd just share an app, pasta, and entree at Prezza. More than enough for two.

                                1. re: phatchris

                                  That would probably be my choice too.

                                  Don't miss the egg ravioli.

                                  For more casual, i really like Coppa. Prefer it for lunch.

                                  1. re: phatchris

                                    That is always our ordering strategy there, too. When they opened years ago, they did normal Italian-sized portions, but that didn't fly with their North End audience.


                              2. re: MC Slim JB

                                Surprised you didn't mention Taranta, JB. I would have placed it above Sorellina. I haven't been there in a while, though.

                                  1. re: Beachowolfe

                                    Disagree. Taranta's menu is (or was?) pretty close to exactly what you'd find if you went to a nice restaurant in a city in actual Italy.

                                    1. re: Alcachofa

                                      Over half the menu is traditional dishes of Sicily, Sardinia and Southern Italy. The dishes that veer off into Peruvian-Italian fusion are fewer.


                                      1. re: Alcachofa

                                        You're right, yucca, panca and roccoto peppers, pallares, cassava root, and paiche are all typical Italian ingredients.

                                        I love Taranta, but sending someone there for the city's best Italian is a bum steer.

                                        1. re: Beachowolfe

                                          They said "modern Italian" so I'm sticking with it. I'm also going to recommend they take the T to get there.

                                    2. re: Alcachofa

                                      I like Taranta, think it's one of the best options in the North End. But it's been a little while since I've been back.


                                    3. re: MC Slim JB

                                      Maybe I need to try Erbaluce, Prezza and Sorellina again.

                                      I found Erbaluce to be slightly above average, with some cooking miscues. Prezza I found to be full of cooking errors (meat temperature, over salting, underdone veggies) and pompous staff. Sorellina I liked (maybe loved) the pastas but found the appetizers and entrees to be underwhelming on every visit. Crazy expensive but really good bar.

                                  2. For high end (as noted previously) Italian, I love Prezza and really like Sorellina, especially dining at the bar where the service is stellar.

                                    I recently had an amazing, very upscale meal at Mamma Maria in the North End - great location, terrific food, and it felt worth the high prices (mains are $30+) to me.

                                    For a casual lunch that's authentically Italian, either waiting in line at Galleria Umberto (pan style pizza and arancini) on Hanover St, or popping into Casa Rasdora (solid pizza, best Italian sub in the city, and delicious pastas made to order, or homemade steam table entree - all portions are beyond generous) in the Financial District are amazing options at very affordable prices - note neither is air-conditioned, either as far as I have experienced - also authentically Italian....

                                    1. Trattoria di Monica and Trattoria il Panino are my go to spots - I am learning that when I dare hit the North End - don't get cute and just got to these places and get out...

                                      I am also going to say forget Mike's Pastry and Modern...go to Bova's

                                      7 Replies
                                      1. re: meeps2002

                                        meeps, i don't know bova's. At Modern i usually just get their almond biscotti, sfogliadel and torrone occasionally.
                                        any of those better at bova's, and how so? thx much.

                                        1. re: opinionatedchef

                                          Yes, how so? Bova's calim to fame is that they are open very late for the late night munchies and to absorb many Faneuil Hall beers but just not up to Modern Pastry standards imho.

                                          1. re: opinionatedchef

                                            I guess I should retract it a bit. Mikes & Modern are fine - but the lines are too much. Bova's we've tried the last 2 times and I have either thought it was better or on the same level as both...with no major lines.

                                            I have also received unreal customer service while there, which always makes me skew one way or another.


                                            1. re: meeps2002

                                              I probably shouldn't put this out in public, but fuck it, I live on the west coast now. That line down the street at Mike's is for tourists. Just walk in the left side and go up to the counter.

                                              I love those neon green pistachio macaroons at Mike's. They're sickening sweet but really, really good. Modern for cannolis and torrone and Maria's for sfogliatelle.

                                            1. re: phatchris

                                              From experience at Maria's...if you want the fresh stuff, ask if there's more recently made stuff out back. On more than one occasion. I ended up with cookies that didn't taste fresh. I mentioned it to the owner and she went in the back and brought me out some that tasted great, I've never had that problem at Mikes or Modern, so I now stick to them(I prefer Mikes).

                                              1. re: catsmeow

                                                I generally stick to a ricotta pies or cannoli.