I’m half Italian. My grandparents immigrated to the U.S. before my dad was born. Although we are Americans first, my dad always instilled a strong Italian pride in me as a child. As an adult, I’ve consistently seek ways to connect with my Italian heritage. That’s why it’s so surprising it’s taken me nearly a year to get to the North End Boston.
When I first moved here, people told me that the North End Boston has some of the best Italian food in the country. Despite what they said, it wasn’t until last weekend that I finally made my way down there.
We were in search of lardo bread, which is a rustic bread laced with parmesan cheese and little bits of pork. We first learned about the bread after watching Sopranos reruns. (Everything Tony eats on that show looks so amazing, we knew we had to try it).
After a quick google and yelp search, we found a bakery in the North End Boston that was supposed to have fantastic breads. We read warnings that they sell out fast, so we packed up the kids and headed out the door by 7:30am.
When we arrived at the North End (after a few wrong turns), we luckily found street parking right away. If you’ve driven in Boston, you know the roads are super confusing. There are a lot of one ways, crazy sharp turns, and in the North End area, the roads are super narrow. If you are going to visit the North End Boston, I highly suggest giving yourself a lot of extra time to navigate the streets and find parking.
Our first stop was Bricco Panetteria. They have amazing breads, so we read on yelp. The shop is tiny. We walked down a set of stairs in the back of an alley. But when we entered, it was clear we made a good decision. The breads all looked super fantastic. There were two versions of the lardo bread. One looked more like a croissant with lardo and cheese baked in. The other was a rustic-looking long baguette-style loaf. We opted for that version, because it was more of what we had in mind. However, I definitely wish we would have tried both, as the croissant-style looked really delicious. I also had to try one of their little donuts stuffed with custard, called bombolone. I’m such a sucker for trying new Italian foods (or new foods in general, for that matter).
We absolutely loved the bread, especially dipped in olive oil. The only thing we wished is that it had more lardo in it, but the parmesan flavor was really strong and super tasty. Next time, we would definitely try the croissant-style bread, as it appeared to have significantly more lardo in it. The bombolone was also super tasty. It basically just tasted like fried dough, covered in sugar, and stuffed with custard. I mean, what’s not to like?
Our next stop was Mike’s Pastry. When we walked in, I actually felt overwhelmed. There were so many choices, I didn’t even know where to begin. The thing that drew my eye the most, the cannolis. Now that I look at their website, I see they call themselves the home of the cannoli, and I get why! They just looked so fantastic. I wanted to try them all. They also had so many other things that looked so amazing. They had cupcakes, scones, muffins, eclairs, cookies, you name it. It’s definitely a place I’ll want to take my parents when they visit this summer. I really want my dad to try the cannoli to see how it compares to what he ate as a child.
The thing I loved most about our morning in the North End Boston – just walking along the streets and feeling the Italian heritage. Restaurants and bakeries line the streets. Inside, there are tables of older gentlemen enjoying cups of coffee and conversation. The streets just reminded me of Italy. I actually felt for a minute like I was back in southern Italy. (You can read about my Italy trip here). Even though they might not have realized it, I’m also glad my kids were there too. I want them to embrace their cultural heritage just as much as I do and I want them to know all aspects of their identity. I can’t wait to go back down there and try out more of the shops and restaurants.
If you have a chance to visit the North End, definitely do.