Explore Boston’s North End
The area of Boston that is referred to as the “North End” has come to be known as the city’s Little Italy and it’s a great place to satiate a grumbling tummy. With aromas of fresh cooked pizza and pasta wafting down the narrow streets, and pastry cases full of sweets luring you in, the hardest decision becomes where to actually settle down and eat. While the North End expands beyond these two streets, the two main thoroughfares are Hanover Street and Salem Street. There are endless restaurants with similar menus and “classic Italian” names, so you could easily circle this quaint neighborhood several times before deciding on a place. We are here to suggest a handful of spots that we like to make that decision just a little bit easier.
A friendly tip before you set out on your eating extravaganza—have cash on you, many places are cash only. The last thing we want you to do is realize you want a cannoli but have no cash to pay for it!
Where to Eat
The Thinking Cup is the place to go if you have the hankering for a really good cup of coffee. They also do great food, offering breakfast and lunch as well as an array of pastries.
Address: 236 Hanover St, Boston, MA 02113
This café has a funky retro vibe and multiple floors. Fuel up here with some coffee or espresso.
Address: 296 Hanover St, Boston, MA 02113
The great debate over who rules the North End streets when it comes to cannolis seems obvious when you see Mike’s Pastry boxes in almost everyone’s hands, but hear us out. Mike’s is only one of three excellent cannoli options in this neighborhood. All three are distinct so we’ll give you the run down and you can choose for yourself (or try all three because why not?).
Mike’s is definitely the biggest tourist draw in the entire neighborhood. It’s crowded and hectic and there is some pushing to make it to the giant pastry case up front, and by then you better be ready to order. They don’t skimp on size here. Along with their famous cannoli’s they offer a variety of other large pastries (emphasis on large). Our favorites are the florentine cannoli and the lobster tail pastry.
Address: 300 Hanover St, Boston, MA 02113
Right across the street from Mike’s is their main competition—Modern Pastry. Modern also makes cannolis that are worth standing in line for if there is one. The whole bakery has a more modern vibe, hence the name. They also offer a huge selection of pastries other than cannolis such as eye-catching cupcakes, chocolates, and more. The city is split between Mike’s and Modern lovers so decide for yourself who you stand with.
Address: 257 Hanover St, Boston, MA 02113
If you want to ditch the lines altogether and have a classic Italian grandma experience, venture a little ways down Salem street and visit Bova’s. This is a traditional Italian bakery where nothing looks perfect and uniform as the pastries do at Modern and Mike’s. This place is the real deal and it’s hidden away so don’t forget to pay it a visit.
Address: 134 Salem St, Boston, MA 02113
This snug Sicilian-style spot holds only several tables that are right next to its tiny open kitchen. They are known for their squid ink pasta served right in the frying pan and various calamari offerings, we love the stuffed calamari and the calamari meatballs.
Address: 323 Hanover St, Boston, MA 02113
This space has an intimate dining room and serves beautiful dishes. They offer an affordable lunch menu and make their pasta in house. Mangia!
Address: 67 Prince St, Boston, MA 02113
If you have your sights set on pizza (and why wouldn’t you in the North End?) then head to this spot for a great Sicilian slice and some arancini.
Address: 289 Hanover St, Boston, MA 02113
You can spot Giacomo’s from a block away by the line formed outside. This popular spot is cash-only and does not take reservations, but if you feel like braving the line the pasta is dreamy and worth the wait.
Address: 355 Hanover St, Boston, MA 02113
For a romantic Italian meal this place is ideal. With big windows, a mural of an Italian canal on the wall, and a drink from their excellent beverage menu to toast with you can get lost in the moment at Florentine Café.
Address: 333 Hanover St, Boston, MA 02113
Located right near the Paul Revere House, Ristorante Limoncello serves flavorful Italian dishes and also offers a romantic Italian ambiance with murals on the walls. Don’t miss the Rosette pasta and the famous meatballs!
Address: 190 North St, Boston, MA 02113
While you can expect to spend a little bit more money at Lucca than some other North End spots, it is worth the experience to have these dishes from Northern Italy inspired by seasonal produce.
Address: 226 Hanover St, Boston, MA 02113
This cozy spot serves a seasonal menu that puts a modern-spin on Italian peasant fare. They also do handmade pasta so be sure not to miss that!
Address: 24 Fleet St, Boston, MA 02113
This semi-upscale spot serves contemporary Italian dishes and offers a large wine list, reminding you that you are here to sit back and relax.
Address: 241 Hanover St, Boston, MA 02113
This trendy and sophisticated spot serves classic Italian fare with a slightly modern feel using locally sourced produce. Their wine list is lengthy and they offer a creative list of cocktails. If you are feeling extra-fancy order one of their many martinis.
Address: 417 Hanover St, Boston, MA 02113
This tiny high-end oyster bar usually attracts a line but has some of the best-quality seafood in the North End. The line is worth it especially if you are craving a lobster roll.
Address: 63 Salem St, Boston, MA 02113
Where to Shop
If you head down the alleyway next to Bricco Restaurant you will find both their Panetteria (bread shop) and their Salumeria and Pasta Shop. These are great places to stop in for some snacks and provisions.
This shop has an old-timey feel and is packed with different loose coffee beans, teas, spices and herbs to purchase.
If you need to freshen up your look, head into this unique hats and accessories shop.
This little gift shop is cozy and bright, selling apparel, accessories, gifts and home accessories.
This small boutique offers a great selection of clothes in case you need the perfect outfit for your dinner later in the evening.
What to See/Do
If you need a laugh catch a show here!
Sit back and relax in this cigar parlor and liquor lounge.
If you are craving a little history alongside your pasta, pay the historic Paul Revere House a visit.
Italians love to celebrate their religious holidays with a feast. From June through September you will see people taking to the streets of the North End in processions to celebrate Italian feasts and you should join them! The feasts have wrapped up for the season but you can view the 2017 schedule of feasts here to see what you can look forward to next year.
Where to Stay and Getting There
There are tons of hotels in this area, but here is a selection under half a mile from the North End
Closest MBTA Stops
Aquarium – Blue Line
Haymarket – Green Line, Orange Line, Buses
North Station – Commuter Rail, Green Line, Orange Line, Buses
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