There are dozens of Italian restaurants crowding every narrow street in the North End of Boston it can be overwhelming to decide where to eat. Who has the best pasta, pizza, and cannoli? Who is authentic and who isn’t?
Between the Italian menus and polarized Bostonian opinions, it can be pretty tricky to navigate whether you’re a local or a tourist. Regardless, Boston’s historic North End is home to some of the city’s best Italian food, from simple, nourishing staples like pasta squid-ink aglio olio to elevated Italian American fare that merges classic recipes with the best of New England seafood. Below are our seven essential picks for Italian food in the neighborhood.
This seafood-centric Italian restaurant will transport you to the Amalfi Coast. The seafood here is so fresh, you’ll hardly notice the lack of carbs on your plate, but if you do want a pasta, Mare’s Tagliatelle Con Aragosta– a flat wide noodle pasta with fresh lobster, shaved black truffles, cherry tomato and lobster sauce is divine.
You’ll also non-stop request their delicious homemade bread and pesto, which can be purchased after your meal from cute Italian market adjacent to Mare’s outdoor firepit seating.
Find it at 223 Hanover St. for daily dinner and an all-day Saturday menu
2. Aqua Pazza
Located right on the Freedom Trail, Aqua Pazza is an excellent stop to depart from a long day of tourism. But you’ll be in with the locals here, unlike some of the other restaurants in the North End, Aqua Pazza is where true foodies go.
Another seafood-centric option, Aqua Pazza offers caviar service in addition to delicious Secondi, and make sure your table doesn’t skip their rotating homemade cloud-like gnocchi.
Find it at 135 Richmond St. for dinner Thursday to Sunday
3. Galleria Umberto
This unassuming take-out joint keeps their offerings simple but delicious with $2 square Sicilian slices, arancini, and a handful of other cheese and dough-based delicacies. Make sure to bring cash and be prepared to wait in line — many locals will attest that this neighborhood staple is well worth the wait.
Find it at 289 Hanover St from 10:45 AM to 12:30 PM Monday to Saturday
This intimate white-tablecloth restaurant is perfect for casual lunches and date nights alike. Offering up fresh twists on Sicilian staples, Carmelina’s showcases the best of both its East Coast home and its Italian roots by combining vibrant seafood with fresh pasta. Try the salmon tip fra diavolo for a taste of the taste of the northeast, or tuck into the classic gnocchi al forno for a comforting classic.
Find it at 307 Hanover St daily for lunch and dinner
5. The Daily Catch
Founded in 1973 as shoebox hole-in-the-wall calamari supplier, later converting into a restaurant in 1979, Paul and Maria Freddura founded what today is recognized as “The Daily Catch.” Naturally, they are home to quite possibly the best calamari pasta in all of Boston, properly addressed as the Aglio Olio.
The newly renovated landmark location is praised for its menu of high-quality fresh seafood and its notorious squid-ink pastas and features an open kitchen so you can watch the magic happen.
Find it at 323 Hanover St and if there’s a line head on over to the nearby 65 Atlantic Ave. location daily for lunch and dinner
The gargantuan zupa di pasce is the name of the game at this budget-friendly Italian seafood spot. The famous dish is priced at $60 for enough linguine, lobster, shrimp, scallops, calamari, clams, and mussels to feed two (or more!) hungry diners. Expect a line on most days, but the food and reasonable prices should prove to be well worth the wait.
Find it at 355 Hanover St daily for lunch and dinner
This much-lauded spot centers on simple yet delicious old-world comfort food made with fresh ingredients in a modern setting. Standouts include the chicken or veal saltimbocca and a vibrant assortment of grilled seasonal vegetables.
Find it at 6 Prince St for dinner Monday to Thursday and an all-day menu Friday to Sunday
Though on the pricier side, Lucca is worth a visit based on hype alone — the Zagat-awarded Best New Italian Restaurant has been recognized numerous times for its food. The intimate North End location offers a short yet exquisite dinner menu and a snacky late-night menu.
Find it at 226 Hanover St. dinner and late-night eats daily
9. Table Boston
Part restaurant and part Italian market, Table immediately plastered to the top spot of every foodie bucket-list after a visit by Leonard DiCaprio. The Italian-megastar picked up homemade bites and desserts from Table Mercato, the grocery shop. If you’re craving a menu that feels intimate and homey, Table in the North End this is your go-to spot.
Find it at 445 Hanover St. for dinner Wednesday to Sunday and brunch on Sunday mornings
10. Bova’s Bakery
For dessert, consider forgoing the line at tourist staples like Modern and Mike’s for the 24-hour Bova’s Bakery. With a mouthwatering variety of cannoli and other Italian treats, Bova’s has gained a reputation for scrumptious baked goods and a fast-moving line — perfect for a quick take-out treat after a hearty meal. A little secret, treat yourself to a new experience and try the Florentine Cannoli which features shell made from caramelized nuts instead of the traditional flour shell.
Find it at 134 Salem St open 24/7