North End Date Night
With only one night in Boston to go out to dinner, there was no question about my priorities. I had to go out for Italian in Boston’s famous North End.
The North End is known for its dozens upon dozens of Italian restaurants serving up delicious, authentic food. It’s also got a reputation as one of the most happening areas of the city at night and happened to be a 10-minute walk from our hotel. Done and done.
After a full and fabulous day, we made our way over to the North End to have a glass of wine before dinner. Already the streets were packed and I got caught up in the energy of the evening.
Then we headed down the street for our reservation at Panza, a tiny Italian restaurant my parents had recommended for its great food and reasonable prices. There were so many restaurants to choose from and we’d fielded recommendations for several other places that sounded fantastic. But after looking at a few menus, we discovered that Panza’s prices were literally half that of most surrounding restaurants ($14 for a plate of pasta instead of $30+). Decision made.
Even with our reservation we had to wait a little while for our table, but without one we would have been killing time for hours. Definitely make reservations if you plan to check out Panza. I was nice and hungry by this time, and I thought the delicious aromas wafting out from a whole street full of Italian restaurants might just kill me. Then the hostess called our name and the crisis was averted.
Panza is small, romantic, cozy and a little loud – just what I think a great Italian restaurant should be.
Interested in trying something new, we ordered a bottle of Gavi, an Italian white wine that was light and crisp with apple notes. It was also less than $30 for a bottle. Panza has an incredibly reasonably priced wine list.
Then the appetizers… we shared a Wild Mushroom & Goat Cheese Spring Roll that came with a honey sauce that I loved, along with an Italian Chop Salad. The salad was huge and loaded with goodies like roasted peppers, italian cheeses, artichoke hearts and crispy pancetta.
For my entrée choice, I debated long and hard and ended up ordering the Veal Panza. (Judge away; I like veal.) This thin veal cutlet was served with mushrooms, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, toasted pine nuts and a balsamic Marsala sauce. Pretty much all of my favorite accompaniments, plus balsamic Marsala sauce?!
It was delicious, savory and borderline-too-salty but still practically perfect. I also snagged a couple bites of the boyfriend’s Linguine alla Pescatore, which was chock full of fresh seafood and covered in a spicy Fra Diavolo sauce. We were both thrilled with our meals.
Our server was friendly and accommodating, thoughtfully answering my million requests for recommendations despite the packed restaurant and waiting list a mile long. I loved everything about Panza, including, it must be said, the price. Our dinner for two including a bottle of wine, two apps, two entrées and a 20% tip came out to around $80. I’m pretty sure we could have easily spent twice that in the surrounding restaurants for a meal that couldn’t have been much better.
Wanting to stretch our legs and work an appetite back up for dessert (I know, I know, but you’ll see why), we took a walk around the area. We walked down to the water a few blocks away and looped back through more of the North End. I realized the next morning that we’d walked right by the Old North Church (you know… “One if by land, two if by sea.”) and hadn’t even known it. I loved the juxtaposition of major historical sites sprinkled among the modern attractions in Boston.
Anyway, the reason we were so set on dessert is because we had a don’t-you-dare-skip-this recommendation to go to Caffe Vittoria for dessert and after-dinner drinks. We found Caffe Vittoria located next door to the famous Mike’s Pastry and were glad to eschew the long line for our own little table in the much-calmer cafe.
I ordered a cappuccino, which was perfectly foamy and came covered in cocoa powder.
As if I hadn’t gotten my chocolate fix, I paired it with a dark chocolate-dipped canoli. I didn’t even know if I would like the canoli and ordered it because it seemed like the thing to do. I am SO glad I did. Wow. Stan’s tiramisu was sinfully delicious as well.
It was one of the most delicious date nights I can remember having. If you happen to be visiting Boston, dinner in the North End is not to be missed!
*P.S. Peaks and Passports now has its own Facebook Page! Please come on over and click “Like” to receive post updates, trip planning tips, pretty photos and more.*