Boston’s North End is also known as Little Italy, and with such a strong Italian culinary influence combined with the actual sites of early American colonial history, you have an absolute winner for a food tour location. The North End is compact and super walkable, and much of the Freedom Trail winds its way through the old streets, some of which are cobblestone. For this experience I chose Secret Food Tours, and I have been lucky enough to attend several other tours of theirs in New York, Chicago, and Edinburgh. Secret Food Tours itself is not locally owned but of course the tour guides are Boston locals.
I met up with my tour guide and 11 other guests on a rainy morning just outside of the Boston Public Market. It’s always interesting to see who you will meet on these tours. For example, I met three delightful sisters from Hawaii, two sisters from New York, and a family from California.
Pasta in Little Italy at Dino’s Cafe
Our first stop was at the adorable Dino’s Cafe on the corner of Prince Street and Salem Street. The owner Ann was so sweet and so excited to have us try her delicious pumpkin tortellini in a rich and creamy mascarpone cheese sauce. I loved it. It was a perfect example of Italian cuisine combined with New England influences. Of course we are all about autumn flavors in this area.
This tiny little cafe is definitely a place I would go back to if I was in the North End looking for a simple but well made meal. There are plenty of more fine dining Italian restaurants in the North End, but this would be a great spot for a more casual experience.
Luckily by the end of our time at Dino’s, the rain had stopped and we enjoyed nice weather for the rest of the day! We walked over to Salumeria Italiana to pick up our next tasting: their original Italian sandwich.
The Italian Sandwich is a Classic
The salumeria is an adorable and tiny specialty grocery store where you can find incredible Italian imports from pastas, all kinds of tomato products, and fresh meats and cheeses. And bread!
They had our sandwiches all ready to go, so we took our treat just a short walk away to eat in front of the Paul Revere House. The Italian sandwich is loaded with freshly sliced salami, provolone cheese, and topped with an olive tapenade which gives it a great tang. It really makes you think of the Muffaletta from Central Grocery in New Orleans.
And as a side note, don’t forget to try the other incredible Italian sub at Monica’s Mercato! Get them both and compare and contrast for yourself.
In addition to viewing the immaculately preserved Paul Revere house, we also walked through the Paul Revere Mall which is a park area leading up to the Old North Church. The Freedom Trail is definitely a thing you should check out if you enjoy history at all.
Two Sweet Treat Tastings
Heading on to our next sweet tasting, we enjoyed some Italian lemon slush at Polcari’s Coffee on the corner of Salem St and Parmenter Street. Polcari’s is a coffee purveyor as well as carrying specialty grocery items. The store opened in 1932 and it looks like very little has changed. It has that incredible vintage pharmacy look to it, full of relics from the past.
It smells wonderful in there and you can find an assortment of some interesting spices, candies and nuts, and who knows? All kinds of other things. I’ve been in there several times over the years, and it’s always the same guy working there. It’s nice to see a familiar face anytime you go in a place like that!
Next we were off to Modern Pastry! Most people are familiar with the rivalry between Modern Pastry and Mike’s Pastry. Of all the tours I have done, not one has ever gone to Mike’s. Tours always go to Modern Pastry because they fill their cannolis on order; they’re not pre-filled and just sitting there.
Our guide picked up a box full of small cannolis, and then we took them to our final tasting to enjoy as dessert.
Lobster is Essential in Boston
There could not be a Boston food tour without some lobster! We headed to Boston Public Market, way in the back to Red’s Best Seafood to procure some lobster rolls for our group. This was actually a much bigger portion than I expected. Each guest was given half of a full lobster roll, and everybody loved it.
Except me, because I am a weirdo who has never liked lobster. I’ve watched my husband eat countless lobster rolls over the years but I have never tried one myself. I did however try to eat this one! I got a few bites in and was pleasantly surprised at how the buttery roll helped to get it down. Unfortunately I wasn’t entirely successful but I did give it an honest try.
Finally, our last tasting was a selection of gourmet nuts in Boston Public Market. Q’s Nuts is based out of Somerville and has a booth at the Public Market. We got to sample a variety of sweet, savory, and spicy nuts and they were all absolutely delicious. My son has a severe allergy so I was afraid to bring any home with me, but they were truly fantastic.
So that concludes the North End Boston tour with Secret Food Tours! It was such a great day, and as always I learn something new about the North End every single time I go.
MORE SECRET FOOD TOURS
If you want to know a real secret, the absolute best North End tour I ever took was with Anthony at the Politically Incorrect North End Food Tours which I did a few years ago. It’s an absolute riot, and Anthony is a local who grew up in the North End and literally knows every inch of it. I never blogged this tour, but his tour is an experience you won’t forget and he knows the stories that you will NOT get anywhere else.
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New Hampshire Food Photography
Erika Follansbee is a published Goffstown, NH food photographer whose job is to make food look amazing. She is available for hire to help small restaurants and cafes to create beautiful images of their dishes to use for marketing, websites, and social media. Magazine-quality food images are the best form of advertisement.
Erika is also a wedding photographer. Visit www.erikafollansbee.com for more information.