RESTAURANTS / ITALIAN / NORTH END

The 21 Best Restaurants in Boston’s North End

JUN 17, 2019

The North End has a ton of good food options hidden among the tourist haunts, and usually you can tell which restaurants are worth visiting by the long lines going out the door or the hour-long wait times.

You’ve got traditional Italian alongside Italian-American, northern Italian mingling with Neapolitan, and even a few non-Italian options thrown in for good measure. Whether you want a quick slice of Sicilian pizza or wine and dine your date with a 3-course dinner, you’ll find something to love in the North End.

Here are 21 of the best Italian restaurants in the neighborhood and what you’ll find to eat at each. Just don’t call it “Little Italy”.

ISAAC BROWN

Table of Contents

Best Overall

Mamma Maria

3 N Square, $$$

Locally sourced ingredients come together for an impeccable Italian menu at Mamma Maria, with the rustic setting of a 19th century townhouse – floor to ceiling windows provide an unbeatable view, and it’s really the perfect everything. I come back time and again for upscale menu favorites like suckling pig, sea scallops, rabbit pasta and oysters.


Mamma Maria has been serving guests since 1973, so they know a thing or two about keeping generations satisfied. It’s some of the most authentic Italian to be found in the Boston area, and we can’t speak highly enough of all they do.

At Mamma Maria, heritage and history are fully embraced; and guests are invited to bring their own stories to the table.

TIPS & HINTS

Great for a romantic date or a family get-together. Try the lobster agnolotti, the ossobuco, the pears and prosciutto, and the tiramisu. Accommodating of vegan and lactose-intolerant diets.

Best Pasta

Carmelina’s

307 Hanover St, $$

Hefty, hearty Italian specialties are served up at Carmelina’s, the classics we love but with just a touch of modern style. It’s a Hanover Street must-see spot, and reservations are recommended here. The twist?

Executive chef Damien DiPaola and Chef di Cucina Michael Hollenkamp prepare traditional Sicilian dishes informed with Mediterranean accents.


The spot opened in 2012 and has been bringing visitors to Little Italy the best fresh pasta and seafood dishes imaginable. History is at work here, with family recipes prepared in an open kitchen and under the watchful eye of family photographs – if you’re here during the summer months, the open-air dining is simply remarkable.

TIPS & HINTS

If you can, sit at the bar near the kitchen. It gets warm, but watching the cooks work is fun. Make a reservation.

Best Pizza

Ernesto’s Pizza

69 Salem St, $

This may be Boston, but the supersize slices served up by Ernesto’s Pizza bring back memories of our visits to New York. Lunch and dinner service is available at this Salem Street staple seven days a week, bringing us all the pizza we can take.

It’s a dream-worthy menu, packed with excellent choices like twenty-four specialty pies – we drool over the Grecco pizza and buffalo chicken supreme. Unique pizzas liven up the menu here, as well – you’ll be hard-pressed to find an eggplant ricotta pizza or one with Carribean shrimp anywhere else nearby.

Ernesto’s offers online ordering, which is super convenient when we’re placing the order for office events or family gatherings at home.

TIPS & HINTS

Really fast service, definitely recommend if you’re in the North End and looking to eat something before a Bruins/Celtics game.

Best Ambiance

Giacomo’s Ristorante

355 Hanover St, $$

There’s just something about Giacomo’s that keeps us coming back – the dishes are a step above what you find elsewhere, and the casual feel of the place creates the right atmosphere for both dates, celebratory dinners, and low-key get-togethers with friends.


Regardless of your schedule, Giacomo’s is available when you need them, seven nights a week for dinner service. Weekends are notoriously packed here, so keep that in mind and arrive early if you’re a weekend warrior.


Or, stop in during the week for a more restrained dining environment. Either way, Giacomo’s is tough to beat. Butternut squash ravioli and fried calamari are two of the best go-to dishes here.

TIPS & HINTS

Arrive early. Bring cash.

Best Hole-in-the-Wall

Pomodoro

351 Hanover St, $$

For over 40 years, Pomodoro, headed by Siobhan Carew, has been one of Boston’s best-kept secrets. You may miss this gem nestled on Hanover Street at first glance. Reservations are highly recommended as seating is tight and the lines are long.

Pomodoro’s fresh salads and delicious pastas and sauces will not disappoint. You’ll get all that and more when you stop by Pomodoro for dinner on the North End.

TIPS & HINTS

There’s no sign outside so it can be hard to find. Cash-only.

Best for Groups

Cantina Italiana

346 Hanover St, $$

Cantina Italiana has been crafting authentic Italian dishes on the North End since 1931. With the restaurant’s full menu of classic Italian dishes that are always served hot and fresh, every diner is sure to find a dish that both satisfies and impresses. The warm and friendly dining room invites you in and makes you feel right at home.

The Cantina Italiana crew members pride themselves on their tried-and-true recipes and traditions that have made the restaurant a North End mainstay for over 80 years.

TIPS & HINTS

The portions are very hearty, so be sure to arrive with an empty stomach.

Best Takeout

Dino’s

141 Salem St, $$

Nestled in the heart of Boston’s North End, Dino’s has been a favorite of locals and tourists alike since 1999. If you’re looking for a lunch that satisfies and carries you all the way through dinner, order one of Dino’s fully-loaded 16-inch subs.

In fact, bring a friend along because you may not be able to eat the whole thing on your own. Dino’s laid-back atmosphere and quick service makes it a popular spot for those looking for a delicious meal without the frills.

TIPS & HINTS

The meatball sub is divine.

Best Sandwiches

Monica’s Mercato

130 Salem St, $$

Monica’s Mercato, run by the Mendoza brothers, has been serving the North End since 1995 with family recipes crafted from hand-picked local ingredients. The restaurant is best-known for its giant subs and sandwiches—order one of these and you won’t leave hungry.


Monica’s Mercato opens up early and stays open late to accommodate foodies all throughout the day. Stop in and grab a sub or slice to go.

TIPS & HINTS

No seating inside. There’s a small park nearby with benches where you can sit and enjoy your food.

Best Sicilian

Galleria Umberto

289 Hanover St, $

If you’re on the North End looking for a quick slice, panini, or calzone, Galleria Umberto is the place to go. Word of warning: The restaurant does not take credit cards—it is a cash-only establishment.

That being said, Galleria Umberto offers some of the best prices in town while maintaining the highest quality. Don’t be surprised if you have to wait in line; it’s a favorite of locals and tourists alike, but it is definitely worth your wait.

TIPS & HINTS

Get in line early, the competition to get into this place is tough.

Best Lobster Rolls

Pauli’s

65 Salem St, $

Pauli’s is a fast-paced, casual Italian diner that features one of the best lobster rolls in Boston. The food is always freshly prepared with high-quality local ingredients.

Whether you stop by for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, you are sure to get a meal that is both delicious and affordable. Pauli’s menu is extensive and has something for everyone. In fact, you may have a hard time deciding what to order.

TIPS & HINTS

Cheaper than Neptune. I prefer the hot buttered lobster roll, but you should try the cold version as well.

Best Meatballs

Arya Trattoria

253 Hanover St, $$$

When you dine at Arya Trattoria, don’t be surprised if you are greeted and seated by the owner himself, Massimo. The atmosphere is quaint and intimate—you feel immediately comfortable and at home. Reservations are a good idea as seating is limited.

The menu features many classic Italian dishes, including a large selection of homemade pasta dishes, with the option of two different types of gluten-free pasta.

TIPS & HINTS

Dishes are served family style. They aren’t kidding when they say they’ve got the best balls in Boston.

Best Italian Brunch

North Street Grille

229 North St, $$

One of the few non-Italian restaurants to make the cut, this tight and cozy breakfast joint is always packed on the weekends by noon, and for good reason: complimentary banana bread.

If you’re looking to do brunch on the North End, stop your search. North Street Grille has quite possibly the best brunch selection in the area. It also has an extensive selection of traditional American cuisine, including burgers, sandwiches, and salads—comfort food at its best.


Lines to get in are usually out the door, especially on the weekends, so be prepared to wait unless you show up at 11 AM. The good news is the food is well worth the long wait times.

TIPS & HINTS

Recommended: the North End Benedict, the smoked salmon Benedict, and the French toast Benedict, the Boston cream pancakes, and huevos rancheros. Large portion sizes.

Best Fusion

Taranta

210 Hanover St, $$$

Taranta is a relative newcomer to the North End (it opened in 2000), but it has already made its mark. Chef and owner Jose Duarte cooks up classic Italian dishes with a Peruvian twist. Taranta prides itself on being eco-friendly and using sustainable seafood, beef, chicken, and wine.

Not only is Taranta’s menu special but the venue is, too. The restaurant rises over three floors. Diners especially enjoy being on the top floor and looking down on the hustle and bustle of the always busy North End.

TIPS & HINTS

Recommended: the Causa de Cangrejo, the Orecchiette con Salsiccia, Gnocchi di Yucca, and the Ravioli Relleno de Langosta y Cangrejo.

Best for Vegetarians/Vegans

Terramia Ristorante

98 Salem St, $$

It’s not just for vegans, but the vegan dishes here are truly heavenly. Terramia Ristorante is a high-end spot with a cozy dining space for dinner service from Thursday through Sunday, on bustling Salem Street.

Terramia Ristorante opened in 1993 with the intention of creating new world masterpieces from old world classics, and they do a damn fine job bringing us back time and time again.

The menu features a dizzying array of great choices, but our vegan friends swear by either the Risotto Porcini E Asparagi (Arborio rice with Italian Porcini mushrooms, asparagus tips and white Truffle oil) or the Vegano Ravioli (zucchini, eggplant, red bell peppers, tomatoes vegan ravioli, Organic San Marzano or aglio e olio).

An impressive wine list complements the meal perfectly; private party service and special event menus are both available, as well.

TIPS & HINTS

Great date spot for vegans and non-vegans alike. Recommended: the Risotto Porcini E Asparagi, the the Insalata di Arugula con Finocchio e Arance, and vegan ravioli.

Best Seafood

Neptune Oyster

63 Salem St # 1, $$$

One of the most hyped-up restaurants in Boston and a price tag and wait time to match, Neptune is in a league of its own when it comes to food and service. I’ve heard of people waiting over three hours for a seat, so get here as early as possible. Even then, have a backup plan in place to hang out and have a drink in the meantime.

Space is at a premium here, and when it’s a full house (i.e. 5 minutes after the restaurant opens), it gets loud. If you’re looking for some quiet conversation and privacy, seek alternative arrangements. On the flip side, the table arrangement makes it easy to chat with neighboring tables and meet new people.

This is a menu where almost all of the items are worth getting. For appetizers, try the Spanish octopus and the Johnnycake, a delicious cornflour based pancake with sweet butter, chive, sturgeon, and caviar on top. I don’t even like clams and I’ll still get the Cherrypoint clams every time. Oyster options vary depending on what’s available, but I like the Neptune, Duxbury, and Kumamoto.

TIPS & HINTS

Lobster rolls are decent here, but with so many other great options on the menu, I generally skip it and opt for Neptune specialties like the squid ink risotto or the seafood stew (cioppino).

Best Calzones

Rina’s Pizzeria & Café

371 Hanover St, $

There’s no better North End destination for pizza and calzones than Rina’s Pizzeria & Cafe, and authenticity is key – in fact, their oven was built in a traditional Neopolitan style, utilizing bricks imported direct from Italy.

There’s magic in that oven, for sure – folks line up at the counter to order the Rosetta Famous Meatballs and a rotating menu that centers around the concepts signature Strega sauce.

Chef Sal Firicano prepares everything according to his own family’s recipe, so you can count on Rina’s Pizzeria & Cafe for the quick, casual, authentic, and downright tasty.

Don’t worry about breaking the bank – everything here is priced low enough, but without sacrificing quality or portion size.

TIPS & HINTS

Not many tables, you’ll probably want to get your to-go and eat outside if it isn’t too cold.

Best Seafood Pasta

The Daily Catch

323 Hanover St, $$

Dining at The Daily Catch is a memorable experience.The space is small, and the tables are all designed around the centralized kitchen. You can watch your dish being made and enjoy it served to you right from the pan.

If you are a calamari fan, you need to experience it at The Daily Catch. Other popular dishes include the squid-ink pasta and classic fish and chips. Bring cash as this is a cash-only establishment.

TIPS & HINTS

Tiny restaurant, don’t bring a party larger than 3-4.

Best Gnocchi

Prezza

24 Fleet St, $$$

Prezza is one of North End’s finest Italian joints. Chef Anthony Caturano’s restaurant features antipasto, risotto pasta, and wood-grilled meats that melt in your mouth.

When you walk into Prezza, you will quickly realize how sophisticated and subdued this place is with dim lighting, dark wood, and real art on the walls. The atmosphere is lively, and Prezza has an excellent wine and cocktail list.

TIPS & HINTS

Generally like their red meat options better than their seafood, but that may just be me. Great place to bring a bunch of friends and have a relaxed meal.

Best Cannoli

Modern Pastry

257 Hanover St, $$

This is no restaurant, but if you’re in the North End, you ought to have some dessert. Preferably not Mike’s Pastry. Modern Pastry makes their cannoli to order so it’s fresh.


Modern Pastry is a smaller Italian bakery on the North End, but make no mistake, you’d be silly to not indulge in its wide range of homemade treats.


Modern has been around for over 70 years, so its bakers know a thing or two about making good pastries and other sweet treats, including cannoli, cakes, and pies.

TIPS & HINTS

Their cannoli are about have the size of the ones at Mike’s and for a similar cost, but higher-quality.

Best Late-Night

Bova’s Bakery

134 Salem St, $

Boston’s North End is well-known for its food, but it isn’t known for late-night eating. Enter Bova, one of the North End’s only 24-hour bakeries. Bova is a family owned and operated bakery that has been in business since 1926.

They don’t just serve sweets; you can get lobster tail and arancini, among other things.


Patrons can enjoy a late-night indulgence or come during the day and relish in Bova’s giant selection of handmade breads, cookies, sandwiches, and treats.

Try the Boston creme pie.

TIPS & HINTS

Get the creme brulee or Florentine cannoli flavors, they’re the best.

Best Cocktails

Parla

230 Hanover St, $$

Fine dining establishment Parla is renowned for being among the best experiences Boston has to offer – recent praise includes “Best Modern Italian Restaurant” and “Best Cordials.”

Mediterranean roots are credited and apparent, and the comfy decor has a speakeasy vibe with wood panels repurposed from a Kentucky barn. Order up a signature Parla Burger, or dive into Chef Ernesto’s Ricotta Gnudi, House Made Pappardelle, or Maine Lobster Ravioli.

TIPS & HINTS

Great for date night and small bite, not my preferred dinner spot.