Boston's Best Italian Restaurants: Enjoy Authentic Pasta in the City
By Jessica Polizzotti
Boston Local Expert
Italian food is a Boston staple. With a large population of residents of Italian descent, you can be sure you'll find plenty of choices, but only few that will transport you to Italy. Ranging in style, cost and atmosphere, you'll find a selection of Italian restaurants to suit your tastes.
The mecca of Italian restaurants is the former home of many Italian immigrants: the North End. Here the streets are lined with Italian options that are sure to make you smile. You'll find diners waiting outside, in line, for hours, just to sample Giacomo's perfectly prepared classic Italian dishes. And others lounging window-side at Quattro to enjoy the al fresco feel and the perfect view for people-watching on the forever bustling North End streets. An elegant meal in North Square is easy to achieve when dining at Mamma Maria, the high-end spot that oozes romance providing diners with an intimate experience and superb service.
But the North End does not have a monopoly on excellent Italian eateries, as many dot Boston's landscape where you'll find locals lingering at favorites like Da Vinci, Sportello and Via Matta. And Cambridge's Rialto, an upscale hotel hot spot helmed by James Beard award winner, Jody Adams, makes for the perfect ending to a day in Harvard Square.
Sportello is a small diner-esque establishment in the up and coming Fort Point Channel. Sportello brings their trattoria style Italian dishes to life. Seating is offered two ways; you can be served counter side on backless stools, or at one of Sportello's very few tables. Dinner here allows you to casually enjoy a tasty meal in close proximity to everything the restaurant is doing. Your server stands across from you at the counter while the chef is firing up the food almost by your side. All pasta is made in house, and Sportello strives to use only the finest quality ingredients, especially what is local and seasonal. But the food does not start and end with dinner, a bakery and take out service is available throughout the day so those living or working in the area can enjoy a meal without having to be seated here. (617-737-1234)
Da Vinci Ristorante is a go-to for locals who claim Da Vinci to be their favorite Italian in the city. A white table cloth spot, you'll enjoy an elegant evening under the dimly lit simple chandeliers that dangle from the ceilings of Da Vinci. In a category all their own, Da Vinci's menu moves beyond basic Italian to meld Italian with Indian creating something truly special. The unique flavor profiles found on the menu of Da Vinci creatively blend classic with modern dishes. Chef Peppino draws on his heritage for inspiration in his dishes while sourcing local, seasonal, and organic ingredients when possible. Be sure to try the Indian Fusion Masala Ravioli as it brings a bit of India to Italy for a melt in your mouth marvel. (6173500007)
The small scale setting has seen many famous faces for a reason- they serve good food in a spot that gets attention, but not too much. Enjoy a romantic evening with someone special sipping one of their craft cocktails or a nice glass of wine while noshing on their contemporary Italian specialties. Indulge in the daily specials scribbled on the chalkboard or order from the menu selections including pizzas that you can share as an appetizer or enjoy as your main course and top it off with their homemade gelato. A mere block from Boston's theater district, Teatro is ideal for a pre or post theater meal. (6177786841)
Step into the chic digs of Via Matta and order up because this long standing Italian eatery has been winning raves for their homemade pasta for years. Made fresh daily in-house -- you'll find everything from the traditional and simple spaghetti aglio e olio con pomodoro (garlic, oil, fresh tomato) to trendy plates of Kale Chitarra with lobster, tomatoes, Thai basil, and chili flake. For those with a sweet tooth, dessert cannot be skipped as Via Matta is famous for their "mascarporeos"; these homemade, make-your-own oreos are seriously addictive and delicious. Skirting the edges of several Boston neighborhoods (Downtown, Back Bay, and the Theater District) you'll find its location in Park Square quite convenient. The menu changes with what's in season and fresh so each visit brings a new experience. (617-422-0008)
Strega waterfront has everything Bostonians love about the North End Italian eatery but with waterfront seating. Here you'll find large plates of Italian specialties sure to fill the super sized appetites that are often found when one exercises a lot, making Strega a hot spot among professional athletes. Strega also boasts a masculine, yet refined setting that is welcoming as well as comforting. Their patio is packed all summer long with those looking to enjoy the outdoors and watching the activity on the water. While the dining room often fills with patrons who love their cocktails as much as their food. (6179464613)
Quattro, opened in 2013, serves Italian dishes that will knock your socks off! Casual, and comfortable, you'll feel welcome in this restaurant that presents a menu filled with Frank DePasquale's best dishes, expertly melding together these items to create a restaurant that turns out food to please most Italian cravings. Small in size, but big on satisfaction, Quattro features a simple marble bar that almost acts as a "chef's" table, giving diners a view into the happenings of the kitchen. Servers are well-trained and ready to please, offering suggestions to suit your mood. And with the backing of Bricco, Mare and Il Panino behind them, you can't go wrong with any of the appetizers, pizzas, pastas, meats or even seafood offerings. Share a perfectly topped pizza on light crispy crust, or dive into a plate of lemony Scampi. And meat lovers cannot go wrong with any of the savory selections. (617-720-0444)
Rialto, helmed by James Beard award winning chef, Jody Adams, and located within the Charles Hotel is an Italian eatery that can't be missed. The light and bright setting boasts comfortable seating that welcomes diners to sit back, relax and enjoy their meal. A constantly evolving menu that reflects Italian style seasonal local cuisine. You'll often find something new on the menu as there are a mere six signature items: grilled clams, fisherman's soup, bucatini, slow roasted Long Island duck, grilled Pineland Farm sirloin steak and chocolate crema. Offering four options for your experience you may choose from the a la carte menu, four course regional fixed price menu (changes monthly), three course piccolo menu or the bar menu for a casual bite. Rialto also has an "allergy menu" so all can be safe while enjoying their meal. ((617) 661-5050)
Giacomo's is one of the most popular Italian restaurants in the city, but that is not why it generates long lines of tourists and locals waiting outside in any weather to get through its doors. The food really is stand in the rain, get rushed through your meal good. The classic Italian menu is heavy on the pasta, each equally as good. The garlic cream sauce is lick your plate delicious and the parmigiana is better than grandma's. The pumpkin tortellini in a fresh sage mascarpone cheese sauce will leave you yearning for more and the Zuppa di pesce for two is a heaping bowl of cooked to perfection shrimp,scallops,calamari,clams,mussels and lobster, served atop lingiune with your choice of sauce. The setting is as simple as the food and you'll find yourself eager to return even if it means standing in that really long line again. ((617) 523-9026)
North End mainstay, Mamma Maria is known to be a romantic go to among Boston locals. Starting with the walk along the cobblestone streets, your entry into Mamma Maria has you longing for love. The interior is decorated with crisp linens and the knowledgable waitstaff do not rush diners. The food is fantastic! The lack of over sauced plates keeps the crisp white linens pristine and your desire for authentic Italian cuisine satisfied. Indulge in the rich Osso Bucco- classically prepared and served with a saffron risotto Milanese that almost overshadows the meat or enjoy one of their savory home made, and slightly different pasta dishes like the truly special Bolognese- prepared as it is in the village of Serralunga di Crea with spicy artisanal pepperoncini pasta. (617-523-0077)
Nebo Restaurant and Bar
For gravy like grandma made head over to Boston's Greenway where NEBO has made its home. This Italian eatery serves homestyle Italian favorites inspired by their mother's recipes and plates them with pride. A modern industrial space has a cozy feel enhanced by its open kitchen and views of the Greenway outside its doors. A small patio allows for outside seating, while the bar inside allows walk ins, without reservations, the chance to dine in style even on the busies of nights. Dive into a plate of their gluten free pasta with a Neapolitan style bolognese that is packed with flavor and quite similar to the real thing, while their gluten free pizza will have you returning for more. (617-723-6326)
About Jessica Polizzotti
Born and raised in Boston, Jessica knows her city like the back of her hand. Always looking to uncover something new, Jessica keeps up on the latest and greatest Boston offerings. Although Jessica has been a world traveler since her teens, her favorite trip may always be her Italian honeymoon. Living in a city that allows her to experience a change in seasons equals an opportunity to enjoy a shift in activities. As the old New England cliché says, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute.”
Read more about Jessica Polizzotti here.