There is more than meets the pasta palate when it comes to northern Italian cuisine. The region’s fare distinguishes itself from traditional dishes with its reliance on creamy sauces, stuffed meats, fresh shellfish, rich risottos and velvety polentas. Boston is lucky to have its fair share of restaurants in the city that focus on the region’s most flavor filled cuisine. Here’s a look at the top five.
Get started in Grotto’s subterranean space in Beacon Hill with a sampling of fontina cheese fondue with beef tenderloin tips or the house made pillowy ricotta pasta filled with sausage, peas, mushrooms, pancetta in a delicious cream sauce. For main events, try the short rib gnocchi or the slow cooked osso bucco pork shank. If you can’t decide what to order, try the three-course prix fixe menu, which includes a starter, entrée and dessert.
37 Bowdoin Street Boston, MA 02114
Chef/owner Anthony Caturano’s Prezza sits proudly in the North End named after the small town in Italy where his grandmother was born. Start off with a bottle of Italian wine (there are more than 8,000 bottles available in the collection here) and share the wild mushroom risotto, a rich blend of mushroom duxelle with fontina cheese; spicy mussels with tomato-fennel stew and chorizo polenta or the wood grilled squid and octopus served atop braised white beans and toasted parsley. Caturano gets creative with his pasta dishes (think pumpkin raviolini, pear ravioli and potato gnocchi)—we love the “ravioli di uovo,” heavenly ravioli stuffed with ricotta and egg yolk tossed with a buttery sage sauce.
24 Fleet Street Boston, MA 02113
This northern Italian steakhouse initially made its debut on Newbury Street back in the day before moving to its Park Square location. Since then, Davio’s has grown, expanded and garnered a following for its ricotta ravioli made with prosciutto, homemade sausages, grilled center cut veal rib chop and braised beef short ribs. Davio’s also has locations in Foxboro, Chestnut Hill and Lynnfield, Mass. as well as Manhattan, Philadelphia and Atlanta.
75 Arlington Street Boston, MA 02116
4 Mamma Maria
Mamma Maria has become a staple in the North End since it opened in North Square. While the menu changes daily, you will likely find dishes like rabbit pappardelle, uni and crab pasta, lamb gnocchi and suckling pig. Prosciutto tastes better when combined with Mission figs; the veal porterhouse is made better when truffle scented while the wood-grilled pork tenderloin delights over a bed of peppery greens.
3 North Square Boston, MA 02113
5 Lucca Boston
Lucca stands out not only for its delicious dishes but cozy location in the North End. Located on the area’s most popular street, the restaurant shines with its creative dishes like baked duck confit tart made with caramelized onions, spinach, goat cheese and gorgonzola served in a flaky pastry. Bucatini pasta is spiced up with pomodoro sauce and fresh cherry peppers and tossed with gulf shrimp. Try the coriander rubbed pork tenderloin served in a tart citrus reduction balanced with grilled peaches served atop creamy white polenta. They also offer a bar and late night menu as well. A second location is in the Back Bay.
226 Hanover Street Boston, MA 02113