With over 100 bakeries and restaurants, Boston’s North End is an Italian enclave worth the added bulk it inevitably brings to your waistline. Hanover Street is home to the sparring cannoli war bakeries as well as trattorias, enotecas, and pizza parlors galore. Save time and space to meander the neighborhood’s side streets for some of the best seafood and carb-laden dishes in town. Herewith, our favorites:
* Neptune Oyster (63 Salem St.): Don’t be deterred by the inevitable line outside this small seafood restaurant: it’s worth it. Crowds arrive early for the raw bar and lobster rolls (heralded as the city’s best), so it is recommended you arrive a half hour before it opens for lunch at 11:30AM.
* Bricco Panetteria (241 Hanover St.): Head into the alley behind famous Bricco on Hanover Street and make a beeline under the sign advertising “Fresh Artisan Breads.” Bakers in the white-tiled room might be making bread for owner Frank DePasquale’s restaurants, but they also sell the loaves to visitors of the quaint shop. Be sure to ask for the meat bread: it’s a perfect snack!
* Mike’s Pastry/Modern Pastry (300 Hanover St. and 257 Hanover St., respectively): We won’t tell you which is our favorite, but these two bakeries have been battling for years over the title of best cannoli in town. Mike’s may get the larger crowds for its bigger pastries, but Modern is worth your time with its smaller pastries filled with cream on the spot after you order!
* Mamma Maria (3 North Square, Boston, mammamaria.com): Step into this North Square townhouse for a refined Italian dinner. The white tablecloth formality is reflected both in the food and service: fresh pastas along with meats and fish in delectable sauces are served amid chandeliers and an attentive sommelier to make your meal a romantic one.