When my friend Stephanie and I decided to visit Boston, she suggested a food tour. I have been on great food tours before, so I jumped at the chance. I quickly Googled “best food tour in Boston” and “North End Boston Food Tour” popped up. I hit the link and was delighted to see that the North End looked like it might be Boston’s Little Italy—Stephanie and I are both huge fans of Italian food! After surveying the glowing reviews and getting Stephanie’s approval, I booked our tickets.
Now the waiting period set in until I could get to Boston and “mangia.”
We met our tour leader, Bobby Agrippino, at the Tony DeMarco Statue on the edge of the bustling North End. Little did I know then that after this tour I would pass that statue at least once every day for the rest of my stay, as we came back to eat almost every meal in the North End!
Bobby is everything you want in a tour guide—fun, humorous, knowledgeable, energetic, personable, and lively. He grew up in the neighborhood and was a fount of knowledge on North End culture, the history of Boston, Italian-American heritage, the shops we visited, the people we met, and the food we ate. The tour wouldn’t have been as perfect without Bobby at the front.
The North End “Little Italy” Food Tour
We started at Galleria Umberto Rosticerria where we enjoyed delicious, cheesy Sicilian pizza with sweet San Marzano tomato sauce. It was perfection!
At our next stop—Bricco Panetteria, we had my all-time favorite Italian pastry—sfogliatella. It is shaped like a shell and made of layers and layers of thin dough (like phyllo), which is filled with a sweet ricotta paste flavored with citrus.
Next, I was able to indulge in another Italian favorite of mine—the arancino. Those of my readers who have heard me wax philosophical about suppli in Rome from Supplizio will remember my love of these filled and fried rice balls (suppli and arancini are different names for the same food). We had a big arancino filled with peas and meat sauce from Monica’s Pasta Shop.
At Salumeria Italiana, we sampled thick, rich balsamic vinegar (I made a pig of myself by taking every spoonful people weren’t eating), peppery olive oil, and truffled cheese, as well as sweet prosciutto. The market was filled with delectable goods and Bobby took a bag filled with huge sandwiches for us to enjoy on tables elsewhere. The sandwiches were fabulous! Excellent cuts of Italian meats (mortadella, salami, soppressata, etc.) and cheese with a vinaigrette on hearty Italian bread. I was in heaven.
We ate outside of a wonderful coffee shop called Polcari’s Coffee and they gave us a little bag of coffee to take home as a treat. I’ve since made the coffee…it is buono!
Another highlight of the tour is the fact that Bobby shows you more places than just the ones you eat in. He gave us many recommendations of places to eat or shop at. Stephanie and I went back and visited several of them and I can attest that his advice is spot on!
I don’t want to spoil his secrets, but I really enjoyed the tale he told about the Prince Spaghetti Company. I’ll let you go on the tour to hear that one. I’ll leave you with a hint—Anthony!
Our last place to eat was Mike’s Pastry where we had cannoli for dessert. Mike’s and Modern Pastry, which we had passed by earlier, are reportedly in a cannoli rivalry. Residents are fiercely loyal to one or the other. Bobby told us the difference between the two types of cannoli and we each got a whole cannoli from Mike’s—they’re huge, filled with a sweetened ricotta mixture in a homemade shell. Yummy!
We ended our Boston Italian food tour at the Paul Revere statue, with the Old North Church in the background (where lamps hung briefly to warn of British troops advancing on the eve of the American Revolution). Bobby told us his final tale and we said our goodbyes.
For three hours we had eaten our way around the North End, but the time had flown by we were having so much fun. I was full after the first hour and everyone on our tour said they were stuffed by the end.
As a historian, I loved learning new stories about the Italians who settled in Boston. It was also wonderful to savor foods that were very close in taste to those I’ve had in Italy. I might not have been able to travel to the bel paese this year, but at least I had a brief culinary trip there in Boston. If you find yourself in Beantown, I highly recommend you take this tour. In my opinion, it is the best Boston food tour. If you go, tell Bobby that Amy—the Roaming Historian—says “ciao.” To book a tour: https://northendbostontour.com/
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