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Jason Perlow

Boston's North End

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The North End of Boston is the oldest neighborhood in the city. Much like the Belmont section of the Bronx (Arthur Avenue), it is home to a vibrant Italian-American community, although it centers more on restaurants than on shops and markets. Nevertheless, its an excellent part of town for going out to eat and walking off the calories afterwards.

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The view down Cross Street, intersecting Salem and Hanover Street

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A peek inside Neptune Oyster Bar on Salem Street

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A selection of pristine oysters.

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Neptune's excellent New England Clam chowder. This version, with plenty of clam content, has some nice chopped parsley and herbs in it and plenty of black pepper. No hot sauce needed.

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Neptune's lobster roll, made from the meat of two chick lobsters, served on brioche with melted butter and Belgian-style twice fried pomme frites. Not traditional but still phenomenal nevertheless.

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Modern Pastry Shop, established 1931.

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A view down the main drag of Hanover Street.

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Gelateria, open two months, is a hardcore Italian gelato place that makes 50 flavors of gelato and sorbetto every day.

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Gelateria's $30,000 Italian-made gelato machine.

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Edited by Jason Perlow (log)

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Wow, Jason, great photos. I can't wait to check out Gelateria next time I'm in Boston.

In the photo above, are those gelato flavorings you can buy and bring home? Toppings? Or what the shop uses?


Diana Burrell, freelance writer/author

The Renegade Writer's Query Letters That Rock (Marion Street Press, Nov. 2006)

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What do you think of Dom's? One of the guys I work with is the brother of the owner. I've eaten there once (with a large group), was adequate but not inspired.

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the north end is great, but I have one problem. WHATS UP WITH ALL THE DOUBLE PARKING? Its almost as bad as southie

Jason, those oysters look delicious. Do you know what kind they are?

I really like going to Galleria Umberto for really cheap sicilian slices. They are only open for a few hours on the weekdays and when they sell out of food they close shop.


BEARS, BEETS, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA

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Yeah, the parking situation is insane. The first time I tried to go to Neptune the day before, I had to abort mission because I couldn't find a parking space, so I drove out to Christie's in Lynn instead. I called Neptune the next day and found out there was a parking lot only two blocks away. If you're going to spend some time in the North End I reccommend you pay the $15 parking and just be done with it for a few hours. Otherwise, leave your car at the hotel and have a taxi bring you there and back.

The Oysters are a selection prepared by the shucker, if you go counter clockwise from 1, they start with the Wellfleets and they go down the list, and there are two of each.


Edited by Jason Perlow (log)

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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if you go counter clockwise from 1, they start with the Wellfleets and they go down the list

So the Alaskan ones are the biggest oysters to the right of those lemons? Nice platter Jason! Is that some crazy mignonette sauce I see?


"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

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I really like going to Galleria Umberto for really cheap sicilian slices.  They are only open for a few hours on the weekdays and when they sell out of food they close shop.

I love Umberto's, but the lines can be crazy! Have you tried the arancini (my personal favorite)? My friends always get the panzarotti and calzones too.

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if you go counter clockwise from 1, they start with the Wellfleets and they go down the list

So the Alaskan ones are the biggest oysters to the right of those lemons? Nice platter Jason! Is that some crazy mignonette sauce I see?

The Windy Bay ones are to the left of the lemons, the ones to the right are the Wellfleets. The sauce to the right of the homemade cocktail sauce is their special sauce made with Prosecco sparkling wine, garlic and black pepper, and I think something else.


Edited by Jason Perlow (log)

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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I love Umberto's, but the lines can be crazy! Have you tried the arancini (my personal favorite)? My friends always get the panzarotti and calzones too.

yeah the lines are long, but the turnover is pretty quick. The arancini is awesome! Thats the rice ball stuffed with the beef and peas, right? If so, its delicious.


BEARS, BEETS, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA

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Prosecco sparkling wine, garlic and black pepper, and I think something else.

Sheesh! Where's my :pucker: emoticon? Still, not too far from champagne vinegar, shallot and black peppercorn mix that I use.

How did rate with you Jason?


"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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Their sauce? It was interesting, but I only used it on one or two of the oysters. I ate most of them straight or with a small amount of their horseradish cocktail sauce. The oysters themselves were really first rate.


Edited by Jason Perlow (log)

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Jason-If someone wanted to get to the North End, but didn't drive, what "T" stop should they take to the area?

Their sauce? It was interesting, but I only used it on one or two of the oysters. I ate most of them straight or with a small amount of their horseradish cocktail sauce. The oysters themselves were really first rate.


www.hereinvannuys.com

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Jason-If someone wanted to get to the North End, but didn't drive, what "T" stop should they take to the area?
Their sauce? It was interesting, but I only used it on one or two of the oysters. I ate most of them straight or with a small amount of their horseradish cocktail sauce. The oysters themselves were really first rate.

Take the Green or Orange line to North Station.

Depending on the time of day, getting off at Haymarket -- the stop before -- is worth it to see the market there, as well.

I lived in the North End for six months about 20 years ago. No one had $30K gelato machines then, nor were there oyster bars with Wellfleeets. There's a fine line between real ethnic and generic upscale, I'm not sure if I'm pleased or not with the changes -- not that one can artificially hold onto the past.

The immortal "Death and Life of Great American Cities" opens with a description of the North End which, in the 60s should have been -- by any demographic measure -- a slummy hellhole. But there was an incredible community behind the restaurants and import shops on the commercial streets; families and neighbors that knew one another, celebrated Saint's Days and together and sent their kids to St. Anthony's together,and kept an eye on everything that moved. I remember my corner grocer, Pepe (in the 80s) , lecturing me on the fact that "the problems you see today" stemmed from the decline of the corner grocer: they guy who knew everything and everybody on the street, whether your kids were skipping school or a suspicious character was passing by. That's what made the neighborhood special.

I hope that the Wellfleet vendor and gelato guy are becoming part of that community, otherwise, they're choking it off and turning the neighborhood into yet another theme park.

Last time I was there, though, I made it to Pizzaria Regina (still a dive, still great) and one of the little no-credit-card joints on Hanover Street. And some of the old butcher shops that helped make the North End a spectacular place to live -- my roommates and I were determined to find the best sausage in the North End, not sure if we did, but it was a blast trying to find out -- were still going. Even my old employer, the guys who regularly denounced the health inspector as "evil" and had the tomato sauce that cooked for weeks at a time, were still open.

There is hope.


I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Jason-If someone wanted to get to the North End, but didn't drive, what "T" stop should they take to the area?
Their sauce? It was interesting, but I only used it on one or two of the oysters. I ate most of them straight or with a small amount of their horseradish cocktail sauce. The oysters themselves were really first rate.

Take the Green or Orange line to North Station.

Depending on the time of day, getting off at Haymarket -- the stop before -- is worth it to see the market there, as well.

I lived in the North End for six months about 20 years ago. No one had $30K gelato machines then, nor were there oyster bars with Wellfleeets. There's a fine line between real ethnic and generic upscale, I'm not sure if I'm pleased or not with the changes -- not that one can artificially hold onto the past.

The immortal "Death and Life of Great American Cities" opens with a description of the North End which, in the 60s should have been -- by any demographic measure -- a slummy hellhole. But there was an incredible community behind the restaurants and import shops on the commercial streets; families and neighbors that knew one another, celebrated Saint's Days and together and sent their kids to St. Anthony's together,and kept an eye on everything that moved. I remember my corner grocer, Pepe (in the 80s) , lecturing me on the fact that "the problems you see today" stemmed from the decline of the corner grocer: they guy who knew everything and everybody on the street, whether your kids were skipping school or a suspicious character was passing by. That's what made the neighborhood special.

I hope that the Wellfleet vendor and gelato guy are becoming part of that community, otherwise, they're choking it off and turning the neighborhood into yet another theme park.

Last time I was there, though, I made it to Pizzaria Regina (still a dive, still great) and one of the little no-credit-card joints on Hanover Street. And some of the old butcher shops that helped make the North End a spectacular place to live -- my roommates and I were determined to find the best sausage in the North End, not sure if we did, but it was a blast trying to find out -- were still going. Even my old employer, the guys who regularly denounced the health inspector as "evil" and had the tomato sauce that cooked for weeks at a time, were still open.

There is hope.

We have to do a segment on "Culinary Detective" about clam chowder in Boston. Most likely, we will also go through the steps of how it is made by a particular chef/restaurant.

Since there are numerous places that serve clam chowder in Boston, does anybody have a particularly memorable or favorite place to recommend?


www.hereinvannuys.com

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Take the Green or Orange line to North Station. 

Depending on the time of day, getting off at Haymarket -- the stop before -- is worth it to see the market there, as well. 

I lived in the North End for six months about 20 years ago. No one had $30K gelato machines then, nor were there oyster bars with Wellfleeets.  There's a fine line between real ethnic and generic upscale, I'm not sure if I'm pleased or not with the changes -- not that one can artificially hold onto the past.

The immortal "Death and Life of Great American Cities" opens with a description of the North End which, in the 60s should have been -- by any demographic measure -- a slummy hellhole.  But there was an incredible community behind the restaurants and import shops on the commercial streets; families and neighbors that knew one another, celebrated Saint's Days and together and sent their kids to St. Anthony's together,and kept an eye on everything that moved.  I remember my corner grocer, Pepe (in the 80s) , lecturing me on the fact that "the problems you see today" stemmed from the decline of the corner grocer: they guy who knew everything and everybody on the street, whether your kids were skipping school or a suspicious character was passing by.  That's what made the neighborhood special. 

I hope that the Wellfleet vendor and gelato guy are becoming part of that community, otherwise, they're choking it off and turning the neighborhood into yet another theme park.

Last time I was there, though, I made it to Pizzaria Regina (still a dive, still great) and one of the little no-credit-card joints on Hanover Street.  And some of the old butcher shops that helped make the North End a spectacular place to live -- my roommates and I were determined to find the best sausage in the North End, not sure if we did, but it was a blast trying to find out -- were still going.  Even my old employer, the guys who regularly denounced the health inspector as "evil" and had the tomato sauce that cooked for weeks at a time, were still open.

There is hope.

Definitely get off at Haymarket. For me, walking from Haymarket across the future greenway is the better way to enter the North End.

I lived in Boston for about 15 months and was in the North End regularly to source cooking provisions. The good stuff is still there but I share your concern about high-end oysters and high-end gelato (and even the extravagent make-over at Modern Pasty). In the past, there was always a barrier to the neighborhood gentrifying: the central artery elevated highway had cut the neighborhood off from the rest of the city. So, it was a tourist attraction, yes, but it was not a desirable neighborhood for the swanky condo dwellers who want access to the financial district. That has all changed and time will tell how the neighborhood fares.

It is hard. I think that Neptune is a fine restaurant and, though I haven't been to the gelato place from Jason's posts, I'm sure they produce a good product. But too much of the 'high end dining' touch and you change the dynamic of the neighborhood. Because, even with all the tourist pressue, until recently, it was very much a working neighborhood where Italian immigrants old and young (and even those who had move to suburbia) ate at the restaurants in the neighborhood (particularly Umberto's), stopped at Maria's for pastries, bought dry goods at Polcari, bought their vegetables at Alba's greenmarket, bought their meat at either Sulmona or Abruzzi (and argued over who was better), bought their fish from Frank Guiffre, and their two-fer Italian red wines at Martinietti. All of these fantastic shops and restaurants are tiny (except perhaps Umberto's and Polcari) but vibrant and all are on about a three block circuit.

So, I'm glad you went and photographed. I'm glad you had a great meal. I'm just nervous for that great neighborhood and couldn't sit on my hands.

edit: clarity


Edited by slbunge (log)

Stephen Bunge

St Paul, MN

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It is hard. I think that Neptune is a fine restaurant and, though I haven't been to the gelato place from Jason's posts, I'm sure they produce a good product. But too much of the 'high end dining' touch and you change the dynamic of the neighborhood.

To some extent we are experiencing the "gentrification" of our ethnic neighborhoods as well in the NYC area. Arthur Avenue / Belmont in the Bronx, which I would compare to the North End most favorably, has been undergoing a dynamics change for years because for the most part, Italians don't live there anymore -- they've all moved out to Jersey and Queens. The shopowners themselves no longer live in the area, they commute from elsewhere. So although they are doing a very good job of maintaining their stores, their clientele isn't local anymore. I imagine the same thing is happening with the North End.

As a casual observer though, I think the North End is doing quite well. I don't have the sense of nostaligia or historical reference that a native Bostonian would have, but I think you should still be very proud of it and its a great destination for attracting business and tourism to the city.


Edited by Jason Perlow (log)

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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"Sulmona or Abruzzi (and argued over who was better), bought their fish from Frank Guiffre, and their two-fer Italian red wines at Martinietti. All of these fantastic shops and restaurants (except Umberto's and Polcari) are tiny but vibrant and all are on about a three block circuit."

You'll be glaad to know these places are all still thriving. Dom is still at Sulmona and his son is there too. Frank occassionally shows up at Guiffre's but it's run by his son John. Ralph and John are still at Umberto's...and I think live above the original Umberto's on Parmenter.

Alba and Polcari's have changed hands but I think they were sold to former employees and retain the charm and service they've had for years.

Salumeria Italiana is still in the Martignetti family..and son Guy has basically taken over..though the elders are often there.

The fancy new gelato place is owned by Frank DePasquale. He started with Il Panino..maybe early 80's..which was basically a sub shop on the ground floor...and table service in the basement. It was remarkably good. He now has a mini empire which includes Bricco and Mare...2 high end places, Umbra..a high end place in the financial district..I think all of his restaurants are very good but I still go the original Il Panino more than any of the others.

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The fancy new gelato place is owned by Frank DePasquale. He started with  Il Panino..maybe early 80's..which was basically a sub shop on the ground floor...and table service in the basement. It was remarkably good. He now has a mini empire which includes Bricco and Mare...2 high end places, Umbra..a high end place in the financial district..I think all of his restaurants are very good but I still go the original Il Panino more than any of the others.

Thanks for the information about the neighborhood.

With all the play that gelato gets I want to be sure that visitors to the North End do not miss the lemon slush at Polcari. Not too sweet and very refreshing. You'll see the slush cooler, disguised as the 55 gallon drum that it was made from, out in front of the door.


Stephen Bunge

St Paul, MN

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We have to do a segment on "Culinary Detective" about clam chowder in Boston. Most likely, we will also go through the steps of how it is made by a particular chef/restaurant.

Since there are numerous places that serve clam chowder in Boston, does anybody have a particularly memorable or favorite place to recommend?

Not much clam chowder in the North End except for Neptune, as Jason has already mentioned.

I never had the chowder, but people sorta rave about it at Union Oyster House. In fact, curiously, I have heard by numerous people that pretty much everything else at the restaurant is not so good, but the chowder is excellent. I do know that it is where JFK used to eat lunch and they have some sort of booth identified as his favorite.

B&G Oysters in the South End had a decent bowl of clam chowder but the price was a bit steep. Their lobster bisque was decent as well.

I think the key, as Jason alludes to, is that the steam table is very much not the friend of chowder. Find a place that does a fairly brisk business in chowder. I'd bet the best bowls may be found in the small restaurants outside of Boston to the north. Just a thought.


Stephen Bunge

St Paul, MN

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Neptune's lobster roll, made from the meat of two chick lobsters, served on brioche with melted butter and Belgian-style twice fried pomme frites. Not traditional but still phenomenal nevertheless.

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Does Neptune serve their lobster roll hot or cold? I seem to remember someone saying 'hot'.


Stephen Bunge

St Paul, MN

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Actually as I understand the Clam Chowder at the ORIGINAL Legal location is supposed to be -the- shizznit. I also liked the Clam Chowder at Daily Catch, and that would be a cool location (either the original location or the one by the water) to do a shoot too. The squiddy angle of the place is cool as well.

The butter style lobster roll at Neptune is hot. The one with mayo is cold. You have a choice.


Edited by Jason Perlow (log)

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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The fancy new gelato place is owned by Frank DePasquale. He started with  Il Panino..maybe early 80's..which was basically a sub shop on the ground floor...and table service in the basement. It was remarkably good. He now has a mini empire which includes Bricco and Mare...2 high end places, Umbra..a high end place in the financial district..I think all of his restaurants are very good but I still go the original Il Panino more than any of the others.

I have to agree with 9lives heres - Frank DePasquale's empire is a little imposing, but the food at Il Panino is still very good - as is the cheaper alternative at Il Panino Express.

Tried the Gelateria this weekend - seems like a comfortable spot, although we took ours for takeaway and snagged a bench elsewhere. D and his brother had tiramisu - excellent texture but it didn't taste like much. J chose lemon which was quite refreshing. The zambaione was excellent - of course I chose the best one :wink: .


Eating pizza with a fork and knife is like making love through an interpreter.

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