Best of Boston’s North End: Pomodoro

12 Sep

A trip to Boston wouldn’t be complete without a night in the North End, Boston’s Italian neighborhood. It is vibrant and quaint, and a fascinating hybrid of old and new—one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods (filled with tenements during the surge of Italian immigration in the late 1800s and early 1900s), it has been dragged into the 21st century but is still holding tight to its heritage and traditions. The main street, Hanover St., is lined with restaurants and bustling with both old- and new-world Italians, while the alley-sized cobblestone side streets look like they have been left untouched by the past two centuries. The neighborhood regularly features octogenarians sitting at café tables or in lawn chairs, smoking cigarettes and speaking (often yelling) a unique Boston blend of Italian dialects and English. Old North Church, the focal point of Paul Revere’s Ride, is at the center of the neighborhood, and you can feel the history and age in each cobblestone.

In addition to its cultural and historic appeal, the North End has some of the best food in the city. Sure, it has its share of Americanized Italian rip-offs, but fewer than in New York’s Little Italy, in my opinion. And since Boston has one of the largest Italian populations in the country, you’re bound to find some great, authentic food, if you know where to look.

One of my favorite restaurants in the neighborhood is Pomodoro (which is Italian for “tomato”), a tiny space with lots of big flavors. It has probably six or seven tables at most, accepts only cash, and doesn’t even have a functional website—making for an intimate dining experience that perfectly fits the true atmosphere of the neighborhood. Even the napkins convey the restaurant’s tone—they look like (and very well may be) dish cloths, like what you would find tucked in your grandmother’s apron, used to wipe the flour off her hands as she makes pasta.

The server was very friendly but stretched pretty thin, as it seemed she was covering all the tables in the restaurant. She brought basket after basket of great bread (we were hungry) accompanied by an assortment of olives sitting in a dish of extra virgin olive oil. She also checked with the kitchen about nuts on everything we ordered, including the bread. She gave the disclaimer that the bread may contain traces of nuts because they don’t make it on the premises, but added that she has never seen anyone have a reaction to it. I ate it at my own risk (and was fine).

The menu is notably nut-free, for the most part. The pasta options seem to overshadow the entrée choices, which are mostly Italian favorites like veal scaloppini but also feature less tired ideas such as baked cod in a rustic plum tomato sauce. We decided to split two pasta dishes: the tiger shrimp tossed with linguini in a white sauce with garlic, extra virgin olive oil and fresh herbs (you could also choose a plum tomato sauce), and the P.E.I. mussels marinara tossed with fresh herbs and linguini.

While both dishes were outstanding, the tiger shrimp stole the show. The white sauce was buttery but still light, and the garlic was subtle. The shrimp was well-seasoned and the fresh tomatoes were a great addition. Overall a very flavorful dish, satisfying but light enough to be a great summer choice.

Tiger shrimp with linguini

The P.E.I. mussels marinara was also delicious, and definitely more hearty. The marinara sauce was thick and flavorful, and the mussels were fresh and not fishy. [Fun fact: did you know that in authentic Italian cuisine, a marinara sauce is a fish sauce, not a red sauce? The root of the word is “mare,” which means “sea.”]

PEI mussels marinara

One of the best features of this restaurant, aside from the stellar food and cozy atmosphere, is the free dessert. That’s right, I said free. At the end of each meal, the server brings a slice (albeit a small one) of tiramisu, which is as delicious as you would expect. It’s also nut-free, made without any nut-based liquors like amaretto.

Free tiramisu!

The restaurant is not cheap, but it’s not unreasonable. After a bottle of wine and two entrees, the total came out to about $50 each, after tip.

I recommend making reservations ahead of time, because the restaurant is so tiny. And remember to bring cash, because it’s never fun to run to the closest ATM when the bill comes, especially when you get hit with $5 in fees. But as far as the North End goes, it’s one of the best restaurants there is.

RATINGS

  • Food: 8.5
  • Presentation: 7
  • Menu: 7
  • Service: 7
  • Ambiance: 8
  • Allergy-friendliness: 8
  • Cost: $$-$$$

Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

THE DEETS

Pomodoro
319 Hanover St.
(between Bennet St. & Fleet St.)
Boston, MA 02113
(617) 367-4348

Check out Pomodoro’s Yelp profile

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