Boston’s North End: drinks, pizza and a cannolo

I learned many things this weekend. I learned, for example, the singular of cannoli (and that there is no such word as “cannolis”!). I learned at least one place exists in this country that makes pizza almost just like I had in Italy, without cheese! These two things I learned while visiting Boston’s North End. It was really cool because I just finished reading The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs, and she mentions the North End several times, describing, basically, how generally awesome it is. I have to agree even now, 51 years after the book was written.

C & I weren’t sure if it would be safe for a couple ladies to be out alone there at night. We went to the guy’s dorms (did I mention I’m staying in the dorms with C?) and had one of C’s friends run up and down the halls asking if anyone wanted to go to the North End. We found someone! J drove us there blasting Aretha Franklin the entire time, and singing along and, I think, trying to conduct Aretha’s singing. It was great.

When we got to the North End it was SO crowded, I really think we would have been fine by ourselves, but probably wouldn’t have had as much fun! We started with drinks at a place I *think* is called Serega. I cannot find it online, sorry.

This was out front. I think the guy on the right is the owner, and the screen was showing a slideshow of him with various well known people (I didn’t know them, but I know nothing about pop culture).

In the dining area, the TVs showed six different Italian films, including The Godfather I & II.

But we stood at the bar. We had to stand as close to it as possible so we wouldn’t trip the waiters running back and forth between the kitchen and the dining area. The staff kept rushing by speaking Italian. Perhaps I should’ve tried some sort of Italian beverage, but being as set in my ways as I am I went with my standard: SoCo & diet.

We asked around for the best pizza place, a short walk away…

Antico Forno, The Old Oven!

It had a very warm, cozy atmosphere. It was full, but we took a spot at the bar so we didn’t have to wait.

I’m always nervous about ordering vegan pizza at a non-vegan restaurant, but it is supposed to be authentic, so…. A look at the menu:

Notice the Napoletana doesn’t mention cheese in the toppings. In Italy, it’s more common to just have a list of toppings and the list includes cheese – if you don’t ask for it, you don’t get it. Such is the case with a traditional Napoletana pizza.

Sorry about the bluriness of the picture, I never did get a battery for my camera. These pictures are all taken with my phone.

The crust isn’t as thin as I had in Italy (are you sick of me talking about Italy yet??), but it was really nice, soft crust, not sweet and just the right amount of saltiness. The sauce, also, wasn’t the sweet crap you usually get in the US. It was sprinkled with oregano, and those kind of light colored stripes across the top of the slice are where they drizzled on some kind of minced garlic mixture. I think it was just minced garlic and olive oil. It paired very nicely with our red wine.

This piece reminds me of Anthony Michael Hall as Brian Johnson in The Breakfast Club. Doesn’t the crust look like his hair???

The bathroom was not nearly as awesome as the pizza. Seriously, this is what you put out for your guests?? But C and I talked about it, and ya know, in many a public restroom in Italy, you wouldn’t even get toilet paper at all. Or a toilet seat!

After all three of us basically ate an entire pizza each (C & J had one piece left from one of the two pizzas they ordered, mine was completely IN. MY. BELLY), I wanted to get a picture of the little shrine they had of the Virgin Mary next to where we were seated. It was really too dark to get a good picture, but while we tried another patron watched us, rolling his eyes, and said “Oh my gaaaaaaaawd” like we were the lamest people in the world. The waitress behind the counter jumped into action.
“What? You don’t believe in the Blessed Muhthuh?!!?” (That’s “mother” with a strong Boston accent!) She told us there was another one on the other side of the dining area, well-lit with candles. We could hear her lecturing the man as we made our way to it. That lady was awesome.

Before we left the dorms, everyone kept telling C she needed to go to Mike’s Cannoli. There’s nothing vegan there, as far as I could tell, but I took a few pictures because it was a neat place.

When we walked by on our way to the first bar, there was a HUGE line halfway down the block. There was significantly less of a wait by the time we went back, but it was still packed.

If you look closely, you can see big spool of string on top of the shelf in the back, and string coming down from near the ceiling. I’ll get back to that.

Some of the delicious looking food I couldn’t eat : ( Guess I’ll have to learn to veganize it!

So, J taught us you have one cannolo or multiple cannoli. You do not have cannolis. Just because I thought it was so cool, J asked them to pack our single cannolo in the pretty white & blue Mike’s Cannoli box. The girls grab the end of the string that hangs down from the ceiling and wrap it around and around the box, then tie a little bow – those ladies work fast, too! I forgot to take a picture of the box all neatly tied up.

On our way back to the car we also stopped so J & C could get a little cup of ice cream to eat with their cannolo, and I got lemon sorbet. Forgot to take a picture of that, too : ( However…

This accordion-playing man is much more interesting than any Italian dessert. He was playing beautifully, walking down the sidewalk. He let me and Christina take each other’s picture standing next to him. I have not yet decided if I ever want to show my face on this blog! But maybe one day in the future I’ll show you the picture.

Meanwhile, you can check out this great lamppost. The red globes are all over Boston, I love them.
Check back soon for pictures of my lunch at an Indian restaurant last Friday, another from the infamous Marie Catrib’s last Thursday, some food I ate on campus in the cafeteria (exciting, right?) and a recipe for Syrian kidney bean salad. And maybe a couple other things…I’m really behind! Now I have to get packing and get ready to say goodbye to Boston and all the awesome people at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Seminary. I kind of feel like crying.

6 thoughts on “Boston’s North End: drinks, pizza and a cannolo

  1. lovely post! MMmmm, i was trying to figure out what to have for lunch as it nears 1pm. And well… PIZZA it is! lol

    I hesitated about showing my pic too, but eventually i did. :-p

    The accordion man looks way cool!

    • Yeah, I’m sure it will happen eventually, I’m just taking my sweet time 🙂

      The accordion guy was great! I wish I had a video of him…it felt like we were in another world.

      Enjoy your lunch!

      • i remember once I went to Chicago and was in downtown. There was a man on the corner playing his sax. I wish I would have recorded him as well. I love those encounters. 🙂

  2. Excellent post! I’d love to go to Boston sometime! I love Italian food and live accordion music! My little accordion just isn’t the same, but it’s still fun! Hope to see you soon!

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