• Culinary Tour of the North End

    July 17, 2011

    Yesterday was such a treat. I spent the whole afternoon eating!

    I joined a small group of local bloggers to experience authentic Italy through the eyes of Bertolli by exploring Boston’s vibrant Italian culinary scene in the North End. We spent the day “serving Italy” with a tour of the best Italian specialty shops that Boston has to offer, each of which shared Bertolli’s passion for food and fresh ingredients.

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    Vittoria Caffe

    The first stop of our culinary tour was at Vittoria Caffe for a discussion and tasting of Italian cappuccinos, biscotti, and cannoli– a combination that was truly divine!

    Established in 1929, Vittoria Caffe is world renowned as the first Italian caffe in Boston. The Vittoria’s old world charm gives one a feeling of being in a romantic cafe in “Bella Italia.” From caffes to pasticceria tradizionale to gelati, you can experience authentic Italian treats in the heart of Boston’s North End.

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    While we waited for everyone in the group to arrive, we chatted and enjoyed some treats. I ordered an iced latte, tried a chocolate biscotti, and part of a chocolate cannoli. Holy yum indeed!

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    Fun fact:Vittoria Caffe sells about 700 cannoli per day!

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    I also tried some mint chocolate chip gelati, which was so incredibly creamy.

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    I’m not going to lie, I loved that we started our culinary tour with dessert!

    Salumeria Italiana

    We spent about an hour relaxing and lingering over our coffees at Vittoria Caffe before we departed for Salumeria Italiana, where we enjoyed a tasting and demonstration of Italian cheese, cured meats, and olive oil.

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    Salumeria Italiana is home of the finest foods from Italy and all of the Mediterranean. The store opened more than 40 years ago in Boston’s North End because an Italian mother wanted to feed her baby son the wonderful foods she knew from her homeland. For more than four decades, Salumeria Italiana has stocked the best in olive oils, vinegars, pastas, and other specialty products.

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    Salumeria Italiana was easily my favorite part of yesterday’s culinary tour. I mean, I smelled delicious cheese as soon as I walked in!

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    The store was stocked with quality olive oils, vinegars, pastas, and other specialty products— most of which were imported straight from Italy.

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    The staff at Salumeria Italiana was also incredibly friendly, helpful, and accommodating. If I lived closer, I’d frequent this shop all of the time— the meat and cheese selection alone were really impressive. The fresh breads were pretty amazing too!

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    At Salumeria Italiana, we tried a few different cured meats and cheeses.

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    My favorite of the bunch was a cheese called Moliterno al Tartufo:

    Moliterno al Tartufo is an amazing combination of beautifully aged cheese with intense truffle flavor. Made of sheep and goat’s milk in Sardinia, this cheese is aged and then injected with black truffles for more aging. The result is irresistible flavor and texture. Perfect to star alone as a cheese course with red wines or dessert wines.

    This cheese was life changing. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever tasted a more delicious cheese. I might be making a trip back to the North End sooner than later!

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    The olive oils that we tried were also outstanding. It was so interesting to learn and experience how different olive oils can taste depending on where they’re grown. We also tried the most outstanding aged balsamic vinegar, which we got to take home with us. I can’t wait to have it on fresh greens.

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    Gigi’s Gelateria

    The next stop on our culinary tour was Gigi’s Gelateria for a tasting and discussion of homemade Italian gelato. Gelato twice in one day? Yes, please!

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    As the North End’s first gelateria, Frank DePasquale opened Gigi Gelateria to give patrons all natural authentic Italian gelato.

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    Frank chatted with our group for a little bit and told us what makes his gelato so special. He said the Gelateria doesn’t use eggs, heavy cream or butter in their gelato, which leaves just milk, sugar, and natural flavorings to create the frozen treat.

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    With over 30 flavors to chose from, there’s an option for everyone. The extensive list includes unconventional flavors such as lemoncello, panna cotta, and amaretto, but you can still savor classics, like chocolate, vanilla, and tiramisu.

    I picked Stracciatella, which is kind of like chocolate chip, but with finer bits of chocolate throughout, which gave it a really smooth texture with just the slightest crunch in every bite. Delish.

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    After enjoying our second gelato of the day, we had a little time to kill before the next visit, so our fearless leaders from Bertolli offered to snap some photos of the group. Nine bloggers = nine cameras!

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    Success!

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    DePasquale’s Homemade Pasta Shoppe

    Our next visit was to a pasta shop specializing in over 50 homemade different varieties.

    DePasquale’s Homemade Pasta Shoppe is a tribute to DePasquale’s mother and the Sunday’s of his youth spent watching her make pasta in Italy. At the Pasta Shoppe, customers and pasta enthusiasts alike can find every essential ingredients for a homemade meal. From freshly baked Italian breads, imported Italian cheeses, olive oils, vinegars, and tomatoes to an array of 50 types of pasta and daily selections of more than 20 varieties of ravioli; there is no need to look any further for your favorite ingredients.

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    The Pasta Shoppe had so many different varieties of pasta! It was so cool seeing all of them! Check out just some of these delicious ravioli combinations:

    • pumpkin
    • spinach/truffles
    • artichoke/goat cheese
    • prosciutto/ricotta
    • portabella/asiago
    • gorgonzola/sundried tomato
    • smoked chicken/mascarpone
    • braised short rib/escarole

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    Quick tip: Pasta is Italy is served al dente or “to the tooth.” To see if it’s cooked perfectly, pull a piece from the boiling water, break it in half, and look at its middle. If you still see traces of while (the uncooked flour), it needs a little more time.

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    Lucca

    The final stop of our culinary tour was a customized dinner of fresh homemade pasta paired with delicious Italian wines at Lucca. I’ve never eaten a meal in the North End, so I was especially psyched. It was a first for me!

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    Named for the Tuscan town renowned for its extra virgin olive oil, Lucca offers Northern Italian classics, combined with new innovations that are sure to tantalize the most discriminating palate.

    Thanks to culinary inspiration accumulated from his regular trips to Italy, Lucca’s executive chef, Patrick Duffy, offers acclaimed regional Italian cuisine, homemade breads, authentic pasta dishes, and of course, succulent desserts. Time spent in the region has taught him the value of the freshest produce and ingredients.

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    Bertolli prepared a special menu for us with antipasti, a tasting of fresh pasta paired with wine, and dessert.

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    The antipasto was a presentation of the Chef’s selection of imported meats, seafood, and roasted vegetables. I tried a bite of everything and enjoyed it all.

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    The antipasto was paired with a fantastic white wine: St. Michael-Eppan (Alto Adige) 2010 Pinot Biance. It was light and mineraly. I was a big fan of it.

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    The main course was a side-by-side pasta tasting:

    • Tagliatelle: Black pepper tagliatelle pasta with shucked Maine lobster, North Country smoked bacon, chanterelle mushrooms, sweet corn, and scallions.
    • Ravioli: House-made caramelized onion and goat cheese ravioli with fava beans, escarole, blistered cherry tomatoes and basil, finished with aged goat cheese.

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    I thought I would love the ravioli (goat cheese? hello!), but the tagliatelle was my favorite out of the two dishes. It had massive chunks of lobster in it and a ton of bacon-y flavor. The pasta was also fresh and perfectly chewy.

    For dessert, I tried blueberry-flavored Grappa, which was pretty tasty, but also super strong! Holy moly! I only ended up having a few sips of it.

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    Since we enjoyed so many sweets throughout the day, the table decided to order a few different desserts and share them. My favorite was a warm Chocolate Torte with vanilla bean gelato. Mmm! It reminded me of a super chocolaty and dense brownie.

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    Many thanks to Bertolli for such a wonderful culinary adventure in the North End. It was a truly a delectable day!

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    { 84 comments… read them below or add one }

    Khushboo July 17, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    Good lord, Italian cuisine is my favorite so this tour sounds like heaven to me!!

    Reply

    Gina @ Will Run for Cupcakes July 17, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    The food looks amazing. I can safely say that I am VERY jealous!

    Reply

    Alaina July 17, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    This tour looks amazing! I love the gelato at Gigi’s. I’ve been to a ton of restaurants up there but Lucca is one that I have not dined at. I’ve had drinks there, but not dinner.

    Reply

    Kristine @ Running on Hungry July 17, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    Looks SO good! Next time you’re in the North End – Mike’s Pastry! SO SO good!

    Reply

    Lisa July 17, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    What a fun time!! Now I’m totally craving Italian food. Yum

    Reply

    Krystina (Organically Me) July 17, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    I LOVE The North End!!!! It makes me so happy. :)

    Reply

    Lindsey @ Gluten-Free Lindsey July 17, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    I can’t believe I’ve never been out to eat in the North End! I need to get on that..

    Reply

    Ashley @ Coffee Cake and Cardio July 17, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    What an amazingly fun day!! Seriously…. how much do you love what you do??

    Reply

    Melissa (MelissaLikesToEat) July 17, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    Now, that’s my kind of day!!! Great pictures of all the delicious eats!

    Reply

    Nicole Gomez July 17, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    yum yum!!! so jealous!

    Reply

    Emily @ Comfortable Home Life July 17, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    I’m so jealous! Italian food is my absolute favorite. Cheese, bread, pasta, olive oil, balsamic, cannolis, gelato, I love it all!

    Reply

    Kelly July 17, 2011 at 6:01 pm

    Wow, this sounds amazing. Also I REALLY cannot believe you and Mal have not had a meal in the North End. How is that even possible?! You’ve been so many places around Boston that I haven’t but I have been to the North End way too many times to count!

    Reply

    Chelsea @ One Healthy Munchkin July 17, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    What an awesome tour! I don’t even know what to comment on first because everything looks so good! Especially the fresh homemade pasta. I’ve tried making it a few times this year and I don’t think I can ever go back to boxed pasta now!

    Reply

    Hannah July 17, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    You’ve completely made me long for my fortnight in Florence last year, where I had at least two servings of gelato every day…

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    Hillary July 17, 2011 at 8:24 pm

    This sounds like my dream day. I just found out that Baltimore has a food tour, and I’m planning on trying it out ASAP!

    Reply

    Hilary July 17, 2011 at 8:56 pm

    Whoa…pretty jealous here! That food all looks amazing…great way to spend a Saturday if you ask me!

    Reply

    Lee @ in the pink of condition July 17, 2011 at 9:52 pm

    My best friend lives in the North End, on Prince Street, so we have eaten at Lucca a bunch of times! It is amazing! We always get a little too tipsy though because of their awesome wine selection :-)

    Reply

    Gina @ Running to the Kitchen July 17, 2011 at 10:43 pm

    That looks like the best day ever!

    Reply

    Margo @ Peanut Butter Trees July 17, 2011 at 11:27 pm

    This looks like such an amazing, delicious tour!!

    Reply

    Elisabeth July 18, 2011 at 12:05 am

    Wow! That looks so fun (and tasty!). I ate in the North End a few years ago while on vacation in Boston & it was so delicious – most authentic Italian food I’ve ever had :)

    Reply

    Jess July 18, 2011 at 6:56 am

    Nice recap! You captured so many great details from the tour. Buon appetito!

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    Samantha @ Bikini Birthday July 18, 2011 at 8:50 am

    That is a huge glass of grappa you got there!
    My favourite kind of grappa is chamomile flavoured. Have you ever tried it? It’s divine.

    Reply

    Hope July 18, 2011 at 9:25 am

    What an awesome tour! All of that food looks delicious! I bet it was a fun day!

    Reply

    Andrea Shestopalov July 18, 2011 at 9:27 am

    I actually just sent this post to my husband (not a blog reader), because there were so many yummy things you mention that I now want to go tour the North End too! To answer your question from a post (or two) ago, about what do blog readers want to read about…. for me, it’s this. I like hearing about your workout adventures as well, but food adventures are the best. :)

    Reply

    Christina July 18, 2011 at 9:32 am

    This looks amazing! I can’t believe you’ve never ate in the North End — if you ever go back, try Bacco on Salem St. It’s by far my favorite!!

    Reply

    shannon July 18, 2011 at 10:18 am

    bummed i couldn’t make it, ended up leaving for CT earlier than expected!

    Reply

    Emily @ A Cambridge Story July 18, 2011 at 10:29 am

    Sounds like a great tour. I am especially bummed that I couldn’t make it – but I was in Portsmouth for the day!

    Reply

    Kayla @ learningtosayyes.com July 18, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    Salumeria Italiana has the BEST balsamic vinegar I have gotten outside of when I lived in Italy that you can use for fruit and on bread and with meats. It is called rubio and has the BEST and most FLAVOURFUL taste. I head there on every Boston trip to get a bottle :)

    Reply

    Sara July 18, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    Like everyone else I am extremely jealous! I’m glad you had a good time and got to enjoy all of the fabulous food.

    Reply

    Maria@La_Piattini July 23, 2011 at 9:17 am

    Wow this looks like such an amazing experience! We visit Boston once a year on Memorial Day weekend and now I have several places I’d like to check out next year- thanks for the informative post, Tina!

    Reply

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