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Posts Tagged ‘North End’

On a recent Saturday afternoon, I took myself to Boston’s North End for some wandering, before meeting a friend and her kids for ice cream nearby. I’ve long enjoyed an occasional meal out there – the neighborhood is justly famous for its Italian food – but in the 12 years I have spent in Boston, I’ve rarely gone there simply to explore. It felt good to wander around while not worrying about making a dinner reservation, and I found a few new spots to enjoy.

My first stop, as you can tell from the photo, was I AM Books – a delightful Italian-American bookstore, which moved to its new home on Salem Street last fall. I’d never visited its first incarnation, to my shame, but this one is glorious. It has tons of space and an amazing selection of books about Italy, books in Italian, books on Italian food and culture, and books by Italian-American authors. I picked up a food memoir and some expensive (but delicious) chili-spiced chocolate.

The neighborhood has more than a few small shops, and I dropped into several: a funky vintage store, a sweet gift shop, a venerable wine shop with an incredible selection, a market called Going Bananas. There were lots of tourists around (it was a Saturday in July, after all), but it was fun to wander the streets as a local, picking up an item or two for dinner and noting restaurants I’d like to try soon.

My last stop was Salumeria Italiana, which my guy and I discovered only recently. Their sandwiches are delicious (and affordable!), but I was after something else: the briny mixed olives from their deli counter, which G loves. I picked up a bag of Tuscan crackers to go with them, and headed home via the T. I think I’ll save my next North End excursion for when the tourist traffic calms a bit – but it was still fun to explore a corner of my city in a way I rarely do.

What local adventures are you having, these days?

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I’ve only been to Caffe Vittoria, tucked amid Italian restaurants in Boston’s busy North End, a few times. Usually, when J and I venture to the North End, we’re either leading friends down the Freedom Trail, to sights including Paul Revere’s house and the Old North Church, or we’re sniffing out our newest spot for a yummy Italian dinner. (And I mean that literally; the aromas from restaurant kitchens waft out onto the sidewalks, enticing customers with garlic, butter, herbs and so many good things.)

We usually head to Mike’s Pastry after dinner for cannoli and call it a night. But last fall, my parents and I ended up in the North End one cool afternoon, so we stopped in for some rich, creamy hot chocolate:

This past weekend, we were with friends, some of whom wanted cannoli, so we sent them to Mike’s and stopped at Caffe Vittoria for gelato:

Mmm. I love a good versatile cafe. A cafe for all seasons, if you will. I’ll definitely be going back for more gelato – and hot chocolate – this fall.

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A couple of weeks ago, I attended my first networking event – a meeting of the Boston Women Communicators group, which is exactly what it sounds like. We enjoyed a lovely dinner at the College Club (doesn’t that sound elegant?), with tea and cookies afterward and a guest speaker, Judith Nies, whose fascinating memoir The Girl I Left Behind was just published.

While there, I met Annmarie, a fellow job-seeker who is also a born-and-raised Bostonian. She offered to take any of us Boston newbies (there were several) on a personal tour, so last week I took her up on it. And boy, did we have a great day.

We met at the Prudential Center, whose 50th-floor Skywalk affords 360-degree views of Boston:

(This is the northern view; that mass of trees and green is my beloved Boston Common.)

(This is the eastern view, across the South End to Boston Harbor.)

After gawking at the views (truly stunning), we headed down to the South End in search of some mid-morning refreshment. We discovered Francesca’s on Tremont Street, which had twinkle lights, a laid-back atmosphere and delicious blueberry scones. My kind of place!

(View out the window…I love the little stencils, and we just sat and talked and watched the world go by.)

We then hopped a cab to the Institute of Contemporary Art, which is a little overpriced since only one of its four floors showcases any art. (We did not know this before paying.) However, the art we saw was appropriately cool and funky, and the gift shop was full of quirky things. We then took the Harbor Walk all the way around to Christopher Columbus Park, and headed into the North End (Boston’s Little Italy) in search of lunch.

Following the delicious smells coming from L’Osteria, on Salem Street, we headed in and ordered lunch (noting the group of older Italian men and women eating in the corner. Locals=a good sign). Annmarie had the mussels and I had some delectable manicotti – and they brought us FREE almond-flavored tiramisu with the check! Definitely a place to go back to with my Italian-food-lovin’ husband.

I hadn’t been to Charlestown yet, so we headed through the North End and across the bridge, and toured the top deck of the U.S.S. Constitution:

This is the oldest commissioned warship still afloat – and it’s seriously cool. (Annmarie and I didn’t take the full tour that day, but I went back with J on Saturday and we heard all about the ship from a tour guide and fellow Texan. It was fascinating – and FREE, which made it even better.)

Our day ended with a stroll into Charlestown proper (where my friends Mike and Lisa lived during their time in Boston), and we rested our tired feet at the base of the Bunker Hill monument:

Truly a fantastic day – yummy food, fun Boston spots I hadn’t seen before, and a lovely new friend. (If any of you come up to Boston, dear readers, I’ll be glad to give you my personal tour!)

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