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Navigating the North End: Where to get the goods

September 14, 2011

One of our favorite places to shop is in Boston’s North End. Being good Italian kids, there are a lot of kitchen staples we need that can only be purchased in select stores. After enjoying the delicious food at the Feast of St. Joseph, we did a little shopping, and Michael took some photos so we can show you our recommended locations.

But you do want to see what we ate at the feast, right? Of course you do!

Let’s start with the seafood.

Oysters, which we swear when they’re this fresh, it’s fine to get from the street cart:


And my very favorite thing, arancini. This is a rice ball. What you should know: risotto is my favorite food ever. Ever, ever, ever. When you have leftover risotto (I’m not even sure how that happens), you can mix it with some egg and roll it in breadcrumbs and fry it up. Then you put sauce on it. It’s the best thing I have ever eaten. Here I am, clutching the bowl for dear life.

When we’re in the North End, there are three stores we always hit up: Polcari’s Coffee, Salumeria Italiana and DePasquale’s Homemade Pasta Shoppe.

Polcari’s is on Salem Street, and while they sell coffee for sure, they also sell so much more. This is where we go to buy bulk items, including spices and tea.

There is a kind of wonderful old world feeling to this shop. The coffee scale dates back to the early 1900s, the spice bottles are labeled by hand, and the cash register is of the National Cash Register variety.

The owner is Bobby and he’s just really the sweetest guy. If you swing by, you can tell him Michael and Nicole sent you over. He knows who we are!

At Polcari’s, we buy: oats, raisins, pignolia nuts, dried beans, barley, couscous, rice, vanilla beans, spices, chocolate, coffee and tea. I almost feel bad because the prices are so low! You can leave with a huge bag of dry goods groceries for less than $20.

After that, we circle up to Salumeria Italiana, over on Richmond Street.

This blink-and-you’ll-miss-it store has kitchen staples like balsamic and white vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, truffle oil, anchovy paste and a gorgeous deli.

Everything is clean and bright. The employees are happy to let you sample anything you’d like (we cannot highly recommend enough the Rubio Balsamic Vinegar. Just buy it.), including meats and cheeses. Every time we go, Michael gets the D’Parma proscuitto.

A handy tip: when shopping the North End for groceries, bring a sturdy tote bag. I promise you’ll thank me. Or want to thank me. Or something.

After that, we circle up to DePasquale’s Homemade Pasta Shoppe.

This is a cute and modern location on Cross Street. All the pasta is handmade, and it’s delicious. I do prefer (I know, wait for it) the white pasta over the whole wheat. I’m not sure why, since with dried it’s usually the other way around. Maybe you’ll have to get both and see for yourself! I adore the angel hair; Michael loves the squid ink fettucine.

There is a small refrigerated case with delicious things such as Limonata and Sanbitter. I am not a huge fan of the bitters, and here is how I feel about it:

Michael? Well, he loves them. We buy them by the 4-pack.

But before you go, you kind of HAVE TO do the tourist-y thing and make your way to Cafe Vittoria for espresso, gelato and other lovely things.

We got a coffee granita, too. Heavens. It was AMAZING.

And then you’ll have a happy belly and a happy kitchen!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 15, 2011 5:14 pm

    You are SO gorgeous. Um, can I come with you guys next time. That homemade pasta shop sounds amazing. I love that you know the owner, that is awesome. For some reason I have a strong need for bread and cheese now:)

    • September 16, 2011 1:24 am

      You are so sweet! Anytime you’re in Boston, we’ll do it up! Run all over town and nom up the pasta! 🙂

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