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Historically and culturally rich, Boston’s North End, or “Little Italy,” is one of the city’s oldest, most beloved neighborhoods. Wander the winding brick streets to take in the historical sights, browse in quaint shops, and EAT!
From simple cured meat sandwiches at salumerie to seafood platters at upscale restaurants and literally everything in between, the North End’s Italian eateries serve some of the city’s finest foods. There’s dessert to be had, too—in fact, both locals and tourists alike queue outside of the neighborhood’s most popular Italian pastry shops for sweet traditional baked goods, such as creamy ricotta-filled cannoli, chocolaty cookies, and elaborate cakes.
To get in on the action this winter, don your warmest coat and join the queues at three megastar North End pastry shops:
Modern Pastry: 257 Hanover St, Boston, MA
Modern Pastry Shop
Small and cozy with pastry cases chock full of colorful, homemade desserts and Italian language spoken behind the bar, Modern Pastry feels as though it has been uprooted from Italy and dropped into Boston’s North End. Come in with a plan as the hardworking, no-nonsense Modern Pastry team doesn’t appreciate indecisiveness. Order freshly filled cannoli, or try my favorite a crunchy, chocolate-covered, espresso-laced nougat (torrone). The elaborate, custard-filled, flaky lobstertail (sfogliatella) or simple carrot cake are wise decisions as well. A piping hot coffee rounds out the experience.
Mike’s Pastry: 300 Hanover St, Boston, MA
Larger than the other two shops, yet still almost always crowded with queues out the door, Mike’s is indeed a popular place. Though you’ll have plenty of time to contemplate your order in line, standouts are donut-shaped cookies doused in powdered sugar (taralli), smooth gelato, chocolate-covered quasi-cream puffs (bocconotti), and of course, cannoli. Mike’s makes cannoli ordering simple, too, by displaying large, colorful photos of each variation on the front wall. Chocolate lovers should consider the chocolate-covered, chocolate custard-filled cannoli. If you’re able to grab a table, complement your pastry with an espresso and take in the surrounding boisterous action.
Maria’s Pastry: 46 Cross St, Boston, MA
In 2013, Maria’s Pastry won the highly coveted Boston Magazine Best Cannoli Award. Filled to order and oh-so-creamy, Maria’s crunchy ricotta-filled cannoli are addicting. You’ve been warned! There is more to Maria’s than cannoli though—from cinnamon-laced almond biscotti (quaresimali) and powdery vanilla lady fingers (savoiardi) to rich rum cakes, there’s something for every sweet tooth. Located a bit off of busy Hanover Street, the small, modest space generally isn’t as crowded as the others. But, this shouldn’t deter would-be cannoli eaters—Maria’s is a locally loved institution.
Katherine Sazdanoff is a freelance travel writer and resident of Boston with quite a sweet tooth! To chronicle her wanderlust adventures, visit her website at www.katherinesazdanoff.com.