Everybody loves the North End, but if you don’t make a plan before you go, you might run into lines and long wait times. There are many popular places worth the visit, and I’ve listed some below, but my recommendations also include overlooked places you may not know. These spots are just as good—if not better—than the popular places. Here are my top five picks for the best places to visit in the North End for a great, stress-free Italian time.
Caffé Vittoria is the perfect after-dinner dessert and cocktail joint. A Boston native once told me this place has the best cannolis in the North End because they are filled fresh for every order, so they never sit out and get soggy. To go along with your cannoli, I also highly recommend the espresso martinis. This place is usually packed every night, and it’s a great location to sit down and converse with friends. The old-timey decorations and amiable staff fill this spot with great vibes.
Bencotto doesn’t necessarily have that traditional Italian restaurant feel with silver trim all along the outside, but the food is unmatched. I highly recommend the boscaiola pasta dish with peas and cream—it tastes absolutely divine. The staff here is incredibly friendly and recommended the dish to me. Like many other North End restaurants, this place has limited seating. Tables here are coveted, so it’s important to make a reservation in advance. It is located on Hanover Street, the North End’s mainstreet, so you can easily walk around and explore the area after dinner.
We all know and love Mike’s Pastry. But, check out this family-owned bakery right off the North End’s main street. The desserts are just as good, but here you can use a credit card, and the lines are half as long as they are at the more mainstream Modern Pastry Shop or Mike’s Pastry. Bova’s Bakery is also open 24 hours a day, making it the perfect place to satisfy your late night cravings. Chat with whoever serves you to hear more about the wonderful history of this family bakery. I recommend the blueberry cheesecake and the crème brûlée cannolis. This place isn’t super expensive either, so I highly suggest you stop in here and grab a tasty treat.
The Freedom Trail runs through Boston’s Italian district and highlights the historical aspects of this Boston neighborhood. I recommend walking along this trail to see some great historic sights all throughout Boston. Within the North End, the Freedom Trail takes visitors to Paul Revere’s house, the Old North Church, and Faneuil Hall. You have to pay a small fee to tour Paul Revere’s house and the Old North Church, but Faneuil Hall is free for all visitors to walk around at their leisure. Every Boston College student should see these historic parts of Boston before they graduate.
St. Leonard of Port Maurice Parish
The Old North Church in the North End is great, but it charges a fee. In my opinion, the slick white design of the Old North Church doesn’t compare to the stunning interior of St. Leonard of Port Maurice Parish. If you want to see some beautiful architecture and don’t want to pay a fee, I highly recommend visiting this parish. Wander around this church for free and wonder at the awe-inspiring architecture and impressive acoustics. This is still an active church, so I would be careful not to interrupt a service when you visit. The parish’s stunning ceiling art, gold trimming, and stained glass windows make it the North End’s greatest hidden gem.