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Photograph: Brian Samuels

The best restaurants in the North End

Don’t go hungry in the North End’s maze of cafés, restaurants and tiny grocery stores; here’s where you can mangiare.

Written by
Cheryl Fenton
Written by
Gerrish Lopez
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Known for its Italian-American population and nearly 100 places to eat, Boston’s North End can get a little overwhelming when it comes to figuring out where to eat. As the densest dining neighborhood in New England, the choices are seemingly limitless for whatever you’re craving—a piping hot cappuccino, melted mozzarella dripping off a slice of pizza, handmade gnocchi tossed in a fresh tomato sauce that has been simmering all day. To let you focus only on which homemade pasta you want instead of where to order it, we’ve rounded up the best eateries—several of which are known as best Italian restaurants, best seafood destinations and best pizzerias in Boston.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best restaurants in Boston

Best restaurants in the North End

  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • North End
  • price 3 of 4

Ever since it opened in 2004, Neptune Oyster has been one of Boston's most in-demand options for fresh local seafood, as demonstrated by its ever-present line out the door. Accented with pressed tin, subway tiles and etched glass, the tiny space exudes an unmistakably retro charm. Expert shuckers handle a variety of fresh bivalves with finesse, as the kitchen cranks out a steady stream of its lauded lobster rolls.

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • North End
  • price 3 of 4

Terramia has served elevated Italian fare since 1993—each dish a symphony of simple flavors. Try creative, seasonally-inspired interpretations of Italian classics or stick with standbys, like the grilled veal with porcini risotto or the signature open-faced ravioli with sea scallops, shrimp, zucchini and lobster mascarpone reduction. The cozy, candlelit space—filled with Italian countryside murals for a slightly rustic vibe—is usually packed, so reservations are highly recommended.

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  • Restaurants
  • North End
  • price 3 of 4

Dine at this bustling, sophisticated North End spot and you’ll quickly realize why it was named amongst The Travel Channel’s top six restaurants for pasta in America. Homemade pastas are pillowy, and entrees are simple in nature but complex in taste, including the 7-spice Murray's brick chicken, veal ossobuco and a Mallard duck duetto. The swank enoteca is an alluring late-night destination, serving inventive cocktails and an award-winning wine list.

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • North End
  • price 4 of 4

Get a robust steakhouse experience with the intimacy of neighboring North End trattorias at Chef Anthony Caturano’s Prezza. Named after his grandmother’s birthplace, this local favorite serves up expertly wood-grilled meats (the likes of braised short ribs) alongside delicate, hand-made pastas such as gnocchi alla bolognese and ravioli di uovo, stuffed with ricotta and a soft egg yolk. To pair with the menu, choose from over 6,000 wines and more than 600 labels.

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  • Restaurants
  • Grills
  • North End

This relaxed Italian rotisserie features award-winning, brick-oven Neapolitan pizzas that go beyond the basic. Topping combos include: mortadella with pistachio; exotic mushroom; and figs, arugula and goat cheese. The handmade pastas are rich and filling, while entrees like chicken parm and linguine with clams are true classics.

  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • North End
  • price 3 of 4

Part of North End restaurateur Frank DePasquales local empire, Mare is known for its superb selection of crudo and fish-forward pasta dishes. From its lobster ravioli with smoked bacon and cream sauce to its truffle crusted tuna, this place makes seafood positively decadent. And if you need anymore convincing, this eatery's name literally translates to "ocean," so it sets the seafood tone from the very start. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • North End
  • price 2 of 4

Giacomo’s is one of the most popular restaurants in all of the North End, demonstrated by the ever-present line that forms in front of it and stretches down the block. Crowds hungry for classic Italian-American fare are wise and know that the inevitable sidewalk wait is worth it. Portions of pasta and other favorites are large and inexpensive, thanks to the restaurant's unyielding attitude towards frills (there are none). Be sure to hit the ATM beforehand because this place remains cash only.

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • North End

Noted as one of the first restaurants to bring authentic Italian cuisine to Boston’s oldest neighborhood, modern-day Lucia’s still offers old-world cuisine. Ingredients come directly from the Frattaroli family’s Sulmona-based agricultural farm, Masseria Frattaroli. The house specialty, Ammazzafame, is a penne rigate with porcini, sausage, broccoli, sun-dried tomato, and capers; the lasagna is Nonna Lucia’s own recipe.

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  • Restaurants
  • Pizza
  • North End
  • price 1 of 4

Regulars line up at this beloved North End takeout spot as early as 10:30am because savvy locals know not to risk missing out on thick, chewy, delectable and super-cheap Sicilian slices. Even people waiting for a table at nearby restaurants have been known to grab a piece of this pizza while they wait, which also contributes to Galleria Umberto frequently selling out of saucy product. It’s cash only, but at these low prices, it’s not really a problem.

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • North End
  • price 2 of 4

Antico Forno is a genuine trattoria, keeping long-held Italian-American traditions alive for the modern masses. From eggplant rolls to rigatoni with sausage to thin-crust pizza, everything coming out of the eatery's fiery brick oven is a winner, (it doesn't hurt if its smothered in melty ricotta and tomato sauce). Pastas are impressive, especially the pillowy gnocchi, so be sure to carb up.

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  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • North End
  • price 2 of 4

Daily Catch exudes the spirit of the 'old' North End. It's a tiny little nook with a blackboard menu, beverages served in juice glasses and skillets that double as plates. The calamari here is exceptional, with plenty of preparations to match your personal preferences—fried, stuffed, marinated and chilled, or chopped and pressed into delicious meatballs. Other highlights include squid ink- and garlic-heavy linguine.

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  • Restaurants
  • Pizza
  • North End
  • price 2 of 4

This classic North End pizzeria—which could double as a movie set with its beautiful brick building, well-worn booths and framed celebrity headshots—is the oldest in town. Pizzas come out hot and fresh from the oven, and the convivial atmosphere makes you feel right at home with a pie and a pitcher. Be prepared to camp out for a bit because theres often a wait due to its well-deserved popularity—but it’s well worth it. 

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • North End
  • price 2 of 4

Whether you choose al fresco, indoors or on the popular rooftop bar (a European café/tiny sports bar of sorts), you’ll enjoy classic Italian fare at this trattoria on bustling Hanover Street. Keep things simple with a Margherita pizza and a glass of wine, or go all in with mounds of signature hand-made pastas topped with fresh local seafood or braised meats.

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  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • North End

This retro North End eatery is inspired by the nostalgic Italian-American red sauce joints of the '60s and '70s. On the menu, you'll find all of the classics—chicken parmesan, spaghetti Bolognese, lobster ravioli and more. In terms of authentic Italian-American eateries, Tony & Elaine's aims to hit all the marks, even down to the red and white checkered table cloths.

  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • North End
  • price 1 of 4

Another non-Italian restaurant that shines in the North End, Tenoch is known for its torta, a traditional Mexican pressed sandwich. The sandwich’s meat or vegetarian base is topped with Oaxaca cheese, chipotle mayo, onions, avocado and tomatoes. Tacos, quesadillas, and burritos are on the menu as well, along with Mexican sodas.

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  • Restaurants
  • Bakeries
  • North End
  • price 1 of 4

Bova’s opened in the North End in 1932 and has remained a family-owned business ever since. Its customary Italian offerings include a wide range of breads—including seasonal varieties that are traditionally enjoyed around holidays like Easter—pastries, cookies, tarts, cakes and pies. For something more substantial, try a calzone or slice of Sicilian pizza coming straight from the oven. Best of all, Bova’s is open 24 hours a day, so you can get that bakery fix at any time, day or night. 

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