What makes a great Italian restaurant? For some it may be the antipasti, while for others it’s the quality of the wines and pastas that’s the sure-fire test. Octopus? Lasagna? Cacio e pepe? Which one dish should be the barometer of a great Italian restaurant?
The steps we took to compile our most-recent ranking were as thorough and comprehensive as possible: we looked at restaurants that made it to our 101 Best Restaurants in America; we also recruited an illustrious panel of judges that included some of the country’s top food writers, critics, and bloggers to submit their suggestions, which we supplemented with our own choices, including previous years’ rankings as well as lauded newcomers. This list of hundreds of restaurants was then built into a survey that was sent out to more than 100 panelists, who voted for their favorites. The final ranking included a significant number of Italian restaurants, and to create this list we supplemented the Italian restaurants that made it into our final list of 101 with those that came in as runners-up and those that were featured on this year's list of the country's 50 best casual restaurants. Turns out there are many Italian restaurants worthy of renown in America, and one resides in Boston.
James Beard Award-winning chef Lydia Shire is one of Beantown’s most legendary chefs, and her restaurant, Scampo, is one of the best Italian restaurants you’ll ever dine in. While Italian at heart, Shire isn’t afraid to incorporate a tandoori oven or lamb sirloin souvlaki into the mix, and the menu is fun and playful. Handmade breads come in six varieties. There’s a full "mozzarella bar" with heirloom tomatoes and basil, prosciutto, and green papaya, beef carpaccio and garlic chips, king crab, and a warm burrata with leek custard in pastry (just opt for the mozzarella tasting, you know you want to). Spaghetti comes dressed with cracklings and hot pepper, and pizza is topped with robiola, peppadwes, white clam, black truffle, and lobster. Entrees include very crisp, slow-cooked half duck, sugarcane and spiced lamb sirloin, and spring's fresh-caught Canadian lobster with bourbon. It’s one of those everything-looks-delicious menus, but we’ll be waiting for Friday night, when the special is roast suckling pig.
Shire’s fare is so good, the restaurant scored the #23 spot on our compilation, and since it’s the only one from the city to make the list, according to our panel of experts, Scampo is the best Italian restaurant in Boston.
The best restaurants in Boston
For a hearty breakfast that keeps you full all day long or a sandwich on the go, Mike & Patty’s in Back Bay has a good selection. Keep in mind that they close around 2pm.
12 Church Street
Island Creek Oyster Bar
This seafood restaurant, located close to baseball stadium Fenway Park, has the same owner as oyster bar Row 34 in Fort Point. Try the steamed littleneck clams or the fried oysters, or the shellfish platter for a little bit of everything. While the restaurant is quite big‚ booking is recommended.
Boston Public Market
This indoor marketplace, with more than 39 local farmers and food entrepreneurs, opened just one year ago and has become a popular destination for shopping and eating. Everything sold here comes from New England, including vegetables, fish, meat, honey and cheese. Open 7 days a week from July 18.
The Cod Squad
This family-run food truck has traveled the streets of Boston and Cambridge since 2012 and is a good lunch choice for some crab cakes or tasty fish and chips with coleslaw.
James Hook and Co.
Don’t be put off by the long lines or the location next to two busy streets on thewaterfront – the lobster rolls sold from this small tent are worth it. James Hook started as a wholesaler in 1925 and it’s still the main business. Lobster and other seafood are distributed nationwide.
A brick-oven pizzeria chain that can be found all over town, Regina has been voted the number one pizza in Boston. If you want authenticity, visit the original in the Italian quarter in the North End.
You will most likely run into people carrying blue and white take-away boxes on the Boston streets. They come from the Italian quarter and most probably contain the popular homemade cannoli pastry baked by Mike and his family for over 50 years. It comes in different flavors – try the one with chocolate chips.
Located on the historic Fort Point channel, this colorful seafood tent and bar is like a giant Scandinavian crayfish party. The music is loud and the atmosphere is lively.
A fine dining restaurant in Back Bay that focuses on Mediterranean seafood cuisine. Ostra has won several awards from the magazine Best of Boston. The name of the restaurant, Ostra, is Spanish for oyster.
DINING OUT IN OLD BOSTON
There can still be found in the city of Boston a few beetle-browed and venerable old restaurants down various side streets, that evoke memories of decades, even centuries past. While the charge has often been made that Boston is not a premier restaurant city - in spite of the fact that it has some superb fish restaurants, a variety of Italian restaurants (especially in the North End), and the fourth largest Chinatown in the country - surely it has among the most historical.
The oldest restaurant, the Union Oyster House, started serving oysters in 1826 -when John Quincy Adams was President -and has been operating at the same location on 41 Union Street ever since. The building is much older and the bricks and the beams of the restaurant are original. Upstairs are rooms set off by creaky old booths. The doors are low, the floors sloping, the stalls, along with the oyster bar, still in their original positions.
On the upper floor, the young journalist Isaiah Thomas published his famous newspaper, The Massachusetts Say, from 1771 to 1775 and during the Revolutionary War, Ebenezer Hancock, a paymaster of the Continental Army, made the lower floor his headquarters. Some years later, on the second floor, Louis Philippe, afterward King of France (1830-48) - the 'ɼitizen King'' -lived for a time in exile and taught French to prominent Bostonians. Daniel Webster drank toddies here, as did Dickens pots of porter in 1842, with the famous professor of classics at Harvard, James Felton.
I remember as a child straining to look through the front windows to see piles of lobsters and oysters, and customers eating fried clams and dispatching steaming bowls of Boston fish chowder, a full-flavored broth loaded with minced swordfish, quahogs and mussels. This is the home of lobster in any form: boiled, broiled, baked, stuffed, thermidor, Newburg, sauteed, or stewed - and any possible combination of clams, oysters, Cape scallops, smelts or scrod.
Dickens resided and dined in Boston, however, at the Parker House during his second visit to the United States in 1867. To the very end of his life that was the greatest boast of its founder, Harvey D. Parker, a humble waiter who rose to become the proprietor of one of America's oldest hotels. The original part was built in 1855 an addition extending down School Street was built later. Edwin Booth, Henry Irving, Ellen Terry, Sarah Bernhardt, and Ulysses Grant, among others, all came and occupied rooms here while eight days before assassinating Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth flitted in and out of the hotel, leaving a significant word here and there with men and women who were never to forget.
The restaurant's instant success was based on the then unique notion that people often liked to eat meals at irregular hours. An a la carte menu was made available at all hours, and Parker made a fortune. The eminent historian and revered Boston Brahmin Samuel Eliot Morison once told me that breakfasts there long ago were innocent of grapefruit, oranges and other premium sources of vitamins - a word then not even coined. Baked apples and a hot cereal were followed by great platters of bacon or ham and eggs, or just plain eggs with fish, almost always Boston scrod - specifically a codfish that had been split and slack-salted the night before.
In the old days, one could dine here at the corner of Tremont and School Street on great American specialties: broiled honeycomb tripe, codfish tongues and cheeks, Boston cream pie - not a pie, but a cake - and, of course, beans. The Puritan Sabbath lasted from sundown on Saturday until sundown on Sunday, and baked beans provided the Puritans with a dish that was easy to sustain over the Sabbath. The bean pot could be kept over a slow heat in the fireplace to serve beans at Saturday supper and Sunday breakfast. Thus Boston became known as Bean Town. Many old-timers believe the rich brown goodness of Boston baked beans is due largely to the earthenware bean pot, with its narrow throat and bulging sides.
Incidentally, Parker House rolls originated at Boston's Parker House. The soft hot rolls were made soon after the hotel was built, by a German cook named Ward. One hundred dozen were daily shipped to Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and other cities - until Philadelphia, after the Centennial Exposition of 1876, retaliated by sending to Boston Vienna rolls. As often happens after a long period of time, the old hotel lost its favor and other hotels and restaurants took its place - although the Parker House has recently been repaired and renovated and is making a comeback. And one can still find Parker House rolls at the restaurant called Parker's at 60 School Street.
Down the street from the Parker House, at 31 Stuart Street, can be found the Jacob Wirth Company - Jake Wirth's - a peerless German restaurant, built in 1868, in what is now the theater district. A plate glass front ex-tends almost to the sidewalk. A huge clock outside employs the letters of the founder's name instead of numbers there are dots at nine and three (10 characters, alas, falling short of 12 hours.) The restaurant is a sort of cheerful, noisy hall with rather austere mustard-colored ceilings and upper walls, and dark brown wainscoting. Orders are bawled from waiter to kitchen. There is the constant rattling of dishes, the banging of tin trays, the sound of large seidels of beer being planked down on simple mahogany tables without cloths. The waiters, who wear close-fitting black jackets and long white aprons, are alert, practiced men with a sense of serving wisdom. One is served quickly, without fanfare, a plate whisked in front of you with the speed of lightning. There is sawdust on the floor. The chairs are straight and well-sat in. Over the bar, with its wonderful brass rail, is the motto, ''Suum Cuique'' - '𧺬h to His Own.'' Among the specialties are sauerbraten with red cabbage, bratwurst, thick green pea soup, brisket with horseradish, pigs' knuckles, an authoritative Limburger cheese, superb lobster salad, New England boiled dinner, a good rye bread and of course the dark beer. ''You have to drink it through the foam to get the flavor,'' a venerated waiter with 55 years of service, Fritz Heuser, once said. ''Nine out of 10 blow the head off and they blow the best part away. I like it thick enough to chew.''
Jake Wirth's has always been a favorite place of Harvard students and Boston politicians. Once there was a sign on the wall, controversial even its day, forbidding ladies to smoke. Wirth's weathered anti-German sentiment, and the 14-year drought of Prohibition. What's even more remarkable is that during the 117 years it has been in business, it has been the property of two Jacob Wirths, father and son. Jacob Wirth came from a family of wine growers in Rhenish Prussia. He became an astute wine importer in this country, and then opened his restaurant. (It was Wirth, incidentally, who persuaded his recently arrived companion, Luchow, to go into the same business in New York.) The rugged mustachioed portrait over the bar is Wirth's own. Irish customers tend to identify it as a likeness of the fighter John L. Sullivan, the Boston Strongboy - in fact, the two were friends.
Over by the waterfront, in the smart Quincy Market area, can be found the original Durgin-Park, at 340 Faneuil Hall. It has been a landmark in Boston for 156 years, and was initially a place open to crews of ships anchored in the harbor, where farmers also lunched after the morning trade. The sign still reads ''Market Dining Rooms,'' and the 250-seat dining hall - a spare ship gubbins of a room with worn plank floors, embossed tin ceilings, bare bulbs, and walls painted an unappealing kind of catlap - serves up to a thousand people between 11:30 A.M. and 9 P.M. The long tables seat 15, the tablecloths checkered red-and-white. You are seated next to perfect strangers. The waitresses, who seem to resent your presence, are rude and famous for it.
Durgin-Park is named after John Durgin and Eldridge Park, two enterprising Yankees who opened the restaurant in 1827. A third partner named John Chandler, a dry goods merchant, spent the 63 years after their death expanding the place with upper floors and added rooms. He kept the name of the other two as a sort of sustaining epitaph. The best advertisement, these men believed, was plenty of food on the table. They had only three changes of chefs in 135 years. The ancient three-story building makes no attempt to disguise itself with elegance or pretension. The pipes are exposed. There is 100-year-old plumbing in the men's room, which is the only entrance to the executive offices! The old gas fixtures, long since inoperative, have never been taken down. Their motto is ''Your Grandfather and perhaps Your Great Grandfather dined with us, too!''
The food, basic old-fashioned Yankee cooking, is cheap and plentiful. The portions are huge - pot roast, prime rib, roast duck filled with celery-scented bread stuffing, New England fish chowder buttery and rich, and an oyster stew made with equal parts milk and heavy cream, in which float no fewer than 12 ocean-fresh poached oysters. It's still the cheapest place in Boston to eat oysters and cherrystone clams. The house specialty, roast beef rare, is served in big thick slabs. The Indian pudding is steamed for six hours and costs $1.25. The strawberry shortcake is famous. Their apple pie is homemade. (The baked beans, corn bread and desserts are baked on the premises.) Filtered water is used for coffee and tea. They use only fresh lobster meat at all times. All the chops and steaks are charcoal-broiled in an open fireplace near the dining room with lump charcoal. They won't use briquettes. You are invited to visit the kitchen.
It's like eating in a bowling alley, for the din. Expect to wait for a table, which you always have to share. There are no reservations. No one has ever reserved a table at Durgin-Park. Requests have been received by mail from as far away as New Zealand, telephone calls from Hollywood. The answer according to legend is always ''No,'' except when the request comes from the snooty Back Bay, and then it is ''Impossible.'' No credit cards or personal checks are taken, They give away sample menus (''supper bills''), and sell Boston bean pots and also little boxes of spruce gum, hardened resin drips from the evergreens to chew, which fascinated me as a little boy. ''It has a terrible taste,'' according to the owner, James Hallett. ''It pulls the fillings right out of your teeth. It even held broken chairs together. The old-timers loved it.''
That phrase, no doubt, applies to each of these old Boston restaurants as well, and is unquestionably the reason they've lasted so long: landmarks showing the heritage age imparts, a tradition to be continued by people from Boston and elsewhere, both now and in years to come.
SAMPLING THE CLASSICS Prices listed are for meals for two, with wine, tax and service included.
Union Oyster House, 41 Union Street, Boston, Mass. 02108 (617-227-2750). Since 1826. Clams, oysters, scallops, smelts and scrod. Open Sunday to Thursday until 9:30 P.M., Friday and Saturday until 10. No reservations. $45 $55 with lobster.
Parker's at the Parker House Hotel, 60 School Street, Boston, Mass. 02108 (617-227-8600, extension 2100). Since 1855. Pheasant, venison, scrod, scallops, and, of course, Parker House rolls. Tripe sometimes available on request. Sunday brunch, $19.50. Reservations required. All major credit cards accepted. $110.
Jacob Wirth Company, 31 Stuart Street, Boston, Mass. 02116 (617-338-8586). A German restaurant, dating to 1868. Sauerbraten with red cabbage, pigs' knuckles, lobster salad, New England boiled dinner, rye bread and dark beer. Sunday through Wednesday dinner buffet, $8.95. Sunday brunch $7.95. Reservations and all major credit cards accepted. $32.
Durgin-Park, 340 Faneuil Hall, Boston, Mass, 02109 (617-227-2038). The noisy 1827 original, serving roast beef rare, roast duck, oyster stew, lobster, New England fish chowder, corn bread - all at family style tables. No reservations or credit cards accepted. Lunch $12, dinner $25 add $10 for lobster or steak.
Durgin-Park in Copley Place, 100 Huntington Avenue, Boston, Mass. 02116 (617-266-1964). Durgin-Park ''uptown'' offering essentially the same menu as the original. Reservations can be made during the week. American Express, Diner's Club and Carte Blanche accepted. $30.
North End Italian
All - hubby and I are planning a weekend trip to Boston in September. I am always looking for good Italian options since those in our area are generally lacking. Most times, we gravitate towards fresh made pasta options like Delfina or Flour & Water in San Francisco over the heavy red sauce stuff covered in cheese. However, I also think that we also haven't had quality old school Italian so we fail to appreciate the style if done well.
Based on responses of Boston's North End, I gather this area is kind of a "tourist trap" with small restaurants that are basically the same across the board with hit or miss service and food. Standard canned red sauce Italian with boxed noodles. Is this a correct assessment? The area looks fun (as a tourist) and enjoyable to visit. I would like to give it a try. Will we regret eating here? I.e. Is the food nothing better than Olive Garden or Spaghetti Warehouse sold to dumb tourists who don't know any better at high prices? Or, is the food actually good and worth a trip (in spite of its touristy popularity)?
Example - the Hill in St Louis is good and very popular to out of town guests. But Pastaria in Clayton is infinitely much better. However, tourists don't go there because it isn't on the Hill and the out of town assumption is that only the Hill has the best Italian food.
I hope this all makes sense. If North End has good food there, we will pick one of the many options on the CH boards. If it is not there, give me recs on where to dine elsewhere.
The 42 best restaurants in Boston you need to try right now
May 2021: Boston is almost back, baby. With restrictions lifting and the weather quickly ascending into summertime temperatures, people are more than ready to dine out again. Restaurants throughout the city are eager to welcome patrons back inside their establishments &mdash although a share of eateries are understandably still placing an emphasis on outdoor dining. So now is the time to work on that base tan as you eat, whether it&rsquos on a patio or rooftop, or in some of the ample sidewalk seating that remains throughout town. We recommend guzzling a margarita in Barra&rsquos backyard, munching on meze under Moona&rsquos tented oasis and keeping cool with ceviche from Celeste. In any case, fall in love &mdash or rediscover &mdash the best restaurants in Boston this month.
When you think of the best things to do in Boston, eating like royalty might not be the first activity that comes to mind. But some of the city&rsquos most outstanding restaurants are changing the common misconception that Boston isn&rsquot a destination for gourmands. From the North End to the Back Bay and beyond, our culinary talent is fostering a dining scene to rival those of DC or Philly. The city may be small, but its many neighborhoods offer a mighty selection of dining options, including ones that don't necessarily break the bank.
Time Out&rsquos local experts scour the city for the best eats and insider info. We appreciate fun, flavor, freshness and value at every price point. We update the EAT List regularly, including whenever there&rsquos a truly spectacular new opening. It could be a mega-hyped destination restaurant or a humble neighborhood newcomer: If it&rsquos on this list, we think it&rsquos awesome and reckon you will too. (We take curation seriously&mdashlook at how Time Out Market Boston came out.) Eaten somewhere on this list and loved it? Share it with the hashtag #TimeOutEatList
We should also note that a number of the best chefs, restaurants and concepts in the city have been welcomed to participate in Time Out Market Boston. Because that is the highest honor we can award, and we now have a tighter relationship with them, establishments related to market vendors have all been included in the EAT List but not ranked alongside other great establishments in the city. You can find those amazing places below.
Here are the best restaurants in Boston&mdashfind out more about how we make the list, and start making your reservations.
The perfect stage for Davio’s signature Northern Italian steaks, veal chops and handmade pasta.
Boston, MA is where Davio’s was born. And, in essence, re-born. Once on Newbury Street, in Brookline, and in Cambridge, Davio’s now resides in Park Square (in Boston’s Back Bay) and serves as an elegant oasis from the hustle and bustle just outside our doors. Stop in and have a drink after work in our welcoming lounge. The white table cloths of our spacious, relaxed dining room serve as the perfect stage for Davio’s signature Northern Italian steaks, veal chops, and handmade pasta creations. Additional theatrical flair is provided by our lively, open kitchen layout. Attention to detail and attentiveness to your needs is evident in everything we do.
A little something to whet the appetite, antipasti translates to "before the meal." Begin your feast with these small bites, from simple flatbreads to Italian salads and crispy bruschetta.
The stars of the show, secondi—or second courses—are simply-prepared dishes of fish, chicken and meat. Serve them as part of a big meal or on their own.
Pasta Perfect 44 Photos
Serve it as a first course—or primo—like the Italians do, or as a satisfying main. Either way, our collection of pastas is perfect for dinner tonight.
Sweets Endings 20 Photos
The meal isn’t over in Italy until something sweet, or dolce, hits the tongue. Go simple with fresh fruit and biscotti, or step it up with a rich Italian indulgence.
Weeknight Pasta Ideas 9 Photos
When that pasta craving hits, turn to these easy recipes after work.
Laura Vitale's Web-Only Recipes
Watch Laura Vitale's web-only bonus recipe videos from Cooking Channel's Simply Laura.
Whisk grated garlic, salt, and 1 Tbsp. oil in a medium bowl. Add shrimp, toss to coat, and chill, uncovered, at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour.
Heat remaining 2 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium and cook shrimp mixture, being careful not to let shrimp or garlic brown, until shrimp is pink but still slightly underdone, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon, leaving as much oil in pan as possible. Add sliced garlic and red pepper to skillet and cook, tossing, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add wine and lemon juice and cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Add butter and cook, stirring and swirling pan occasionally, until butter is melted and sauce is thickened, about 5 minutes more.
Scrape shrimp along with any accumulated juices into skillet. Toss to coat and cook until shrimp are fully cooked through, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a platter, top with parsley, and serve with bread for dipping alongside.
The Best Restaurants for Thanksgiving in Boston When There's a Change of Plans
As the holiday season approaches, it seems as though our work, social, health, and family lives decide to scatter in opposite directions. Maybe you’re in charge of the enormous family Thanksgiving this year, or maybe it will just be Thanksgiving for two? In any case, taking a break from the massive responsibility of organizing, cooking, and cleaning up after a Thanksgiving dinner could be a valuable solution for how hectic things can get in life. In this article, we are going to cover some of the best restaurants in Boston that can help with all of the troubles that come along with creating the perfect Thanksgiving day (including the leftovers!).
If you’re in the South Boston area, drop by the Capo Restaurant on Broadway Street. Known for its hand-made and gourmet Italian food, swap that out for a special Thanksgiving prix-fixe menu that is available as late as 10 pm. If you have dinner taken care of but need a delicious dessert to top everything off, Capo has you covered with traditionally crafted pies (that come with a pint of gelato!) and artisan custom cakes that will have your guests craving more.
What’s all the buzz you’re hearing over at the Beehive? It’s probably the sound of jazz! Travel and Leisure describes this venue as a “Bohemian-chic cabaret that is known for hosting amazing live music every night of the week.” Enjoy some soothing tunes as you gorge on a delicious Thanksgiving meal, with non-traditional options including a rack of lamb and roast salmon. If you enjoy your get-togethers in “an eclectic, funky, yet elegant art space,” this is the perfect venue to have your Thanksgiving celebration!
Hop on the Green Line to Kenmore Square where you can find the Eastern Standard! The restaurant has been in business for almost 15 years now, and you know you’re in for a treat any time you visit. Whether it’s a pit stop for a drink before a Red Sox game in the summer, an early breakfast, a boozy brunch, a romantic dinner, or mixing up plans and having The Eastern Standard host Thanksgiving this year, you’re guaranteed a warm welcome followed by an intricate drink or a delicious meal whenever you decide to stop by. If you’ve passed the Citgo sign, you’ve gone too far!
If you’re looking for an Italian twist for your Thanksgiving this year, stop by Scampo (which translated from Italian means “escape”). Voted the best Italian restaurant in Boston, you will have an evening with Executive Chef Lydia Shire, who’s been cooking professionally for 50 years. Featuring a 3-course prix-fixe menu with a Mediterranean twist on a classic holiday dinner, you’re guaranteed to have a memorable evening. Treat yourself and escape to Scampo.
10. Antonino Cannavacciuolo – Famous Italian Chefs
In 2003, around the time Antonino got his first Michelin star, he was welcome to have a cooking appear on Italian TV, lifting his status to a broadly perceived chef. He is at last position among Top 10 chefs in Italy. His regular disposition before the camera prompted more TV work, and in 2013 he turned into the primary host of the Italian rendition of Kitchen Nightmares. Antonino acknowledged the part as he had encountered all the good and bad times of running an eatery himself, and needed to help other people in any capacity he could. His recommendation was sound, and each and every one of the organizations he helped turned their fortunes around and turned into a win.