A Killer Culinary Tour of Boston’s North End (aka Little Italy) – Part 1.

By Posted in - North America & Photo Journal on June 13th, 2011


Editors Note: Randy and I loved this tour SO much that we each had to write our own review. Today is Randy’s review along with my photos of the tour. Tomorrow I will publish my review and all the little nifty things I learned on the tour. It was fantastic!

It’s fitting that the North End Market Tour takes place in the same neighborhood where Paul Revere grew up in Boston, because like Revere, the tour is part of an American Revolution, a food revolution that is.

After years of eating with blinders on, many Americans (myself included) are finally realizing food matters, spurring movements across the United States to eat organic, buy local and, maybe most importantly of all, to chose quality over quantity.

For many longtime residents of Boston’s North End, though, this culinary awakening is nothing new. Among the red brick tenement houses and dozens of Italian restaurants are a smattering of family-owned markets that supply the community with tasty products and high quality ingredients, many imported directly from Italy.

The North End Market Tour showcases six of the neighborhood’s storied markets and the symbiotic relationship they share with the residents and restaurants of the North End, which is often referred to as Boston’s Little Italy.  At each stop, samples are tried, Italian culture and cuisine are explained, and some of America’s biggest food secrets are exposed. For instance, American Nuttela contains transfat and 21 grams of sugar–three times the amount of sugar in its European counterpart. (Sold in plastic containers, American Nuttela is priced cheaper than European Nuttela, which is stored in a glass container.)

For more than two hours, our guide, Jim Becker, took us through the North End, explaining the neighborhood’s history and enlightening us with culinary insights, such as eggplants have a gender and for cooking purposes, males are preferred because they contain less seeds making them less bitter; male eggplants usually have an innie bellybutton and the females an outie. Indeed rolling with Becker, an award-winning chef, was like being on an episode of No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain. Becker brought us into a world more akin to a small Italian town than an American metropolis, and along the way, he showed us where to find the finest Italian meats, produce, pastries, raw ingredients, and imported wine and liquor.

The Merchants of the North End

To save money while traveling through Europe, Beth and I spent a lot of time in small markets, though, because of our lack of language skills, it was rare that we could get recommendations from merchants for deli products. For me, stepping up to the deli counter in Italy and France was like going before the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld. Before shuffling up to the counters, I would practice my line a few times, and then I would nervously step up to the clerks and lay out my order, quickly and succinctly.

As we visited the markets on the tour, there were a few times that I had to remind myself that if I had any questions or needed a recommendation, I could just ask these merchants; we were in America, of course, and all the shop owners we met had a passion for their products. Whether you are a tourist or Boston local, I highly recommend taking this tour. Sure, you could spend your money on a dinner at one of the North End’s excellent restaurants, but that would only get you one meal; taking the tour, though, would open the door to countless culinary possibilities. As Lao Tzu said, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

During our tour, we sampled culinary delights from:

Maria’s Pastry Shop
46 Cross Street

Polcari’s Coffee (A huge selection of dried herbs and spices too)
105 Salem Street

Alba Produce
18 Paramenter Street

Monica’s Mercato
130 Salem Street

The Cheese Shop
20 Fleet Street

V. Cirace & Sons, Inc. (Wine Shop)
173 North Street

Here are the photos of the tour & a brief explanation of each shot.

1. Sampling Italian Cookies at Maria’s Pastry Shop. 2. Italian Easter Marzipan Lamb from Maria’s. 3. Polcari’s Market in Little Italy with the tour group out front. 4. Fresh almonds at Polcari’s. 5.) Fresh hazelnuts at Polcari’s. 6.) Alba in front of his fantastic market. The market does not have a sign on it so look for Alba when you visit. 7.) Randy and the tour group sampling Alba’s fennel. 8.)  Male/Female Eggplants from Alba’s grocery.9 & 10.) HDR’s of Little Italy 11.) Monica’s meat selection. 12.) Proscuitto & Cheese – Randy’s version of heaven. 13.) Monica’s storefront  14.) Sampling olive oil at The Cheese Shop. 15.) $100 Balsamic Vinegar bottles – the real deal!  16.) HDR of Little Italy





For more information about the North End Market Tour, you can visit: http://bostonfoodtours.com or call 617-523-6032 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 617-523-6032 end_of_the_skype_highlighting



Full Disclosure: Our tour fee was covered by Boston Food Tours; though, our opinions, as always, are our own.

*Please remember all photos on this website, unless otherwise noted, are copyrighted and property of BeersandBeans.com, NarikosNest.com & Bethany Salvon. Please do not use them without my permission. If you want to use one of them please contact me first because I do love to share and I would be flattered. Thanks!

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(29) awesome folk have had something to say...

  • Samantha -

    June 13, 2011 at 3:58 am

    I love this! I have been to the North End at least a dozen times and never even heard of this tour. Next time I am back there, I will have to check it out. Sounds like so much fun!

    • Bethany -

      June 13, 2011 at 9:15 am

      Yeah definitely go. It is so worth it. Tomorrow I’m posting all the really unique food tips I got on the tour. it was awesome!

  • Bluegreen Kirk -

    June 13, 2011 at 4:26 am

    Great post as usually never knew that their was an actual tour in Boston on the food and culinary there. Looks very interesting but I would definitely have to simple a lot of the food. North End sounds a like a great place to visit.

    • Bethany -

      June 13, 2011 at 9:16 am

      Little Italy is a really awesome section of Boston. The only issue is that it is really easy to get bad Italian there because there are so many touristy spots. I wish I had taken this tour when I lived there – I would’ve eaten a lot better! @Bluegreen Kirk,

  • Andi of My Beautiful Adventures -

    June 13, 2011 at 10:47 am

    These pictures are fantastic and totally sold me on doing the tour!

  • Les -

    June 13, 2011 at 11:42 am

    Fabulous photos! i was there a few years ago… makes me want to go back!

    • Bethany -

      June 14, 2011 at 10:28 am

      Thanks Les! @Les,

  • Christy @ Ordinary Traveler -

    June 13, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    That Proscuitto & Cheese looks delicious! I think those are my two favorite things in the world. Great shots of the market tour. This sounds like something I would definitely be into doing when I make it back to Boston.

  • Manyu @ shutterfeet -

    June 13, 2011 at 5:35 pm

    Wow! I love this area. Always go there but your photos are freaking amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Bethany -

      June 14, 2011 at 10:31 am

      Thanks Manyu 🙂 You should go on the tour if you can – one of the best things was that they gave us a list of the best restaurants, coffee shops, bakeries, wine places, etc. It wasn’t the places we visited either. I always had a hard time finding a good meal in Little Italy when I lived in Boston. The list is worth it’s weight in gold for any Bostonian. 🙂 @Manyu @ shutterfeet,

      • Manyu -

        June 16, 2011 at 7:45 am

        @Bethany, Will definitely check it out!

  • […] 2 of a review of a fantastic culinary tour of Boston’s Little Italy. Check out Randy’s North End Italian Culinary Review if you want to read the first […]

  • Andrea -

    June 14, 2011 at 8:11 am

    Being half Italian, I LOVE the food. But sometimes better for me than going to restaurants is to visit the delis, bakeries and markets where the ingredients come from and just have little tastes of everything like you’ve done here. Had no idea Boston had such an exciting Italian community and food scene!

    • Bethany -

      June 14, 2011 at 10:35 am

      Yeah, it is a cute area for sure. Very Italian too, little old people sitting on the sidewalk, people playing chess, etc. I’m sure you’ll find it comforting if you go. 🙂 @Andrea,

  • Kelsey -

    June 16, 2011 at 8:45 am

    Yay! Polcari’s! Glad to see someone featuring them. A shot I took of the two brothers who run the place was in my thesis.

    Also, my best friend lives on the second floor of the building in the middle of your last shot, with those beautiful green copper corner-rounds.

    • Bethany -

      June 16, 2011 at 6:32 pm

      Oh yah! That is so cool! What was your thesis on? Wow – I can’t believe your friend lives right there – talk about lucky! @Kelsey,

  • Kelsey -

    June 16, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    It was what I jokingly call “a coffee table book for educated people”. It’s a photo essay, in book form, about how Boston self-segregates itself into both macro and micro communities based on socio-economic status, ethnicity, race, etc. Spent 5 months shooting and took 11,000 photos, which were then culled down to 45 that eventually went into the book. The photos were accompanied by 65 pages of supporting text that gave context to the photos by explaining the history of the neighborhoods in regards to the issues I explored, as well as the current status and any relevant issues (which is what my other 5 months was spent doing). It was written in an editorial style, and the book was broken into chapters by neighborhood. I shot about 10 neighborhoods, but only featured 5 in the book, having chosen the ones that supported my argument the strongest.

    And yes, my friend is lucky. He used to live a block from Fenway Park in a massive, modern apartment that I shared with him and his girlfriend for a year. Before that, I actually lived in a brownstone in the South End, with my (now ex-) boyfriend’s family. They owned all 5 floors. It was awesome.

    • Bethany -

      June 21, 2011 at 3:21 pm

      That sounds like a really cool book Kelsey and an awesome photo essay. @Kelsey,

  • ayngelina -

    June 17, 2011 at 7:37 am

    This sounds right up my alley, I love food tours.

    • Bethany -

      June 21, 2011 at 3:22 pm

      You would love this one Ayngelina 😉 @ayngelina,

  • Raymond -

    June 19, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    I’m not much of a foodie, but that does sound like an awesome tour. Maybe that’s waht I need — folks to explain it to me! 🙂

  • Mumbai hotels -

    June 20, 2011 at 11:21 pm

    You really gave a good peek into the culinary delights of Boston. If I have the good fortune to visit Boston, I would really go to the so called ‘little Italy’ and hog on all the delicacies mouth smattering delicacies! You really kindled a hornet’s nest by exposing America’s biggest food secrets.

    • Bethany -

      June 21, 2011 at 3:23 pm

      Hahaha… Thanks! i think people should be informed about the food they eat and most people in the US aren’t. I am only recently learning things myself. 🙂@Mumbai hotels,

  • […] Killer Culinary Tour of Boston’s North End […]

  • Nancie -

    August 30, 2011 at 3:39 am

    What a great review. It must be my night for foodie posts (not planned), and now I’m starved! Being from Halifax, Boston is not that far It’s been on my list for years, and it is still there,,,haha. As always, fab photos!

    • Bethany -

      August 30, 2011 at 1:20 pm

      haha – don’t you hate when that happens! I can’t even look at photos of food at night! 🙂 @Nancie,

  • Alex -

    October 6, 2011 at 10:05 am

    What a perfect place to do a tour, for bloggers who call themselves Beers and BEANS!! (Really, no jokes about Beantown in this post? :P)

    As for Nutella, true that it’s sold in glass for the larger containers in Europe, but it’s sold in plastic too. In any case, the sugar factor, sadly, doesn’t even surprise me now that I know just how sugar-crazy we are in America!