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