There is no shortage of Italian food in Boston—you can easily find variations inspired by different regions of the old country, as well as the variety of red sauce made famous by many Italian-American grandmothers and grandchildren. And the North End isn’t a game patent either – there are great options in the city and surrounding burbs.
Here are 16 local restaurants that have some of the best Italian and Italian-American food the Boston area has to offer, from Sicilian seafood to big pasta plates.
Health experts consider eating out a dangerous activity for the unvaccinated; this may pose a risk to vaccinees, especially in areas with high transmission of COVID. Please note that until January 15, 2022, restaurants in the City of Boston will be required to check proof of vaccinations for customers dining inside; Brookline and Salem have similar mandates, with Brookline also offering outdoor dining. Outside these communities, areas with their own proof of vaccination requirements are marked on this map.
For more than two decades, Bistro 5 has served some of the best Italian food in Medford (and beyond). Check out the chef’s tasting menu to get an insight into chef and owner Vittorio Ettore’s food, featuring many local and seasonal ingredients, including herbs grown on site.
A great desire
The Gran Gusto menu is all about the Italian menu, and in this case it’s a good thing. Start with a Caprese salad and move on to a pasta dish like paccheri with short rib ragout; de chitarra alla “sciuè sciuè”, served from a wheel of cheese; or the traditional Emilian-style lasagna. But don’t forget the pizza; it’s one of the best in town.
Giulia offers some of the best fresh pasta in town. Have the pappardelle with wild boar if it’s available, but diners can’t go wrong with one of the options, from duck tortellini to potato culurgiones. Expect the team to open a new location, Möeca, around the corner later in 2022, with a focus on seafood dishes inspired by Italy and beyond.
Rino’s Place in East Boston has the Guy Fieri “Triple D” seal, not to mention the love of crowds of locals and tourists alike. The ravioli are made to order and the veal osso bucco isn’t half bad either. Come hungry; Portions tend to be large.
Cambridge newcomer Geppetto from the Puritan & Co. team draws inspiration from northern Italy and beyond, with an emphasis on New England ingredients, so keep an eye out for dishes like pumpkin agnolotti with wild mushrooms and pork chop Milanese. Whatever you do, save plenty of room for dessert; Pastry chef Brian Mercury is one of the best around. Proof of vaccination is required. Pammy said
Pammy’s isn’t exactly Italian—the restaurant describes itself as “a New American restaurant inspired by the feel of an Italian neighborhood trattoria”—but it draws enough (and very well) from Italian cuisine that it deserves to be included here. Negronis are served on tap and pastas are made from scratch with flour milled in-house. Don’t miss the lumache served in bolognese sauce topped with spicy Korean gochujang. Proof of vaccination is required.
Carmelina’s, open for ten years in Boston’s North End, has a menu inspired by Sicilian dishes, including some seafood. There are also non-seafood dishes to explore: Try the Sunday Macaroni – meatballs, sausage and beef ribs stuffed with macaroni, topped with tomato sauce and topped with ricotta. This is a lot of good stuff.
Barbara Lynch’s Italian joint Sportello is one of Fort Point’s gems. It’s wise to make a reservation (the staff reserve a few seats for visitors, but relying on that is like rolling the dice depending on the night), although takeaway is also available. And hey, eating roast rabbit or oxtail on an outdoor bench overlooking the ocean isn’t so bad. The spicy tomato soup is a must.
It’s all about the lobster paccheri, folks. (But with any other pasta dish. And any crudo. Just order the entire menu at Bar Mezzana, which offers seaside Italian cuisine.)
Orfano comes from chef and restaurateur Tiffani Faison, who is also behind Sweet Cheeks and Fool’s Errand nearby. This Fenway restaurant offers a modern take on classic Italian-American cuisine (get the meatballs) in a well-designed space – with some funky flair. (Tip: When asked if you want chili, say yes.)
This South End enoteca from Toro duo Jamie Bissonnette and Ken Oringer has been open for more than a decade. The team does a great job with cheese and cured meats; definitely get the beef heart pastrami if it’s available. But don’t forget the pasta: Cavatelli is a must.
Fox and the knife
Fox & the Knife is the brainchild of chef and owner Karen Akunowicz (of Top Chef and Myers + Chang fame). The menu is inspired by his time in Modena, Italy, and features dishes like wild peasant Bolognese and Milanese di maiale. The spritz menu is extensive (and surprisingly affordable for Boston), and their focaccia is irresistibly loaded with cheese. Looking for another Southern Italian menu? Visit Fox & the Knife’s new brother on the road, Bar Volpe.
SRV (which stands for Serene Republic of Venice) is a bar and wine bar serving Venetian-inspired cuisine in the South End. Go with friends and have at least one of each cicchetti (Venetian plates), but also try some of the creative pasta dishes, such as paccheri with miso, eel and spring onion or gnocchi with sausage, cabbage and burnt cream.
Mida has pasta dishes, some of the best arancini in town and more. Carb lovers with big appetites will love the pasta feast Monday nights—$70 includes pasta galore for two, as well as salad and bread. A Newton location is also available.
Based in Italy’s Piedmont region, this Brookline mainstay tends to lean toward northern Italy, according to owners Josh and Jen Ziskin. To sample the most of the menu, try the three-course prix fixe menu with optional wine pairings.