Even as a child newly arrived in Boston, Frank DePasquale dreamed of bringing the culture of his native Italy to the U.S. He opened an Italian clothing and shoe store on Newbury Street in the early 1980s, but soon refocused his efforts, opening a modest sandwich shop—his first restaurant—in the heart of the city’s Italian neighborhood, the North End, in 1987.
The shop—now Trattoria Il Panino (11 Parmeter St., 617.720.1336)—was an instant success and launched DePasquale’s career as a restaurateur in Boston. Over the next three decades, the 67-year-old has watched the North End evolve, yet the warmth of the residents and business owners has remained a constant, he says. That is one of the North End’s charms. “There’s an owner outside the front door of every restaurant and shop, saying hello and welcoming everyone who passes by,” he says.
About 25 years ago, DePasquale opened Vado Pazzo—since renamed Bricco (241 Hanover St., 617.248.6800)—an upscale Italian restaurant that ignited a dining revolution in the North End. DePasquale’s newest offering, Mare Oyster Bar (3 Mechanic St., 617.723.6273), is tucked away down an alley off Hanover Street, the North End’s main thoroughfare. “In Italy, they make the best of all the space they have,” DePasquale says. “We’re doing the same in the North End. Every bit of space is utilized to create a better, more authentic Italian community.” —Shaun Tolson
“Strega Ristorante brings the Amalfi coast to the North End, and they make amazing veal chops. Sometimes these are stuffed with prosciutto and fontina, sometimes simply grilled, and sometimes Milanese-style, pan-fried with tomato-and-fennel salad.” (379 Hanover St., 617.523.8481)
A CUT ABOVE
“At one time, there were four or five meat shops in the North End. Sulmona Meat Market is the one that survived. It’s run by a family from Abruzzo. It’s a homey place to buy any type of meat you could want. Many neighborhood restaurant owners shop there for meats.” (32A Parmenter St., 617.742.2791)
“Any celebration of the World Cup happens in the North End, no matter if you’re from France, Germany, Italy, or wherever. When Italy wins, the celebration goes on and on, with everyone singing Italian songs. It’s beautiful to watch.”
“Little shops like Salmagundi on Salem Street make the North End the place it is today. Their collection of hats is fantastic—so many sizes and colors that there’s something for everyone.” (61 Salem St., 617.936.4015)
“There are so many bakeries in the North End, but Parziale is number one for bread. They put a lot of passion and love into what they do, and they have one of the finest French breads that I’ve ever tasted.” (80 Prince St., 617.523.6368)