Summer is on its way out and that can only mean one thing in Boston: St. Anthony’s Feast. Anything with the word feast in it, call me and I’m there.
Dating back to 1919 it has become “The Feast of All Feasts.” Originally started by Italian immigrants from Montefalcione in the province of Avellino to honor Saint Anthony and Saint Lucy. Held annually on the last weekend of August, this Italian street festival is full of really good food, parades, music, strolling singers, games and let me not forget people. The streets are decorated with hanging lights and lined with vendors as far as the eye can see.
There is a ten hour procession of the Statue of Saint Anthony through the streets of the North End and you will see many people pinning money on the statue as it is said to bring good luck.
The North End in Boston is always busy but it gets even busier during feast season. I learned a thing or two as a first time feast goer.
First things first, make a reservation. I think this is standard if you’re choosing to eat in the North End any night of the summer. But feast weekend- it is a must. With a reservation at Bricco on Hanover Street I was ready to indulge. Typically, Gennaro’s is my go-to spot but feeling adventurous, it was time to try something new.
Bricco did not disappoint. The place was booked until 10:45 if that says anything. Meals range from $22 to $59- but trust me it is worth the splurge. Having devoured four loaves of bread, we opted for light appetizers; the Insalata Mista is my recommendation. For my entrée I ordered the Tortelli Pumpkin, “amaretti & honey, sage butter, root vegetables, ricotta salata.” This is the pasta dish of all pasta dishes. I’ve never had anything like it and if it was acceptable to lick the bowl, I would have. Cooked al denté without an overbearing pumpkin flavor; I could taste the sage butter until the very last bite. Some other delicious dishes include Gnocchetti Sorrentina, Big Night Timpano, and Chilean Sea Bass in Agrodolce. For wine get Bottega Vinaia, an Italian Pinot Noir.
Full and happy it was time to feast (part 2). Chocolate covered bananas, truffles, cannolis, and cheesecake were just a handful of sweets. Indulgences are an Italian specialty and the North End is home to endless pastry shops, Mikes Pastry, Bova’s and Modern Pastry- just to name a few. Mike’s Pastry is the well-known (tourist trap) shop in the North End with an endless line that wraps around the street corner; but Modern, in my book, is the best. Modern Pastry is home to the best homemade Florentines, a nutty-chocolaty crunchy cookie that makes your mouth water at just the sight of them. Get them while they’re hot (literally) because they often sell out. For the best cannolis head to Modern or Bova’s- they use ricotta instead of mascarpone filling.
If you have time, walk around and explore the streets of the North End, and if it’s feast season obviously attend, added bonus: you’ll walk off some of those sweets you just devoured. Hanover, Salem, Prince, and North Sq. are some of the highlights. Dress comfortably and cool in the summer months especially if you are planning on walking around- a lot of cobblestone and a lot of people.
Move over Little Italy, the North End has arrived.
Genarro’s 5 North Square
The Thinking Cup