326 Hanover Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02113
Meal: Dinner for Two with one alcoholic beverage and one non-alcoholic $55 with gratutity.
Credit Cards: Accepted
Boston is the crown jewel of New England, and has been referred to in the past as “The Hub of the Universe”. You don’t have to leave the planet to get there however. I’d suggest that you treat yourself to Amtrak’s Acela Express and sit on the right side northbound or left side southbound to enjoy all the scenic water views that you will see. It is among the most visually rewarding train trips on the east coast. The rail journey itself is to be savored as you would a very good meal. Both the northbound and southbound trips were made in brilliant sunshine and my book was put down more often than not to just gaze out of the generous sized windows. In just about 5 hours from Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station you will have arrived at either Boston Back Bay Station or South Station.
Once settled in your hotel, or perhaps a bed & breakfast, you will find an eminently civilized and walk able city, hard on the banks of the Charles River. When meal time calls the choices are exceptionally varied and cover the “waterfront” so to say. Being the creature of habit that your reviewer is, the North End of Boston is among my first venues for a good Italian dinner. The North End is a composite of historic sites such as the Old North Church and the Paul Revere House but is a real lived in neighborhood as well where generations of immigrants first came to call home. In the colonial days it was “the moneyed” part of town but later denizens include a community of emancipated black people. The 19th century saw the arrival of the Irish followed in the 20th by the Italians. Narrow streets, brick tenement facades and neat residences all blend nicely to complement a truly broad choice of eateries, the most prominent catering to Italian and Mediterranean palates.
My most recent business trip provided me with yet another opportunity to enjoy the many restaurants on Hanover Street, one of the prime thoroughfares of the North End. This time it was a first visit to Cibo-a small Italian restaurant with a large picture window; it is just down the street from St. Leonard’s the first Italian American Catholic church in the neighborhood. You will find that a good number of the restaurants here are smallish, although Cibo seemed larger than another of my favorites Giacommo’s. Come early when you plan to dine in the North End as there is serious competition for tables from locals as well as visitors. Lines outside restaurants are common, and indicative of the loyal following. My companion and I were able to be seated pretty quickly in the middle of the establishment. Menus arrived without any delay although I had a pretty good idea of what I was in the mood for. The menu was pretty encompassing of traditional Italian favorites including pasta, steaks and seafood. You will encounter appetizers such as Calamari, entrees like Lobster Ravioli, Shrimp variations and Scallops. Comfort food was foremost so I opted for the Spaghetti with Meat Balls; my companion selected the Seafood Risotto. Although delicious Italian bread is offered gratis with the meal we supplemented our carb loads with garlic bread as well. The décor inside is somewhat Tuscan, with visual sight of the kitchen (not unusual) and ceramics and dishes as accent. It is a “happy place” and the staff is part of the favorable ambiance. Our waiter was cordial and informative, and took the full house in stride.
After repeat encounters with the Garlic Bread, among the best I’ve had, the entrees arrived. The pasta and red sauce (okay gravy) was very satisfying. I found the meatballs, while soft, to be lacking in flavor. Subtly I asked the water how they were made but it was a “need to know” basis obviously. I ate one, but not the other two. On the other side of the table my companion found the Seafood Risotto to be on par with that served while on a cruise in the Italian liner MSC Opera. As we progressed through our meal it was noted that the line outside the door got larger. Luckily it wasn’t a terribly cold night, although cool enough. For our first time dining opportunity at Cibo we gave a rating of 2 chews. On the way back to the hotel, we stopped for some Italian cookies and pastries at Modern Pastry, also on Hanover Street. If in Boston you can’t miss the opportunity of dining in the North End. Enjoy!
Pop Pop’s Score: 2.0 Chews
Subjective rating: Not quite up to task.
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