Newbury Street is the most toxic tourist-trap in all of Boston. But you already knew that. One glimpse at the camera-clad college kids should quickly convince you that very few, if any, restaurants on this street possess any potential. Besides, if you can even push past the crowds to get to one of these restaurants, you’re already having a better day than me.
What few people know is that the second most toxic tourist trap hails from the overrated yet iconic street of Hanover. With the exception of Giacomo’s and Taranta, every meal I’ve had on that street has been absolutely unmemorable and indiscriminately expensive. And not to mention dull. So dull that I dare to declare the restaurants interchangeable. Open the windows and Bricco becomes Café Fiorentina. Halving the space and doubling the salt will put you right in Panza. Add one more sauce to Fiorentina’s one-sauce repertoire and there you have it, Tresca.
You don’t have to be a magician to cook a good meal, but it’ll take quite a bit of prestidigitation to cure me of the Hanover ho-hums. The good news is, you can’t go wrong the moment you venture off this well-beaten path. Regina’s Pizzeria is brick-oven royalty, Al Dente greets you with open arms, and accommodating Assaggio will always put you on the A-list. I only went one street over to Terramia, and the Antipasto Misto told me I’d never need Hanover again. This generous app was enough for two, with soft, sweet prosciutto, chewy-chunky pancetta (I think!), and a sampling of sausage. The pickled sweet onion and a peck of pickled peppers (Peter Piper picked) could have been their own side dish, and the fresh mozzarella was the best I’ve had in years.
The Ossobuco di Maiale was the perfect alternative for shank-lovers who balk at baby cow. In lieu of traditional veal, this pork falls off the bone when you move the plate, and the sweet potato polenta is pure pleasure.
No North End meal is complete without a plate of pasta, and after so many fabulous encounters with agnolotti, I assumed I couldn’t go wrong bombolotti. Unfortunately, their Bombolotti Amatriciana totally bombed. Rectangular ravioli by any other name tastes just like ravioli, and somehow the feta tasted more like a lot of ricotta, despite the spinach entourage. The sauce was easily forgettable, a pasty tomato concoction with ineffective chili flakes.
Ironically, I enjoyed everything except the pasta, a first in my North End experience. Usually the pasta is absolutely awesome, but even this was decent. As for the cost, it seems you pay a standard fare for North End Italian fare, but at Terramia you get true quality with none of the trimmings of a tourist trap. So stick to the side roads. You’ll at least get what you paid for.