My own private North End -- a report I've spent the last 15 months on a quest to try at least one meal or otherwise appropriate munch (often more than one as time and budget allows) at every restaurant in Boston's North End, then ranking them. Just finished the quest and here's what I came up with. A few disclaimers:
1. for these purposes, the North End's boundaries are as follows: start at the corner of Cross St. and Atlantic Ave., follow Cross St. going NW, bear right onto North Washington St., turn right onto Commercial St., follow this street as it more-or-less merges into Atlantic Ave., stop at the corner of Cross St. and Atlantic Ave. Any eatery described in disclaimer #2 below that is within this circumference or along either side of the boundary streets is included.
2. I've included, as far as I can tell, every place that serves food or bakery items and has at least one spot where you can sit and consume. Thus places like Dairy Fresh Candies, Polcari's Coffee, White Hen Pantry, and Salumeria Italiana don't count, but spots like Tutto Italiano, J. Pace, Prince Postale, and Golden Goose Market do. Only exception: all bakeries count, regardless of whether they offer seating or not.
3. alcohol doesn't count towards or against any rankings shown.
4. the rankings primarily reflect quality of food, but clip joint shenanigans such as unexplained extra charges or wrong charges in favor of the establishment, refusal to offer lunch menus, and funny business re tap vs. bottled water drag down a few rankings.
5. rankings are: excellent (would return readily as a regular), good (well worth going to, maybe not as a regular), fair (would go, but not by any means a first choice), poor (would not go at gunpoint). Within categories, things are more or less in order from top of category to bottom of category.
6. I've hit every place here at least once, often more than once as time and budget allowed. I've ordered food at each place that they should do well (at least one pasta dish at Italian spots, pizza at pizza places, subs at sub shops, for example). At the coffee-and-pastry spots, I got a black-no-sugar decaf espresso (or ordinary black coffee no sugar at the one spot not serving this) and a cannoli if served, a representative bakery item if not. At bakeries, I tried several items, including cookies, cake, cupcakes, and the like.
7. what for example constitutes an Italian vs. non-Italian restaurant may admittedly be subjective, but rankings are absolute across categories. Poor is poor regardless of category.
--Italian restaurants and pizzerias
Excellent: Prezza, Mamma Maria, Pizzeria Regina, Galleria Umberto, Giacomo's, Antico Forno, Maurizio's, Marco, Taranta, Daily Catch, Pagliuca's.
Good: Euno, Carmen, Hot Tomatoes, Saraceno's, Bella Vista, Tutto Italiano, J. Pace, Dino's, Lucca, Vinoteca di Monica, Trattoria di Monica, Davide, Bricco, La Summa, Pomodoro, La Galleria 33, Pushcart Pizza, Ernesto's, Tresca, Eclano, Mare, Il Villaggio, Assaggio, Massimino's, Villa Francesca, Cafe Florentine, 5 North Square, Emedio's, Rabia's, Al Dente.
Fair: Terramia, Bacco, Limoncello, Cantina Italiana, L'Osteria, Lucia, Filippo's, Trattoria Il Panino, Il Panino Express, Fiore, LoConte's, Mother Anna's, Strega, G'Vanni's, Piccolo Nido.
Poor: Artu, Cibo, Nebo, Ida's, La Famiglia Giorgio, Piccola Venezia, Dolce Vita, Riccardo's, Caffe Pompei, La Brace, Joe Tecce's, La Famiglia Spagnuolo.
Excellent: Neptune Oyster, Waterfront Cafe.
Good: Mangia Mangia, North Street Grill, Volla Nolle, Sal's Lunch, Billy Tse, Theo's Cozy Corner, Four Winds Bar and Grill.
Fair: Goody Glover's, Joe's American Bar and Grill, Anthony's Cafe, The Living Room.
Poor: Golden Goose Market, Boston Sail Loft, China House, Corner Cafe.
Excellent: Modern Pastries, Maria's Pastry Shop, Mike's Pastries.
Good: A. Parziale's Bakery, Lulu's, Bova's Bakery.
Fair: A. Boschetto's Bakery.
--Coffee and pastries/gelato
Excellent: Boston Beanstock, Caffe Vittoria, Gelateria.
Good: Caffe Paradiso, Caffe dello Sport, Flamepoeira.
Fair: Starbuck's, Caffe Graffiti, Contrada's, Napoli Pastry.
Poor: Prince Postale.
Hope this is helpful, though I don't expect everyone will agree with these rankings.
[Note: This post was edited slightly at bachslunch's request. -- The Chowhound Team].
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