My daughter came in from California to visit a couple of weeks ago, and we had a marvelous time Saturday on a three hour walking tour of the North End conducted by Michelle Toper. Althogh not Italian, she's lived there 30 years and conducts cooking lessons as well as cook's tours on Wednesdays and Saturdays, $35. She's charming, and most importantly, knowledgeable. She supplies a map and lists of her favorite places, suggests recipies, and has tasting samples at virtually all the stops. With everything from Easter ricotta pies to chilled fennel slices and fava beans at a "no-name" produce shop to a behind-the-scenes view of 120 year old bread ovens, ending up with a taste of lemon grapa, it was a crash course on history, evolution of Italian restaurants, and ingredients. I particularly appreciated the fact that she asked us NOT to make purchases while on the tour, but to return later. Her number is 617 523 6032 and groups are limited to 12.
If anyone is interested, my daughter and I ate at Legal Seafood in Providence Friday night, Artu's in the North End on Saturday lunch, crashed Blue Ginger in Wellsley Saturday night, brunch at Turner Fisheries on Sunday, and TerraMia in the North End for Sunday dinner. Opinions available on request (they were all excellent).