The North End has what seems like an infinity of Italian restaurants. I lived in the neighborhood for a summer, and I’m positive I’m still unaware of all the tiny-tiny ones that are tucked away here and there. That said, I do think I’ve eaten my way through the neighborhood rather well, having lived in the city for quite a few years. So, without hesitation, my favorite Italian restaurant in the North End is Panza; it’s tiny, it’s cute, it’s delicious, and most importantly, it’s reasonably priced.
My friends and I would make the pilgrimage here rather frequently, and we were always greeted warmly and promptly. Tiny is kind of an understatement, but they would pull together tables as soon as possible, so our group was always accommodated with no fuss. One summer when I was living on Beacon Hill I wound up eating here every single week — best decision ever, as the owner started to recognize me and I never had to wait for a table. Just your average everyday rockstar, right?
The restaurant is on Hanover Street, the main street in the neighborhood, and there are a few tables in the front that are my favorite. When the weather is nice the windows disappear and it’s al fresco dining — my favorite time in the city.
So that said, I’ll insert my usual disclaimer on Italian food in the North End. It’s overpriced. Yeah, I said it — most of the restaurants jack the prices way up, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s really not worth it. I’m sorry, but $25 for a plate of pasta with marinara sauce isn’t going to work for me. I’ve been to Italy, I can cook, I know what’s involved here, and it’s not that expensive.
Panza delivers delicious at a great price.
I always got the saltimbocca — it’s a chicken cutlet stuffed with sage and pancetta, topped with a light white wine sage sauce that’s so flavorful it’s unreal. Like, unreal. If you’ve never had it, the sage and pancetta are the perfect counterweights to each other, and the flavors basically dance across your palate, a savory and buttery duet of sorts.The pasta primavera is served with a cornucopia of vegetables, and the chicken picatta is also delightful, served with capers, artichoke hearts, and a white wine lemon sauce. Backtracking to the starters, the bruschetta is delicious, although you can never go wrong with the burrata, which is looking oh so pretty in the image above.