319 Hanover Street, Boston, MA
I just returned from a weekend in Boston, and it was amazing, considering that Boston long ago moved past chowdah, lobstah and baked beans. The purpose of the visit was a five-year reunion of graduate school friends, which also coincided with the famous Head of the Charles Regatta.
Unfortunately, considering Boston's great food reputation, I spent a fair amount of time panicking about where to eat. Should I go traditional New England and do it up raw-bar style (Neptune Oyster, Union Oyster House)? Or should I take advantage of the modern New American wave that's swept the city (Tremont 647)? Or perhaps check out the high-profile chef sushi renaissance (Clio)... Or embark on a nostalgic Grad School Dining Tour (Sol Azteca, Zaftig's, Anna's Tacqueria). In the end, I chose none of these options. Instead, we landed Friday night into Logan, grabbed a cab to the hotel, and then sprinted directly to ... the North End.
Ah, the North End. I adore this Boston neighborhood - one of the area's most historic. Settled in the 1630s, the North End has gone through a series of residential changes. The original residents were wealthy Bostonians, followed by freed African American slaves. Then the Irish moved in, followed by the Jewish population, and the Italians finally took over in the early 1900s. And the neighborhood - home to Paul Revere's house and the Old North Church (remember "one if by land, two if by sea"?) has remained firmly rooted in Italian culture ever since.
Today the North End is an amazing place to dine. The neighborhood, lined with cobblestoned streets and brick alleyways, is literally packed with restaurants - the majority of them Italian (I counted at least 56 different options!), with wonderful seafood offerings. I love heading straight up Hanover Street, only to be greeted by restaurant after restaurant, and of course by the dueling lines of patrons lined up outside Mike's Pastry and Modern Pastry.
So considering the plethora of dining options, I wasn't too worried about not having reservations. However, I didn't think we would luck out half as much as we did, by scoring a table at Pomodoro.
Pomodoro is the very definition of "intimate." With only eight tables, the restaurant is dimly lit by a chandelier and tealights that line every ledge and counter. Food orders are relayed verbally to the kitchen by the two waitresses, and payment is only accepted in cash. It's an insanely personal dining experience. And it was wonderful.
Immediately, we were served warm bread with a garlic olive oil, stocked with a variety of olives. We ordered fried calamari, which comes highly recommended. While I'm usually bored with this dish, I was very pleased with Pomodoro's lightly crisped version, served with a lemon dipping sauce and a roasted garlic and tomato sauce.
I've been craving a good white clam sauce, so when I saw Cherrystone clams tossed with linguine and garlic, EVOO and herbs, I was sold. And the dish did not disappoint. I have never seen such enormous clams - easily the size of silver dollars, each clam offered a meaty mouthful that evoked the briny ocean depths. The linguine was perfect, especially when dusted with some fresh parmesan (I know, Italians would shudder at the thought of a seafood/cheese combination but I adore it! Sinner).
The hubs ordered Tiger shrimp and salt cod with artichoke, potato, olives and parsley tossed with farfalle. The sauce almost tasted creamy, and the seafood combination was rich and delicious. A Pinot Grigio (out of Friuli, of course) and a rich Sangiovese were the perfect accompaniments.
Pomodoro hit a home run with this one. The ladyfingers were perfectly soaked - moist without being soggy. The cream mixture was light and airy, without the cloying sweetness that American Italian restaurants tend to impart. The cocoa powder on top offered the perfect amount of bitter counterpart to the dessert. It was heaven.
We rolled out of the restaurant, completely satiated and overly stuffed. Next time, I plan to skip the appetizer - its simply not needed. Bravo, Pomodoro, bravo.