I have been spending more and more time concentrating on music lately and practicing almost everyday. I also have new job(s) at my current place of employment that have been taking much more of my time than before. I suspect that once the air clears a bit, I will have more of a routine, but for now I am enjoying new challenges and learning lots of new information about work. I’d like to believe that shaking things up from time to time is a good thing. I also have to say that though I have much less leisure time as of late, I have found myself a much happier and contented person as of late.
With all of that said, I was overjoyed to have a day off this past Sunday with no prior commitments and the afternoon spent lazily strolling around Boston on a perfect spring afternoon. On a whim, I chose the historic North End for my adventure, and upon arrival, I began to question why I don’t spend more of my time there.
I spent the early part of the afternoon touring around a little. On a pretty day, like this past Sunday, mere people watching in the North End can keep you occupied for hours without a chance of boredom. People were out in droves – locals and tourists alike. There was a line around the block for Giacomo’s, a popular seafood standby, as well as lines for Modern Pastry and Mike’s Pastry. Actually, just about everywhere I looked, cafes were full and shops at least had browsers. So much for the economic slump…
I took a little time to meander through St. Leonard’s, Boston’s oldest Catholic church. It was built in 1873 to accommodate a growing community of Italian immigrants arriving in Boston by the Franciscans and named for one of their greatest friars, Dominic Casanova, who late became canonized as St. Leonard. The church had some pretty stained glass windows and a lovely domed ceiling.
I also popped into the Old North Church where Paul Revere lit the fires to notify everyone of the British invasion. They offer free tours (donations encouraged), and I caught the tail end of one and heard some interesting bits of history about a few of the artifacts in the church. The clock in the picture below was built by early parishoners and is still in working order. The angels that flank the pipe organ were stolen by a pirate/parishoner of Christ Church, Thomas Grucy, in 1746 en route to Quebec. When the church was contacted to return the angels, the Quebecoise told these wild Boston Episcopaleans just to keep the angels, and that’s the truth!
With all of the lovely walking and historical touring that took up my afternoon, I managed to work up a mighty hunger. Thank goodness the North End is full of amazing restaurants. Figuring out which one to eat at was probably the hardest thing I did all day.
I wound up at Marco, a little second story eatery near Modern Pastry on Hanover. The menu features both small and large portions of just about everything, only a few dishes only being offered as large portions. Large portions prevented me from trying more than two things on the menu, although both were excellent. I would have preferred to try more things, but I will keep Marco in mind for future meals with friends since the prices were so reasonable and the menu best suited to sharing.
Once I ordered, a ramekin of caponata with homemade focaccia arrived. It had a nice sweet sour balance and I enjoyed eating it with the densely textured bread. As much as I felt I should save room, I couldn’t resist gobbling up the tasty olives, raisins, and peppers with their lovely simple bread. I also greatly appreciated their departure from the standard bread and olive oil service so common nowadays in Italian restaurants.
My first course was orechiette pasta with ramps, favas, and housemade sausage to start. It was delicious and full of sinful cream. I couldn’t finish it! I was glad I only ordered a small. It would have easily been enough for a pasta course for two or three people. Still it was delicious, and I savored the rich sauce against the delicate spring vegetables and the mildly seasoned house sausage.
After the pasta, I tried one of the antipasti – yes, I know I went backwards, but I wasn’t sure I could handle a portion of a more expensive main course, and I didn’t want to waste food or money. I chose their obligatory take on prosciutto and melon for what ended up being my final course.
The prosciutto was nice enough, as was the ricotta salata. What made the plate, however, was the melon. It seemed to have a little brown sugar syrup on it and I’m guessing at some point it had been caramelized in a skillet, though it was served chilled, so as to be refreshing on a nice day. I really liked that little touch. The exaggerated sweetness of the melon played nicely off the salty ham and cheese that I was eating it with and there was a nice combination of texture on the plate.
Their wine list is pretty good and includes some lesser-known producers. I also liked the fact that there were some interesting varietals from Northern Italy that aren’t often represented, but definitely deserve to be enjoyed. I liked even better their house wines by the litre, 1/2 litre, or 1/4 litre. I thought the Feudo Arancio Grillo from Sicily was delicious for short money. It went great with everything I ate and was easy on my wallet.
It was a delicious meal all in all, though I wished I could have tried more from their menu. I’ll keep Marco in mind for future dinners when I’m out with a group. With delicious and unique bread service, a unique and affordable wine list, and overall tasty food suitable for sharing, It’s sure to make for a perfect evening of dining “family style” like a big Italian family.