North End Boston Food Tour with Bertolli
Over the weekend I had the great pleasure of spending the day with eight other Boston food bloggers and two fabulous hosts from Bertolli for a walking food tour of the North End. Not only was it an absolutely gorgeous day to be in the Little Italy of Boston, but I always mean to spend more time there since it’s such a neat little nook in Boston that feels like you’re literally in the heart of Italy. And ironically, this time last year Funk and I were on our own Italian food tour…in Italy, so it was nice to bring back some fond food memories.
We started off with dessert, naturally, at Caffe Vittoria, Boston’s first Italian café in Boston. I don’t think I’ve sipped a cappuccino since being in Italy but sitting there getting to know the group while dunking my rainbow sprinkle cookie into hot cappuccino was the perfect kickoff. I’m not usually a huge fan of cannollis but the filling in Caffe Vittoria’s was sweet and custardy and just a bite of it was enough. The owner came out to talk to us about the history of CV and said they sell around 700 cannolis a day! Yowza! It was nice to chat about how sipping on some coffee or cappuccino in Italy is relaxed, slow, and a point in your day when you just stop, whereas in the US we want our coffee served to us in under a minute with a slew of directions (Tall! Whipped! No fat!) and slam it down our throats in an effort to wake up. I like the Italian version.
Next we walked to Salumeria Italiana, a fine food grocery store that stocks the best in olive oils, vinegars, pastas and other specialty products. We got to sample cheese, olive oil, and an aged balsamic vinegar that was thick, dark, and drinkable. I love doing olive oil and vinegar tastings – they’re a lot like wine tastings and all have such different flavor profiles. We also learned that Bertolli olive oil is the #1 olive oil brand worldwide. My grandma favors the Bertolli tomato sauce and says it’s the only one she’ll use! We were all gifted with some of that delicious Rubio balsamic vinegar, and I purchased a pack of pumpkin gnocchi to make at home.
Off we went to Gigi Gelateria, which is the North End’s first gelateria. There, they don’t use eggs, heavy cream or butter in their gelato. Just milk, sugar and natural flavorings. You could tell! Each flavor I sampled tasted so pure and fresh. But my taste buds gravitated towards the sorbet and I chose a mix of watermelon and grapefruit sorbet. And I had a moment with my sorbet. That grapefruit sorbet literally tasted like I was eating a juicy red grapefruit. I can’t wait to recreate it in my ice cream maker.
Next we walked to Depasquale’s Homemade Pasta shop and on the way, stopped with the group for a photo op. In the group was Lisa, Audrey, Jess, Tina, Fiona, (me), Elizabeth, Megan, Pam, and our two fantastic Bertolli leaders Carly and Lauren. It was so fun to spend the day with bloggers I had met before in person, and those I only knew from twitter.
We crammed inside the tiny pasta shop which was filled to the brim with homemade pasta and some grocery items. Check out that chalkboard listing 50 types of pastas and more than 20 varieties of ravioli – including vegan varieties! We all got to pick a pasta to bring home and with Funk in mind, I chose the mushroom papardelle. I asked what sauce to pair it with, and was advised to make a mushroom and white wine sauce (which I did! stay tuned for the recipe post).
We ended with an early dinner at Lucca’s, a Northern Italian restaurant. I have been to Lucca’s before and was excited to revisit it, partly because they have the most amazing Focaccia bread served at the start of the meal! We started off with an insalata of imported seafood, cheese, and roasted veggies and I paired it with a mild red wine that I loved called Michele Chiarlo (Piedmont) 2008 Barbera D’Asti. I usually don’t choose red over white, but for whatever reason, I did and enjoyed every sip. Next we had a side by side tasting of ravioli and tagliatelle pasta. The ravioli had huuuuge chunks of lobster in it, with fava beans, escarole, cherry tomatoes, basil and goat cheese. It was slightly sweet and the ravioli was pillowy. The pasta was homemade and paired with mushrooms, sweet corn, scallions, and those massive lobster bits. I enjoyed the white Tavignano 2010 Verdicchio Misco wine with this course.
We were all so stuffed from dinner (and the cheese, gelato, pasta, gelato again, and all of the other food from earlier in the day) to order individual dessert, so we split a few among the table. I loved the almond cake, which reminded me of marzipan, my favorite Italian dessert. I also enjoyed a spot of lemoncello and was very glad to have Funk pick up my boozy butt after all of those delicious drinks!
I can still taste all of the delectable treats we enjoyed throughout the day and I’m so grateful for the fun food experience. Bertolli believes in bringing the authenticity of Italian food to your table so you can make every meal special without feeling like you have to hop a flight to Europe. I love that! I wholeheartedly agree that a few simple tweaks in your every day dining and ingredients can make you feel like you’re European royalty (or at least the queen or king of your kitchen). Thank you Bertolli for this great day!
Disclaimer: Bertolli sponsored this delightful day.