It’s a chilly Sunday in Boston, Massachusetts. Snow banks frame the sidewalks and the nip in the air forewarns of fresh snowfall on the way. The day calls for a hearty, belly-warming meal made by hand in the kitchen.
In Boston’s North End, quaint restaurants nestle alongside time-honored pastry shops and wood-paneled cigar bars. Trattoria Il Panino at 11 Parmenter Street beckons guests into its cozy space packed with diners in pre-game Celtics gear and warm down coats. Dubbed “Boston’s First Original Trattoria,” the restaurant is clearly a local favorite, and it’s no wonder why.
Trattoria Il Panino recently celebrated its 30th anniversary and expanded to include a second location on Hanover Street that offers patio seating. Owned by DePasquale Ventures, the hospitality group offers traditional and innovative Italian fare and lifestyle experiences through its restaurants, groceries and extended stay pensione.
Inside the trattoria, our party of four tucks into a table near the window. The aromas of slow-simmered sauces scent the air.
Bread, freshly baked and sliced, is served to the table first with herb-seasoned olive oil. To start we chose Fiore de Zucca, lightly fried, filled with a creamy whipped ricotta and prosciutto cotto and served on a base of grilled vegetables. They are at once light and decadent – the perfect way to start a meal.
Mom’s Meatballs and Ricotta came out next. Fork-tender and packed with homemade flavor, they are served on bread soaked in a perfectly seasoned ragú.
For the main course, we tried four dishes and tasted all around.
- Paccheri ai Frutti di Mare, served in a hot skillet and loaded with al dente Neopolitan pasta, mussels, clams, shrimp and lobster in a savory sauce.
- Pesce all’ Aqua Pazza, Chilean sea bass served in a skillet with sautéed vegetables in a luscious broth of garlic, parsley, wine and sea water.
- Penne alla Amatriciana with sausage and meatballs in a spicy red sauce of Italian pancetta, onions and San Marzano tomatoes.
- Mom’s Lasagna della Casa, with layer upon layer of tender noodles and drenched in a creamy ragú.
The lasagna was a revelation to me. I’ve lived in Modena, Italy and tasted some wonderful lasagna. I make my own pasta at home.
But two things surprised me about this dish. Unlike the chunky, meaty concoctions one might find in an average American Italian restaurant, the flavors in this pink sauce were complex and well-balanced. The meat was soft and fine, which led to an undeniably fork-tender dish.
What “Mom” did very well was to build 14 – yes, I counted 14 – layers of paper-thin pasta topped with thin coats of sauce. Not too much pasta, and not too much sauce. Each component complemented the other. The result was a melt-in-your-mouth dish. To this triumph I say with respect, “Thank you, Mom.”
With the winter sun shining in through the windows, we capped off the fabulous meal with shots of chilled Limoncello. “Salute, miei amici.”
Serving lunch and dinner daily, 11am – 11pm
Valet parking $25
11 Parmenter Street/280 Hanover Street, Boston, MA