Food & Drink

The Best Italian Restaurants in Boston

Capo
Capo | Mike Diskin

Anchovies Food & Spirits

South End

Don’t let the suburban-strip-mall name fool you, this place is 100% legit. Anchovies is one of the best-kept secrets in Boston, and it cooks up Italian home-style fare such as a garlicky, perfect linguine with mussels. The prices are all wicked cheap, including $7 wines-by-the-glass. And it’s open until 2am. Go for the giant Italian nachos with braised short rib ragu, or stuffed peppers overflowing with ground beef and cheese.

Mike Diskin

Capo

South Boston

Chef Tony Susi’s South Boston kitchen offers homemade pasta, wood-fired pizza, and everything you’d expect from a classic Italian restaurant. With little lamps on the table and a fire casting warm light on the brick walls, it looks every bit the part. Since the whole place is lined in repurposed wood and the bar program is run by Kevin Mabry, it’ll also meet the approval of your hippest friends. Between takeout, late-night pizza, and brunch, you’ve got a lot of options. Brunch isn’t crowded yet, and the place is much bigger than it looks, so drag your crew out for breakfast pizza and Bellinis... and grab a few sfogliatella or arancini while you’re waiting.

Brian Samuels

Coppa

South End

Chefs/Owners Jamie Bissonnette and Ken Oringer, Boston’s culinary dynamic duo, go next-level at Coppa with their ultra-refined rustic Italian cuisine. Must-gets include the succulent salumi and formaggi platters (duck prosciutto, Taleggio), the impressively loaded Italian Grinder, and the spaghetti alla carbonara with smoked pancetta and sea urchin. They get the most out of their wood-fired oven with creative pizzas (bone marrow) and roasted entrees (branzino arrosto).

Courtesy of Fat Hen

Fat Hen

East Somerville

The new eatery located in the old market space next to La Brasa is an upscale departure from the bustling restaurant next door. The service is excellent, and the chef’s attention to detail is apparent from the second the bread and carrot-salted butter hit the table. Be sure to order one of the beautifully blended aperitivo cocktails instead of just defaulting to wine; or grab one of several Italian craft brews to go along with the prix fixe Fat Hen Degustazione. Order the lamb saddle, tortellini with lemon ricotta, or rigatoni with rabbit sausage. For dessert, get the peach tart with tarragon gelato or a caramel gelato affogato. Or hell, why not both.

Giacomo’s

North End

You’ll know when you’re close to Giacomo’s because you’ll be able to see the line outside stretching down the block. This no-reservations, cash-only spot is the quintessential North End experience, and the chalkboard menus hanging in the tiny brick dining room offer every kind of meat/sauce/homemade pasta combination you could dream of. Just don’t expect to be able to sit and linger after your meal without getting glared at by the waitstaff. Still, the Fra Diavolo sauce is worth whatever crowds you just braved.

Il Molo

Il Molo

North End

Drinks are carefully crafted to complement the raw bar selection, so you won’t find any of the harsh whiskeys or overly fruity concoctions that haunt less sophisticated seafood shacks. The super-fresh, filling dishes and the clean nautical ambiance make it an ideal spot for a particularly special date night. Go for the South American Saz, prawns a la plancha, the daily pasta with Maine lobster and truffle butter, the seafood stew, or the veal chop Oscar.

La Famiglia Giorgio's

North End

Specializing in enormous, family-style plates, La Famiglia Giorgio's won't let you leave hungry. The experience is more about the food than the formalities, and that’s what we love about it. Go for red sauce classics: chicken marsala, chicken parmigiana, chicken anything. Plus, this is one of the few spots in the area that has decent gluten-free options, and you know someone in your group wants those.

La Morra

La Morra

Brookline

It may be a bit out of the way, but this Northern Italian eatery is well worth a trip to Brookline. With a $40 prix fixe menu, coravin wine specials, and a fresh menu every season, it's one of those spots you should make it a habit to visit a few times a year. Everything is local, seasonal, and house-made.

Limoncello

North End

Limoncello is more spacious than many similar spots in town, and there's also a massive mural worth checking out. Plus, Paul Revere’s old house is located right next door. Go for the pasta rosette, a simple combination of house-made pasta, truffle oil, and prosciutto.

La Motta's

La Motta's

South End

Another member of the Aquitaine Group, La Motta opened up earlier this year, and serves Italian food with a particularly South End sensibility. Conservatively sized pizzas average around $23, but include toppings like white clam or spicy Calabrian sausage. The $11.95 prix-fixe brunch is a solid deal. Make sure you check out the crispy brussels sprouts, prosciutto, and figs, rigatoni with wild boar, gnocchi with basil pesto, and hazelnut skillet cookie with marshmallow fluff and caramel sauce.

Chef Charles Draghi

Erbaluce

Bay Village

Chef Charles Draghi, the wizard who rejuvenated Marcuccio’s, mixes his deep Piemontese roots with classical French techniques for one-of-a-kind flavors. The menu changes nightly, but representative dishes include braised meat and marrow-stuffed Marubini, wild boar, red cod with spiced lobster coral sauce, and squash tortellini immersed in herbed chicken and butternut broth. The all-Italian wine list features distinct regional wines for proper pairings.

Lucca

North End and Back Bay

One of the most dependable restaurants in the area, Lucca isn’t cheap, but you’re bound to have a meal you won’t regret. And make sure you don't miss dessert here. While most menus are worth skimming over, Lucca has a pastry program that isn’t exclusive to cannoli (but don’t worry, they still have tiramisu).

Mamma Maria

North End

Frequently the top pick for accommodating large parties in the North End, Mamma Maria has a reputation for quality service and standout food. It’s a quieter space that’s upscale without being fussy, and the wine list is certainly worth a look. Try the suckling pig risotto.

Courtesy of Nebo Cucina & Enoteca

Nebo Cucina & Enoteca

Waterfront

The Pallotta sisters modernized their mom and grandma’s family recipes for Nebo’s traditional yet appropriately novel menu. The light, creamy burrata and the smoky cozze (skillet-roasted mussels) are ample starters, followed by the golden-brown vitello Milanese or the Bobby Flay Throwdown!-winning zucchini lasagna. Be sure to stop by at lunch for a Spuckie, a substantial sandwich on ciabatta.

Mare

North End

Consistently voted among Boston’s best seafood joints, Mare offers quality seafood and a bright, sophisticated ambiance in the heart of the bustling North End. It has a relatively standard menu for the area, but one of the most extensive raw bars in the neighborhood. Heads up, though: this isn’t the place to come if you’re operating on a budget; a raw bar means things can get very pricey very quickly. Stick with seafood here: order the shellfish tower, which comes piled high with oysters, clams, crab claws, lobster, and shrimp. Also try the corn and clam chowder, which is full of saffron, littlenecks, and grilled andouille sausage.

Ostra Boston

Ostra

Theatre District

Ostra ("oyster" in Spanish) is owned and operated by Chef Jamie Mammano, the culinary force behind Hub favorites Mistral, Teatro, and Sorellina. An in-house fishmonger guarantees that the seafood is always impeccable, whether it’s locally caught or flown in from the Mediterranean. Everything is tasty, but be prepared to drop a pretty penny, especially if you’re planning to spring for the exotic Israeli caviar ($155). Check out the yellowfin tuna tartare, French escargot, ricotta gnocchetti with Maine lobster and shaved black truffle, and lamb osso bucco with sheep’s milk cheese polenta.

Pastoral

Ft. Point Channel

Come for the wood-fired pizzas, stay for everything else. Exhibits A and B: bone marrow tomato sauce graces the salumi meatballs, and the stuffed fried olives go extra well with Pastoral’s house country pale ale. Then there’s the creamy pumpkin risotto, contrasted nicely by braised flat iron "crackling" and chicory. This spot is also cooking outside the box with inventions like Italian ramen with house-made vermicelli, prosciutto, and a soft egg. Make sure you check out the salumi meatballs, stuffed fried olives, ricotta dumplings, and pumpkin risotto.

Prezza

Prezza

North End

Prezza offers a more contemporary spin on North End classics. If you're feeling adventurous, try the octopus carpaccio. Or if you feel like something more familiar -- but still amazing --  stick with the black truffle gnocchi.

Pomodoro

North End

This cozy, cash-only restaurant has a huge fan base despite the smallish menu. Stick with anything seafood... and don't be surprised if you get some complimentary tiramisu after your meal.

Courtesy of Porto

Porto

Back Bay

Named after the shared Italian and Portuguese word for "port," Porto serves up a fantastic selection of local seafood, both raw and cooked. The team behind Trade opened their new, Mediterranean-influenced restaurant back in July and has gotten a lot of attention for the freshness of their ingredients and the care with which they’re prepared. The whole menu consists of lightly seasoned dishes with fish as the main event, and a number of unique desserts. Go for house-made squid ink buccatini with crispy squid, the lobster ravioli with urchin and curry leaf, or the raw scallop with chamomile, Niçoise olive, and lemon balm. For dessert, check out the espresso pavlova, as well as the "not baklava."

Quattro

Quattro

North End

This Hanover St spot sources nearly all of its ingredients from the surrounding neighborhood, including fresh pasta and bread from the bakery across the street. It’s a much more casual dining atmosphere than many nearby Italian places with similarly good food, and offers panini at lunch, as well as a lot of smaller snack options. Our favorites: the pizza, meatballs, roasted leg of lamb panini, orecchiette with homemade sausage, and Nonna’s pasta e fagioli.

Courtesy of Sfizi

Sfizi

North End

Coming up on its first anniversary, this cute corner bistro has totally boss antipasti and a fine selection of house-made pasta. It’s a fun twist on the classic North End menu, with tastier small plates, better sangria, and a wider variety of dishes, from prime beef burgers to mallard duck duetto with roasted yams and spicy mango. During the warmer months, the huge windows are open to the neighborhood. Take your girlfriend or your grandma -- they’ll both love it. We love the caprese, octopus, gnocchi, sage, and pumpkin tortelli with apple and sausage, and black garlic trenette.

Courtesy of Sorellina

Sorellina

Back Bay

Sophistication is the name of the game at Sorellina, from the chic black and white dining room to the posh classic Italian cuisine. It’s all in the details, like the squid-ink couscous and tender-grilled octopus. Even the maccheroncelli get a make-over, with American wagyu beef meatballs glazed with Montepulciano sauce, and finished with Parmigiano. Our absolute favorite item, however, is the Milanese, a breaded bone-in natural veal chop accompanied by oven-cured tomatoes.

Sportello

Seaport

The Barbara Lynch staple recently introduced a new three-course prix fixe called Barbara's Feast, which is a great way to eat a lot more on or off the menu than you ever have before. For $55/person (optional wine pairing for $30/person), you get two first courses, two pastas, and one entrĂ©e -- all of which change daily and are selected to feature whatever the chef is most excited about that day.

Courtesy of SRV

SRV

South End

SRV is a Venetian-style Bacaro that’s serving up some of the most interesting food in town. Whether you choose to spend your time at the bar, in the dining room, or out on the patio, the menu consists mostly of smaller plates and cicchetti (several bite portions) jam-packed with sauces and seasonings -- enough to make you wonder how they fit all of those ingredients into just a few pieces. All the flour for the pasta is made from scratch, and the wine and cocktail offerings are both incredibly impressive. Go for four or five cicchetti and three or four main and pasta courses to get your fill. Try the quail egg, polpette, baby octopus, heirloom tomato salad, lamb belly with saffron yogurt and stone fruit, and at least one risotto. For dessert, you can’t beat the deep-dish tiramisu.

Strega

North End

This swanky restaurant puts a twist on Italian staples by using novel ingredients and unexpected sauces while still serving enough of the classics to rival the rest of the neighborhood. Look for creations like pan-seared Chilean sea bass over yucca gnocchi and deep sea scallops sautéed with Grand Marnier. The house specialties listed on the first page of the menu may average around $40 a piece, but they’re darn good.

Greg Klim

Taranta Cucina Meridionale

North End

It’s not every day that you come across a Peruvian-Italian joint, which is a shame. Taranta does fusion food right, and also features individual dishes from each cuisine. Try the Paiche Amazone, an Amazonian fish prepared differently each day. They’re on the steeper side, but the guava and ricotta mini cannoli -- each coated with a generous helping of pistachio brittle -- are well-worth the Alexander Hamilton. Nowhere else in the North End will you find such an unexpected (and delicious) take on the classic Italian pastry.

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1. Anchovies Food & Spirits 433 Columbus Ave, Boston, MA 02116 (South End)

Don’t let the suburban-strip-mall name fool you, this place is 100% legit. Anchovies is one of the best-kept secrets in Boston and it cooks up Italian home-style fare such as the garlicky perfect linguine with mussels. Savor the giant Italian nachos amped by braised short rib ragu, and then take down The Anchovies Famous stuffed peppers overflowing with ground beef and cheeses. The prices are all wicked cheap, including $7 wines-by-the-glass.

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2. Capo 443 W Broadway, Boston, MA 02127 (South Boston)

Chef Tony Susi’s South Boston kitchen offers homemade pasta, wood-fired pizza, and everything you’d expect from a classic Italian restaurant. With little lamps on the table, a fire casting warm light on the brick walls, and repurposed wood details, it looks every bit the part of a cozy kitchen. Between takeout, late-night pizza, and brunch, you’ve got a lot of options -- think breakfast pizza, sfogliatella, and arancini.

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3. Coppa 253 Shawmut Ave, Boston, MA 02118 (South End)

Coppa is South End’s cozy, corner enoteca from James Beard Award-winning Chefs Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette. The neighborhood space is constantly crowded by diners in search of innovative, tapas-style Italian dishes, including house-made pizza and pasta from the wood oven, house-cured charcuterie, and cheese from Formaggio Kitchen. Enjoy a slice of the Sicilian, or indulge in the Bone Marrow pizza with roasted beef heart and horseradish. Opt for the rigatoni bolognese, or try the spaghetti carbonara with sea urchin. Whether you stick with the familiar or step out of the box (with boquerones), a meal at Coppa is an adventure in creative Italian cuisine, assuming you can snag one of the 38 seats.

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4. Fat Hen , Somerville, MA 02145 (Somerville)

Located in the old market space next to La Brasa, Fat Hen is an upscale Italian with an attention to detail that's obvious in everything from the carrot-salted butter that accompanies the bread basket to the beautifully blended aperitivo cocktails. Expect creative dishes like tortellini with lemon ricotta and rigatoni with rabbit sausage, and don't forget to order dessert -- caramel gelato affogato, anyone?

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5. Giacomo's 355 Hanover St, Boston, MA 02113 (North End)

This irresistible North End spot often sports a line stretching down the block outside. Check the chalkboard menus for every kind of meat/sauce/pasta combination you could dream of, but make sure you get a chance to try anything with their Fra Diavolo sauce.

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6. Il Molo , Boston, MA (North End)

Italian meets New England coastal cuisine at Il Molo in the North End. The menu revolves around pasta and seafood, but before you dive into the entrées, start with the raw bar, which features East and West Coast oysters and shellfish tower options. Most of the pasta dishes have seafood mixed in, like the linguine with clams, but you'll find simpler, less fishy classics like tagliatelle with bolognese and spaghetti pomodoro, as well. Il Molo's beverage program revolves around cocktails that are meant to complement the raw bar, so you won't find any harsh whiskeys or overly fruity concoctions here.

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7. La Famiglia Giorgio's 112 Salem St, Boston, MA 02113 (North End)

Specializing in enormous, family-style plates, La Famiglia Giorgio's won't let you leave hungry. The experience is more about the food than the formalities, and that’s what we love about it. Go for red sauce classics: chicken marsala, chicken parmigiana, chicken anything. Plus, this is one of the few spots in the area that has decent gluten-free options.

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8. La Morra 48 Boylston St, Brookline, MA 02445 (Brookline Village)

This Brookline Italian specializes in local and seasonal Northern Italian cuisine. The menu changes every few months, but expect a mix of elegant pasta and risotto dishes, and thoughtful meat and seafood creations. La Morra's nightly four-course prix fixe menu -- available with wine pairing -- makes it an affordable restaurant to experience fine Italian food.

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9. Limoncello 190 North St, Boston, MA 02113 (North End)

Limoncello is more spacious than many similar spots in town, and there's also a massive mural worth checking out. Plus, Paul Revere’s old house is located right next door. Go for the pasta rosette, a simple combination of house-made pasta, truffle oil, and prosciutto.

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10. La Motta's 1357 Washington St, Boston, MA 02118 (South End)

Part of the Aquitaine Group, La Motta's serves Italian food with a particularly South End sensibility. Conservatively sized pizzas are served with toppings like white clam or spicy Calabrian sausage, and there is a popular prix-fixe brunch deal. Make sure you check out the crispy brussels sprouts, prosciutto, and figs, rigatoni with wild boar, gnocchi with basil pesto, and hazelnut skillet cookie with marshmallow fluff and caramel sauce.

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11. Erbaluce 69 Church St, Boston, MA 02116 (Bay Village)

Chef Charles Draghi, the wizard who rejuvenated Marcuccio’s, mixes his deep Piemontese roots with classical-French techniques for one-of-a-kind flavors. The menu changes nightly, but representative dishes include braised meat and marrow-stuffed Marubini, red cod with spiced lobster coral sauce, and squash tortellini immersed in herbed chicken and butternut broth. The all-Italian wine list features distinct regional wines for proper pairings.

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12. Lucca 226 Hanover St, Boston, MA 02113 (North End)

Lucca's a dependable North End spot that may have a larger price tag, but the fresh ingredients, classy atmosphere, and superb dessert menu make up for the extra cost.

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13. Mamma Maria 3 N Square, Boston, 02113

In the North End you can throw a stone and hit at least one Italian restaurant, but tucked away in a historic townhouse by the old Paul Revere House is Mamma Maria’s, one the most reliable and authentic Italian mainstays in the city. The menu is just as timeless as the serene dining room with upscale offerings like, Lamb Gnocchi with cucumber yogurt, braised Suckling Pig layered with roasted eggplant and baked apple, and creamy braised rabbit in a Tuscan-style pappardelle pasta with crispy pancetta and fresh rosemary. Mamma’s asks that you put your phone away, which is for the best as you’ll need to turn your full attention to the truly extensive wine list.

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14. Nebo Cucina & Enoteca 520 Atlantic Ave, Boston, MA 02210

The Pallotta sisters modernized their Mom and Grandma’s family recipes for Nebo’s traditional yet appropriately novel menu. The light/creamy burrata and the smoky cozze (skillet-roasted mussels) are ample starters, followed by the golden-brown vitello Milanese or the Bobby Flay Throwdown-winning zucchini lasagna for dinner. Be sure to stop by at lunch for a Spuckie, a substantial meat-arific sammy on ciabatta.

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15. Mare Oyster Bar 135 Richmond St, Boston, MA 02113 (North End)

Aiming to capitalize on the Hub's bivalve boom (beware of places peddling sub-prime oysters), the folks at North End's Italian fave Mare have hit the reset button, reopening Friday in the same but slightly revamped space (shucking station, more seats, etc.) as an oyster bar. The new menu actually includes the old menu (exhale, here), alongside hella more seafood like six to eight types of local half-shells, octopus salad, and even a massive tower of shellfish.

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16. Ostra 1 Charles St S, Boston, MA 02116 (Back Bay)

Savor the flavor of your favorite seafood at this Mediterranean spot that uses fresh ingredients and light preparations to bring out the best in your briny delicacies, all in the comfort of swank surroundings (piano lounge, anyone?).

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17. Pastoral 345 Congress St, Boston, MA 02210 (Fort Point Channel)

Pastoral's got rustic pizzas, like duck sausage and clam topped with house-made mozzarella, as well as the option for you to grab their pastas, sauces, and cheeses to make your own treats at home.

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18. Prezza 24 Fleet St, at Garden; North End; 617.227.1577, Boston, MA 02113 (North End)

This North End Italian mainstay boasts a lineup that blends popular faves (wood-grilled squid, potato gnocchi w/ a rustic meat ragout, etc.) with fresh plates like a venison loin w/ grilled cabbage, prosciutto w/ Lambrusco-braised chicken, and anchovy-stuffed eggplant.

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19. Pomodoro 319 Hanover St, Boston, MA 02113 (North End)

Come for the authentic Italian dishes like Pane Al Forno (toast with date butter and rum glaze) and breakfast risotto with seasonal fruits and honey. Brunch items like panini and classic Zuppa Di Pesce also pepper the menu

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20. Porto 780 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02199 (Back Bay)

Named after the shared Italian and Portuguese word for "port," Porto serves up a fantastic selection of local seafood, both raw and cooked. The Mediterranean-influenced menu consists of lightly seasoned dishes with fish as the main event, and a number of unique desserts. Go for house-made squid ink buccatini with crispy squid, the lobster ravioli with urchin and curry leaf, or the raw scallop with chamomile, Niçoise olive, and lemon balm. For dessert, check out the espresso pavlova, as well as the "not baklava."

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21. Quattro 264 Hanover St, Boston, MA 02113 (North End)

This Hanover St spot sources nearly all of its ingredients from the surrounding neighborhood, including fresh pasta and bread from the bakery across the street. It’s a much more casual dining atmosphere than many nearby Italian places with similarly good food, and offers panini at lunch, as well as a lot of smaller snack options. Our favorites: the pizza, meatballs, roasted leg of lamb panini, orecchiette with homemade sausage, and Nonna’s pasta e fagioli.

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22. Sfizi Italian Kitchen 135 Richmond St, Boston, MA 02109 (North End)

This cute corner bistro has totally boss antipasti and a fine selection of house-made pasta. It’s a fun twist on the classic North End menu, with tastier small plates, better sangria, and a wider variety of dishes, from prime beef burgers to mallard duck duetto with roasted yams and spicy mango. During the warmer months, the huge windows are open to the neighborhood. We love the caprese, octopus, gnocchi, sage, and pumpkin tortelli with apple and sausage, and black garlic trenette.

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23. Sorellina 1 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA 02116 (Back Bay)

Sophistication is the name of the game at Sorellina, from the chic dining room to the posh classic Italian cuisine. It’s all in the details, like the Polpo’s squid-ink cous cous and tender-grilled octopus. Even the Maccheroncelli get a make-over via American Wagyu beef meatballs glazed with Montepulciano sauce and finished with Parmigiano. But your evening wouldn’t be complete without the Milanese, a breaded bone-in natural veal chop accompanied by oven-cured tomatoes.

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24. Sportello 348 Congress St , South Boston, MA 02210 (Fort Point Channel)

The second in what'll soon be a triumvirate of Fort Point Lynch properties, Sportello (sounds like a maker of sac-flaunting soccer shorts, but means "counter service" in Italian) features casual, market driven Boot food in a simple brown/white space highlighted by an elongated, serpentine, white Corian counter.

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25. SRV 569 Columbus Ave, Boston, MA 02118 (South End)

Don’t know what a Bacaro is? Simple, really: It’s a Venetian wine bar, and it’s your new favorite dining conceit. SRV (Serene Republic of Venice) is a small plates-slash-pasta haven, which means you get to sample beef carpaccio and green garlic risotto, smoked sea trout and ricotta gnudi. For the full family meal experience, spring for the shared Arsenale menu, which puts you entirely at the gastronomic mercy of the SRV kitchen. Also? This is the place where you and your vegetarian friends can dine equally well.

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26. Strega Ristorante 379 Hanover St, Boston, MA 02113 (North End)

This swanky restaurant puts a twist on Italian staples by using novel ingredients and unexpected sauces while still serving enough of the classics to rival the rest of the neighborhood. Look for creations like pan-seared Chilean sea bass over yucca gnocchi and deep sea scallops sautéed with Grand Marnier.

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27. Taranta 210 Hanover St, Boston, MA 02113 (North End)

It’s not every day that you come across a Peruvian-Italian joint, and Taranta does the fusion cuisine right by featuring individual dishes from each cuisine. Try the Paiche Amazone, an Amazonian fish prepared differently each day. They’re on the steeper side, but the guava and ricotta mini cannoli -- each coated with a generous helping of pistachio brittle -- are well-worth the Alexander Hamilton. Nowhere else in the North End will you find such an unexpected (and delicious) take on the classic Italian pastry.

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