Panza – North End, Boston

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There’s nothing better than Italian food and, luckily enough, Boston is home to some of the best Italian restaurants this side of the Atlantic. We recently took a trip to Boston’s historic North End with our friends (and visitors from Washington, DC) Nicole and Jasmine in tow for some authentic Italian food at Panza.

Panza is located right in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Hanover Street and its small storefront makes it easy to walk right by it.  That, however, would be a big mistake since Panza — a cozy, relaxed, and homey space with mismatched plates on the wall and an open kitchen — has a menu full of classic (and reasonably priced!) Italian dishes that will satisfy pasta lovers, meat lovers, and seafood lovers of all varieties.

I went with the Butternut Squash Tortelloni — oversized, handmade dumplings filled to the brim with a slightly sweet and delectably savory roasted squash purée and topped with a rich brown butter sage sauce. The tortelloni had just the right ratio of pasta to filling and the sage butter sauce — which was flavorful without being too heavy — had an undertone of cinnamon that complemented the savory creaminess of the squash stuffing.Nate got the Potato Gnocchi Bolognese — small potato-filled dumplings in a classic beef and pork ragu. The gnocchi were flavorful and light (despite the fact that the combo of pasta and potato can sometimes make for a rather large post-meal food baby, these gnocchi had just the right amount of starchy goodness) and the meat sauce enhanced the flavor of the pasta even further.

Nicole and Jasmine both gravitated toward the poultry portion of the menu and went for the Chicken Saltimbocca and the Chicken Parmesan, respectively. The Saltimbocca came with salty prosciutto, creamy mozzarella cheese, and roasted veggies, all topped with a light and flavorful white wine sage sauce.  The Chicken Parmesan was exactly as expected — the chicken was slightly crisped and smothered in gooey cheese and delicious homemade red sauce.Both dishes came with a small bowl of pasta that was not wholly necessary considering the large portions, but was nonetheless greatly appreciated because, let’s face it, who doesn’t love pasta?

We left totally full but still completely in the mood for dessert, so we stopped for cannoli at Bova’s (which, pro tip, has amazing cannoli but never has the same long line as the more touristy Mike’s Pastry or Modern Pastry). We shared a cappuccino, chocolate chip, and classic plain cannoli — all of which were perfectly crispy on the outside and deliciously creamy on the inside.All in all, a perfect Boston night in one of the city’s most uniquely fun neighborhoods.

TL:DR:  Panza is the perfect place for a traditional Italian meal without the high prices usually found in most North End restaurants. Be sure to make a reservation to avoid the long lines!

Basil Restaurant – Medfield, MA

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Families have traditions, and sometimes those traditions involve annually eating at the same restaurant. Our new-ish tradition is having dinner at Basil Restaurant for Father’s Day. When I say “new-ish”, I mean this has only been a tradition for a few years – but a tradition has to start somewhere, right?

Google categorizes it as an American restaurant, but it’s really more Italian-centric with American dish options. Basil is an interesting and unique place, which plays into its charm. The restaurant exists in the middle of a residential neighborhood in Medfield, MA and the restaurant itself looks like it was a small house at one point in time. Upon entering, you realize that the restaurant is really a lot bigger than the outside looks. The interior is charming and surprisingly upscale.

Lucky for us, we have the same waiter all three years we have been. His name is Victor, and he is not only the most attentive server I’ve encountered but the most entertaining! It really helped enhance our experience at Basil Restaurant. But it’s not only Victor – Basil boasts a great reputation as a restaurant that has personable servers, which sets the tone for family gatherings.

The food is just as good as the service. Samantha and I perused the menu, and to us, everything looked pretty good, so it was hard to narrow down the choices.

I went with the slow-roasted duckling topped with an orange marmalade sauce. The sauce added a refreshing taste to the roasted duckling, which was crispy on the outside, and roasted to perfection. The duckling came with sauteed spinach, peppers, and sweet mashed potatoes on the side.

Samantha went with the ravioli sampler because she loves ravioli. The sample is a great way to sample all of the ravioli dishes Basil has to offer. The type of ravioli includes butternut squash, chicken and walnut spinach, and lobster and shrimp ravioli topped with asparagus. There were six generously-sized kinds of ravioli; 2 of each of kind.

For dessert, we split the brownie sundae. It looked beautiful – a scoop of vanilla ice cream sandwiched between two brownies, with hot fudge spilled over the top brownie. The plate was garnished with fresh raspberries and topped with whipped cream. I can’t even describe how delicious it was – it hit the spot after the dinner!

Located in a residential neighborhood in Medfield, Basil is an ideal choice for family gatherings, no matter how large your family is! The service and food will make you want to come back year after year. It really is a fantastic experience on all fronts.

La Famiglia Giorgio’s – North End, Boston, MA

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Among all of the Italian restaurants located in the North End, La Famiglia Giorgio’s might just be one of the best. Known for their giant portions, it’s a prime spot to have a full-fledged Italian feast with family or a nice date spot. It’s also a prime spot to have a meal before a Celtics or Bruins game, as it’s only a 10-minute walk to the TD Garden.

We went to La Famiglia Giorgio’s on a recent Tuesday. Upon arriving, we were able to get seated right away upstairs. La Famiglia Giorgio’s has tons of open seating which spans two floors. The ambiance resembles what you might find in old Tuscany Italy, it’s that authentic.

Two things that make La Famiglia Giorgio’s a great Italian restaurant is their attentive service and the quality of food. Our waitress was so attentive that we literally never had an empty glass of water! And the food we ordered was delicious, and “as good as what mom makes”, or so they say. We started by splitting a Caesar salad which was good, but instead of using freshly grated parmesan, there was powdered parmesan which was noticeable.

Our orders arrived shortly after. Samantha ended up going with the pumpkin ravioli – homemade ravioli stuffed with pumpkin and cinnamon sautéed in sweet and creamy marsala sauce. I ended up going with the Veal Saltimbocca with mushrooms which were covered in plenty of buttery goodness in the form of butter wine sage sauce topped with prosciutto and melted mozzarella. As I mentioned, the portions are huge, so we each got about halfway through before calling it quits for the night. The good news is we had delicious leftovers for the next few days.

If you are looking for a nice Italian restaurant in the North End, La Famiglia Giorgio’s is worth consideration. Go check it out for yourself!