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Let’s Go to the North End

October 22, 2009
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There are few things I consider myself an expert on. Dessert is one of them. And I’m lucky to live in walking distance to one of the best streets for dessert in the United States: Hanover Street in the North End. When every single storefront looks so deliciously tempting, visitors may want to turn to expert advice on where to go.

1. Mike’s Pastry : Ok, so my first choice may be a bit controversial to local Bostonians, who often deem Mike’s a tourist trap in lieu of what they consider the more authentic (but what I consider highly overrated) Modern Pastry. But I say I know an excellent dessert when I taste one. The thought alone of their strawberry cheesecake, their raspberry mocha cake, their chocolate chip conolis, gets my mouth watering. And their cappuccinos, complete with rock candy stirrer, are the perfect antidote to chilly Boston nights. They have all the classics here bumped up to a level that’s difficult to beat. Plus, I love the bustling atmosphere.

2. Bova’s Bakery : There are certain times that call for dessert past the 9 o’clock closing time of the rest of the North End bakeries, and that’s when you should head one street over to Salem Street and take a visit to Bova’s, the 24 hour bakery. The selection is smaller but still delicious; usually undetectable in difference to Mike’s. And the price is hard to beat. When I found myself alone there on Valentine’s Day (and therefore particularly vulnerable to the lure of dessert) and faced with the $10 credit card minimum, I ended up walking away with a box full of treats that lasted me for days.

3. Lulu’s Bake Shoppe : This adorable hole-in-the-way can be easily passed by, but it’s not one to be missed. The decor is of a vintage sweet shop and the selection is simple, delicious confections. They specialize in cupcakes and, to be honest, these are the best cupcakes in the city. I want so desperately to fall in love with the fancier cupcake shops like Sweet or Kickass Cupcakes, but to me they get a bit too full of themselves. Their cupcakes are miniscule and too over-the-top and way too sweet. Lulu’s are the perfect step up from the cupcakes you can make yourself; the comfort of what you crave with the something extra only a professional can create. And, unlike their competitors, their prices are right (no $4 cupcakes here).

4. Gelateria Of course a list of Italian dessert places can not be complete without a mention of where to get some gelato. This little shop has barely enough room to stand to admire the displays of gelato but it’s well worth the tight fit. Their interesting flavors is what really sets them apart: passionfruit, hazelnut, tiramisu as well as a few flavors that apparently simply can’t be translated. The downside of this place is it’s absurdly priced. I think it’s about $5 for a small.

5. Cafe Vittoria For a place where you can actually sit down to eat, try Cafe Vittoria, a classic coffeehouse. The cappuccino almost (almost) rivals Mike’s and the small dessert list has all the classics. The place is dark and filled with old Italian men and opera plays even though the Red Sox are muted on the TVs. It’s easy to let yourself be fooled that you’re somewhere off in Italy when relaxing in this lovely cafe.

As an added bonus, I’ll let you in on the best places to eat your treats because, as you might’ve gathered, you’ll only manage to get yourself a table in one of these places if you’re blessed with the best of luck. You can walk down to the end of Hanover Street to the harbour and eat overlooking the water. Or, follow the Freedom Trail to a few choice spots. The old North Church where Paul Revere’s warning lanterns were hung is right off Hanover Street and has a long entrance lined with benches. Or follow it away from the North End to Feneuil Hall and take a seat there. Or, you might find an empty bench along Hanover Street. But, wherever you choose to go, go there slowly. The North End is the most romantic area in Boston and deserves the chance to be soaked in.

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