Phantom Gourmet: The North End’s Great 8

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BOSTON – The oldest neighborhood in Boston is one of the top Italian dining destinations in America. These are Phantom’s picks for the eight greatest places to eat in the North End.

Benevento’s

Kicking off the great 8 is Benevento’s. In a sea of Italian restaurants, the pizza at Benevento’s truly stands out. Cooked right before your eyes alongside an open flame, these crispy, creative pies have diners’ mouths watering a river down Salem Street. And since you’re in the North End, you may as well wrap your lips around the North Ended Pizza piled with sopressotta, prosciutto, garlic and extra virgin olive oil.

Mike’s Pastry

Mike’s Pastry is almost as famous as the North End itself. This Hanover Street bakery is always crowded and always serving cannoli, after cannoli, after cannoli. Nobody in New England sells more Sicilian sweets, whether it’s to dine in, take out or ship across the country. And nobody makes cannoli like Mike’s, all from scratch, every step of the way. You can find fresh made filling at plenty of places, but Mike’s is one of the only bakeries that also makes their own cannoli shells from scratch.

Pizzeria Regina

Another Great 8 winner is the original Pizzeria Regina on Thacher Street. Since 1926, customers have lined up out the door to get their hands and their taste buds on this local brick oven legend. And with fresh ingredients used each step of the way, it’s no wonder.

“The Regina Pizza is very special because we make our dough fresh… our mozzarella cheese that’s made for us; our sauce -we end up going out to California, we have our tomatoes grown for us. It’s the freshest vegetables, the finest meats, the best pepperoni, the best sausage you can bring in here and everything is quality.”

Carmen

Carmen on North Square is a romantic hideaway that’s limited on seating but big on sensational cuisine. The menu is a mix of Italian style tapas, handmade pastas and upscale entrees. The steamed Wellfleet clams sit in a bath of fiery hot cream sauce with homemade mustard and fennel. But the must order is Carmen’s Crespelle, stuffed with porcini mushrooms and caramelized onions with a hearty Bolognese sauce.

Watch: Great 8, Part 2

Neptune Oyster

Neptune Oyster on Salem Street offers some of the best seafood in all of New England. This tiny spot is usually jammed with customers looking for freshly shucked oysters presented in tower form with chilled shrimp and lobster. And if you really have a love for lobster, get your claws on one of their overflowing lobster rolls served on buttery brioche.

Strega

Another Great 8 winner is Strega. This hot and happening Hanover Street restaurant boasts classic mob movies playing in the dining room and classic Italian dishes coming out of their kitchen. The Rollatini Di Nico features fried eggplant filled with creamy ricotta topped with Strega’s mouthwatering marinara. And Phantom always goes for the gorgeous Veal Chop filled with plenty of fontina and proscuitto.

Pagliuca’s

Pagliuca’s on Parmenter Street forgoes the flashy dining room in favor of simple red sauce dishes that are perfect every time. The menu is loaded with old school, family-style antipasti, big artichokes baked off with breadcrumbs, calamari fried golden brown and hearty portions of Veal with vinegar peppers. No meal here is complete without ordering the creamy tiramisu featuring layer after layer of mascarpone cheese, spongy cake, espresso and chocolate.

Tresca

Rounding out the Great 8 is Tresca. This sophisticated and fun restaurant owned by Bruins legend Ray Borque sports dim lighting and bustling street side views. Their regional Italian menu offers everything from high-quality steaks and chops to artful desserts, almost too pretty to eat. And if you’re looking to impress your date, ask for Tresca’s ultra-romantic lone outdoor table located on a balcony overlooking Hanover Street.

Watch Phantom Gourmet on Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30 and 11 a.m. on myTV38.

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