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Phantom Gourmet: Tresca In Boston’s North End

BOSTON – What do you get when you take a North End institution, an athlete owner with a passion for pasta, and a world-class chef who’s bringing something different to the neighborhood? You get one delicious hat trick.

At Tresca on Hanover Street, they are still serving all of the dishes customers have loved for over a decade, but now they have added some fun shareable plates as well. It’s all because Boston Bruins legend and co-owner Ray Bourque decided to draft Chef Rich Ansara to his team in Tresca’s kitchen.

“Tresca has been here for about 11 years and we felt it was time for a revamp, kind of give it a breath of fresh air and change the menu,” Chef Rich said.

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Not only is the menu Tresca 2.0, but the decor has received a reboot as well.

“I think we have one of the best locations on Hanover Street,” Rich boasted. “We have a couple of floors. We have a beautiful wood bar downstairs and it’s been very well received by the customers. I try and hit every single table that comes in, sit with the customers, specialize what they would like.”

You can start you meal with big plates of antipasto loaded up with meats, cheeses, olives and more; or beautifully fried artichokes topped with a lemon crème drizzle. Now you can also feast on some non-traditional items like the Nachos Bolognese.

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Nachos Bolognese at Tresca (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

“They’re not your traditional nachos,” Rich promised. “We fry some corn tortilla chips, smother them in mozzarella cheese and bake them, and then I top it with my homemade Bolognese sauce, a homemade whipped ricotta with sliced cherry peppers. You probably wouldn’t want to have your normal nachos after trying these.”

You won’t find a South Shore style bar pizza like this anywhere else in the North End.

“We cook them a little on the well-done side, so you get a nice crispy brown crust,” the chef described. “I put two layers of cheese on it. One layer on the bottom of the ingredients, another layer on top and it looks beautiful and eats really nice.”

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Meatballs at Tresca (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

The meatballs are a dish Rich has been perfecting for many years. Made with ground veal and sirloin, and stuffed with Cipollini onions, fire roasted peppers and plenty of mozzarella; they are giving Nonni’s all over a run for their money.

“I’ve been told by several people that they’re better than their grandmother’s meatballs. I try and tell them to calm down a little bit, that they’re really not, but a close second is good enough for me.”

For some truly all-star eats, there are two dishes on the menu special enough to bear the Bourque name. There is the Shrimp ala Bourque, served in a roasted garlic oregano cream sauce, and the Veal Parmesan Bourque Style, carbo-loaded with a side of pasta Bolognese.

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Veal Parmesan at Tresca (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

“We use top round veal; pound them nice and thin; seasoned bread crumbs; pan fry all of our cutlets; get it nice and brown,” Rich explained. “Then I put a blend of three different cheeses – mozzarella and provolone blend, grated grana parmesan – and then I top it with a little dried oregano, and then we bake it.”

“I grew up playing hockey so I ate a lot of pasta,” Ray said. “Those carbs were so key to my success and to give me the energy that I needed.”

Don’t look on the menu for this meal; this is a secret for Ray and his fans only.

“It’s not on the menu, but if you ask for the Ray special we’ll gladly make it for you,” Chef Rich said.

Other pasta standouts include the plate-tipping portion of Seafood Fra Diavolo served over spaghetti with big chunks of lobster on top. For all of that craveable crustacean stuffed inside pasta, order the Lobster Ravioli in a sundried tomato cream sauce.

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Lobster Ravioli at Tresca (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

“You get the combination of the nice lobster broth, the cream sauce, some sun-dried tomato in there and the nice chunks of lobster meat inside the ravioli. It’s beautiful dish,” Rich said.

Lobster continues its way through the menu, served on top of a perfectly cooked Filet Mignon and topped with a lemony tarragon Béarnaise. For a cut that’s a true showstopper, get the 14-ounce Grilled Veal Chop.

“It’s a beautiful French bone in rib chop. We grill it and then we finish it with a little veal demi-glace, some sautéed wild mushrooms and a little citrus,” Chef Rich described. “I think it’s the best in the city.”

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Grilled Veal Chop at Tresca (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

The only thing sweeter than desserts – like the Coconut Chocolate Pecan Bread Pudding – is enjoying all of this great fare at Tresca’s famous Table 77, located on a private balcony.

“Table number 77 is the most romantic table in Boston,” Ray declared. “It looks over Hanover Street. It’s a table for two, private, just you and whoever you want to bring as a guest. That’s a very special table.”

No matter where you sit, these guys want you to walk out happy.

“My biggest thing is I want them to have a personal experience,” Rich said. “People love coming in and knowing the chef. I love going to the tables, going off the menu and we just have a lot of fun with the food.”

“You’re going to have a great meal. You’ll be served right, and you’ll come back. I promise you,” Ray said.

You can find Tresca at 233 Hanover Street in Boston’s North End, and online at trescanorthend.com.

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

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