Travel

Boston Specialty

Establishment neighborhood
Modern Pastry
257 Hanover St., North End
Boston is a city that actually has bakery crawls—and with good reason. Each one of the probably hundreds of Italian bakeries in the city and its surrounding suburbs claims to specialize in one of many Italian pastries. Modern Pastry is no different, other than that there is really nothing modern about its pastries at all. (Note the retro plastic-signed storefront.) Here, the specialty is lobster tails—named for their shell-like shape—or what Italians call sfogliatelle. The pastry is composed of what looks like hundreds of thinner-than-paper, crispy, flaky, butter-painted layers, filled with orange-zest-flecked ricotta. Sfogliatelle are far too labor-intensive to make in your own kitchen, making the excursion to Modern Pastry as necessary as it is indulgent. Only in Boston, parts of Brooklyn, and Campania would you find something so obscurely Italian.
Toscanini
159 First St, Cambridge
Considered by many to be best ice cream in America (it’s been around since 1981), Toscanini is another example of a small business in Boston that has stood the test of time. Not much has changed since those first scoops almost forty years ago: Toscanini is still a family business, and all the ice cream is still made, churned, and chilled in-house. There are generally thirty-two flavors at any given time, ranging from classics, like French vanilla, rum raisin, and cookies and cream, to the wild cards, like orange khulfee (India inspired), Earl Grey, and salty butter. The coffee is as good and admittedly, we are not averse to ordering a scoop of vanilla and drowning it in espresso for a do-it-yourself affogato. The homemade silky chocolate ganache whipped into steamed milk is every bit as good as it sounds.
Mike’s Pastry
300 Hanover St, North End
Ask any local for a can’t-miss in this city, and they will send you to Mike’s. The bear claws (giant flaky cream-filled pastries) are so good that one goop staffer goes here as soon as she lands at Logan. A family business, the bakery was started in 1946 by Michael Mercogliano (that’s the Mike in Mike’s Pastry), who arrived from Italy when he was only twelve. Nowadays, it’s run by Mike’s stepson. The team of bakers churns out thousands of the most delicious cannoli you’ll have outside (or possibly inside) of Italy, all packaged in beautiful blue-and-white boxes wrapped in twine. Flavor fillings are endless—hazelnut, chocolate mousse, expresso, pecan caramel, mint chip, even Oreo, to give you an idea. There are multiple lines, and half the fun is weaving your way from one to the other to make it up top. While the heaped cookie trays and ricotta pie may catch your eye, you (and the rest of Boston) are here for the cannoli.
Caffe Vittoria
290-296 Hanover St, North End
Reputedly the first Italian café in Boston and open since 1929, Caffe Vittoria resembles those old-world cafés you find in rural Italian towns. The worn marble floors, the glass display cabinets, and a treasure trove of old coffee machines and espresso makers are reason enough to show up; Vittoria’s is as close as you’ll get to a museum of the development of the modern cup of espresso. This is not the place to order drip coffee. Instead order a cappuccino—and see how it’s really made. Two shots of strong espresso topped with creamy, near-stiff foamed milk, plus a dusting of cocoa. Maybe chase the coffee with a grappa (or vice versa) before looking around.
Diesel Café
257 Elm St, Somerville
Two college kids met while working at a now-closed ice cream shop in Harvard square. They quickly became best friends and decided to trade scoops for beans. That’s the creation story of Diesel, which has been caffeinating Somerville locals since 1999. All the pastries come in hot and fresh from the duo’s own baking company a few doors down. The coffee is sublime, as is the seasonal apple cider and house-made lemonade. Diesel is as much a place you come for a coffee and cinnamon roll as it is a place for community. The long wood tables are perfect for coworking or splitting a few pastries and chatting, while the pool tables in the back encourage locals to strike up conversation and get to know each other—making it all too easy to stay for a second and third cup.
J.P. Licks
1106 Boylston St., Fenway
In 1981, at the age of twenty-six, ice cream-lover Vince Petryk opened J.P. Licks in his Jamaica Plain neighborhood outside of Boston (hence the initials J.P.). Today, there are thirteen locations in and around Boston—including the original in Jamaica Plain, Beacon Hill, Cambridge, and Mission Hill—making this a go-to spot for locals and visitors alike. Part espresso bar, part bakery, part ice cream shop, J.P. Licks's awesome rotation of soft-serve frozen yogurt may be its best selling point, particularly in a city where scooped ice cream largely dominates the scene. Although...the ice cream cakes and chipwhiches at J.P. Licks are really good, too.
J.P. Licks
1618 Tremont St., Mission Hill
In 1981, at the age of twenty-six, ice cream-lover Vince Petryk opened J.P. Licks in his Jamaica Plain neighborhood outside of Boston (hence the initials J.P.). Today, there are thirteen locations in and around Boston—including the original in Jamaica Plain, Beacon Hill, Cambridge, and Fenway/Kenmore—making this a go-to spot for locals and visitors alike. Part espresso bar, part bakery, part ice cream shop, J.P. Licks's awesome rotation of soft-serve frozen yogurt may be its best selling point, particularly in a city where scooped ice cream largely dominates the scene. Although...the ice cream cakes and chipwhiches at J.P. Licks are really good, too.
J.P. Licks
1312 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge
In 1981, at the age of twenty-six, ice cream-lover Vince Petryk opened J.P. Licks in his Jamaica Plain neighborhood outside of Boston (hence the initials J.P.). Today, there are thirteen locations in and around Boston—including the original in Jamaica Plain, Beacon Hill, Mission Hill, and Fenway/Kenmore—making this a go-to spot for locals and visitors alike. Part espresso bar, part bakery, part ice cream shop, J.P. Licks's awesome rotation of soft-serve frozen yogurt may be its best selling point, particularly in a city where scooped ice cream largely dominates the scene. Although...the ice cream cakes and chipwhiches at J.P. Licks are really good, too.
J.P. Licks
150 Charles St., Beacon Hill
In 1981, at the age of twenty-six, ice cream-lover Vince Petryk opened J.P. Licks in his Jamaica Plain neighborhood outside of Boston (hence the initials J.P.). Today, there are thirteen locations in and around Boston—including the original in Jamaica Plain, Cambridge, Mission Hill, and Fenway/Kenmore—making this a go-to spot for locals and visitors alike. Part espresso bar, part bakery, part ice cream shop, J.P. Licks's awesome rotation of soft-serve frozen yogurt may be its best selling point, particularly in a city where scooped ice cream largely dominates the scene. Although...the ice cream cakes and chipwhiches at J.P. Licks are really good, too.
Margie’s Candies
1813 Montrose Ave., North Center
This ice cream parlor and candy shop dates back to 1921 when it was founded by Peter George Poulos, but it didn't get it's name until 1933 when Poulos's son married a woman named Margie Michaels. Currently, the fourth generation is learning the ins and outs of the dessert-making biz. In addition to the original location in Logan Square, which is packed with old-timey memorabilia, there's this second location in North Center, which was opened by Christina Poulous, wife of the third Peter Poulos. The menus vary slightly between locations but include classic sandwiches (egg salad, ham, grilled cheese, PB&J), dizzying (in the best way) sundae combinations, shakes, sodas, homemade candy, and fudge.
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