This past weekend, I had the immense pleasure of touring Boston’s North End with Annie, the brains and creativity behind Local Pickins. Our goal? To procure all necessary ingredients for a meal, and in doing so, gain a sense of what “local” means to the residents of this famous Italian neighborhood. We also wanted to learn as much as possible about this food-lovers paradise by talking to its creators: the bakers, the pasta makers, the produce sellers, and the espresso pullers. And so, we began our adventure at DePasquale’s Homemade Pasta Shoppe, located at 66A Cross Street, right on the edge of the North End.The Shoppe is small but impeccably organized, with a display case full of fresh pasta (over 50 shapes and sizes!), a cooler full of imported cheeses, and a teeming display of fresh bread and hand-picked goodies from Italy. After a few minutes of pointing into the display case curiously, we began asking the woman behind the counter, Anna Maria, a million and one questions. “How do you know which sauce to pair with each variety of pasta?” “How do you create your flavored pastas?” “Is your mozzarella homemade?” Luckily, Anna Maria was just as excited as we were, and we learned all the answers to our questions….plus more!
There are many, many different ways to decide which sauce to pair with each variety of pasta, but a simple rule of thumb is this: if the pasta is dense, pair it with meat and (usually) a red sauce; if the pasta is on the thinner side, go for something a little lighter, and possibly creamier. Though Anna Maria did give us a small tutorial on appropriate vegetable pairings and corresponding pasta dishes, I can’t begin to replicate her expertise in this post. Instead, I suggest you head over to DePasquale’s yourself for your own batch of local pasta. The pasta is made right behind the counter, so if you visit at the right time, you can see the process behind the magic. If you need more convincing, check out their website and their helpful recipe suggestions!
After DePasquale’s, we managed to locate the narrow alley way leading to Bricco Panetteria, another innovation by Frank DePasquale, the owner of DePasquale’s. At the end of a shaded alley and down a flight of stairs, Bricco Panetteria radiates the fresh smell of delicious artisan bread, hot out of the oven. This bakery is as authentic as it gets, they use local New England flour (King Arthur), and they’re open 24/7. Too good to miss. We tried the sunflower loaf (topped with a beautiful flour design of a sunflower stalk) and a white loaf filled with bits of pork and cheese. Both were notable for their complexity in flavor and freshness, and I can’t wait to go back next time!
Our adventure didn’t stop there: we winded our way through the side streets, looking for the perfect cappuccino and treated our tastebuds to lunch at Trattoria di Monica (goat-cheese stuffed zucchini blossoms, arugala salad with fresh figs, and bruschetta topped with fresh asparagus and a fried egg!). However, I’ll have to save those stories for next time.
Needless to say, our mission was successful, and we left with the necessary ingredients for a delicious, North End-local meal (minus veggies — the neighborhood’s favorite produce stand is closed on Sundays). Back at home, I created a simple meal with our pickins: spicy red pepper fettucini with olive oil, fresh tomatoes, onions, and DePasqual’s perfect mozzarella. I know it probably wasn’t the gourmet dish Anna Maria might have cooked up (she recommended a shrimp scampi to pair with the red pepper fettucini) but the flavors of the spicy pasta balanced by the creamy mozzarella hit the spot.
P.S. If I’ve enticed you to visit the North End and create your own North End-local meal, be sure to check out our listings for guidance and, once you’re back home with your goodies, share your finding with the Local Pickin community by posting a pickin!