J. Pace’s Italian grocery has been a landmark in the North End for over 40 years. Since their beginnings in the original store on Cross Street, they’ve been slowly expanding, and now have locations in the Financial District, the West End and a veritable supermarket up in Saugus. In addition to the fresh meats and veggies, imported Italian cheeses and other specialties, all the locations have a variety of pre-made pasta and other entrées, and made-to-order subs.
Their latest expansion brings them to the Southie waterfront, located near the Bank of America Pavilion. The store is expansive, with three different counters that would dwarf an average sub shop, focusing on deli meats and subs, hot entrées, and pastries and sweets, respectively. As if that weren’t enough, there’s a full beer-and-wine section, and more olive oil, dried pasta and stuffed peppers than you can shake a grissino at.
Some friends and I bisected their menu between cold and hot over the course of two days, beginning with the latter. First up: their stuffed shells with meatballs ($5.49). The ricotta was great and light, but the pasta itself seemed a little overdone and the sauce was nothing to write home about. The meatballs were solid, however.
The teriyaki-soaked chicken wings ($8.95) were fall-off-the-bone deliciousness incarnate. Soaked in a rich sauce and cooked just right, the meat was über tender and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Alongside a heaping medley stack of summer vegetables soaked in olive oil, these little drum majors were spot-on.
My friend opted for one of the specials of the day: beef with veggies stir fry ($8.95), a preparation that would have been more welcome if it were winter. The meat was a little chewy, the veggies a little overcooked and the sauce a little heavy. It was tasty, just underwhelming and too rich overall.
During our next stop, we kept to the cold side of things. Nothing in the prior trip, good as it was, could have prepared us for the transcendent experience we were about to have. Their Big Dig sub ($7.45)—no doubt named after the parade of construction workers streaming into the chain’s North End location during the interminable years of earth-moving last decade—and the prosciutto and fresh mozzarella ($6.95) differed only by the addition of roasted peppers and sun-dried tomatoes to the former. Both feature a large helping of super-thin-sliced prosciutto, generous slices of fresh buffalo mozzarella, basil, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Simply scrumptious.
I ordered the canonical Italian cold cut sub ($5.70)—though quickly partially consumed by my dining mate, it was quite simply the best combination of ingredients I’ve ever had placed in front of me atop a roll. Even the roll itself was soft yet just crusty enough, sprinkled with sesame seeds.
Overall, it’s a nice addition to the sit-and-stay spots along the waterfront, and is no doubt a refuge for any foodies who work for Fidelity.
Rating: * * * *
* * * * * phenomenal
* * * * added to the regular rotation
* * * solid cuisine, presentation and taste
* * average
J. PACE & SON
ONE PARK LANE