North End twofer hidden in an alleyway
Too often, the North End is seen as nothing more than a tourist trap that no true Bostonian would be caught dead in. This has always seemed a bit of a head-scratcher, because while sure, a number of Italian restaurants and food spots indeed cater to out-of-towners and not all reach the quality of some of the truly outstanding places found in such communities as Medford, Revere, Everett, and Malden, this very old neighborhood still has plenty to offer if you love Italian food. And it’s not only such stalwarts as Al Dente on Salem Street or Mother Anna’s on Hanover Street that cater more toward the neighborhood than tourists, but also some of the newer places, including a couple of real gems with a familiar name that are buried in the back of a narrow alleyway. Ever hear of Bricco? Many have indeed heard of this upscale restaurant on Hanover Street, but not nearly as many have heard of Bricco Panetteria or Bricco Salumeria & Pasta Shop as Bricco restaurant—though locals have certainly started to discover both.
Both Bricco Panetteria and Bricco Salumeria & Pasta Shop are extremely easy to find, but they are also extremely easy to miss, especially when the sidewalks on Hanover Street are busy (which is basically all the time). If you find yourself at Bricco restaurant—which is located a few storefronts from the Rose Kennedy Greenway on the south side of Hanover—look to the right of the dining spot and you will see a dark alleyway with a street sign saying “Board Alley.” Walk down the alley to the end and you’ll come to the bakery entrance to the left and the food shop entrance to the right. Bricco Panetteria is actually down a staircase in a basement space, and it basically consists of a small ordering counter at the bottom of the staircase and behind it, the breadmaking area of the bakery, and that’s about it. Coming back up the stairs, the entrance to Bricco Salumeria & Pasta Shop is a bit more obvious, with the store being front and center at ground level and being an attractive little space with display cases and shelves full of food throughout, salami hanging from hooks, and blackboard menus behind the ordering area. A doorway in the shop leads to a four-season patio at Mare Oyster Bar, which is under the same ownership (DePasquale Ventures, headed up by Frank DePasquale), and here’s a little secret that not many know: Mare’s patio can also be used by Bricco Panetteria/Bricco Salumeria & Pasta Shop customers if they want to sit down and enjoy some of the foods that they have purchased at the stores.
The breads offered at Bricco Panetteria are nothing short of extraordinary—old-world loaves made fresh and sold to customers as well as used for the restaurants run by DePasquale Ventures (Bricco, Mare, Trattoria Il Panino, Quattro, Aqua Pazza). A few options at the bakery (depending on the day and what time you show up) include ciabatta with olives, ciabatta stuffed with prosciutto and parmesan, French and Italian baguettes, a round country bread called “miche,” a sunflower bread, a raisin bread, and more. If you like focaccia, Bricco has one of the best in the city, and while it may look like pizza, it definitely isn’t; it’s actually a soft, spongy bread that is a bit salty and oily, and it’s topped with such items as mozzarella cheese, basil, and tomato. And while Bricco Panetteria is a bit of a one-trick pony (as bread bakeries tend to be), Bricco Salumeria & Pasta Shop—which used to be known as DePasquale’s Homemade Pasta Shoppe before moving from nearby Cross Street a few years ago—is where you get everything else, including olives, salami, croissants, cheeses, olive oil, house-made tomato sauce, and a variety of freshly made pastas, along with antipasti, salads, and sandwiches, with the latter including an Italian sub so delicious that it may make you weep.
In a way, Bricco Panetteria and Bricco Salumeria & Pasta Shop feel like places you might find in an ancient Italian city, with their alley location and old-world products giving them a certain uniqueness that can’t be overstated. Some may pooh-pooh the North End, but there are some real destination spots in this charming Boston neighborhood, with the two Bricco shops heading up the pack.
BRICCO PANETTERIA. 241 HANOVER ST., BOSTON. BRICCOPANETTERIA.COM
BRICCO SALUMERIA & PASTA SHOP. 11 BOARD ALLEY, BOSTON. BRICCOSALUMERIA.COM
Marc is the founder of @hiddenboston, a textbook editor, a hike leader for @AppMtnClub, and a food and travel writer and commenter for DigBoston, NBC/NECN, WBZ, WMFO and indie617.