A Taste to Remember
By Elizabeth Zakszewski L’Osteria
104 Salem Street
Boston, MA 02113
Let me begin by saying that if you like Italian food and you’ve never been to the North End, you’re not currently living. If you are here this summer, please do yourself a favor: take the T to Haymarket and enjoy an evening stroll in this Italian neighborhood. Be adventurous and walk into the first restaurant that strikes your fancy.
That is exactly what I was doing, with a group of friends on a birthday mob, about a year ago when I first ate at L’Osteria. We were impressed at how polite the hostess was about accommodating a group of over 10 in their small dining area (though it was a Tuesday night). I decided to be brave; rather than order an old standby like Chicken Parmesan, I picked the first pasta dish that looked exciting, Pasta Diavolo ($10.95). It was, if you’ll pardon the expression, love at first bite.
When I took my parents to the North End in August, the memory of that Diavolo sauce lingered in my mind. The spicy tomato sauce had so much flavor. It was spicy, but not the kind of spicy that numbs your taste buds so you can’t tell whether or not you’re eating roadkill. I also remembered how much I loved the bread they brought to the table with olive oil to dip; it had been hard for me to resist hoarding a whole basket for myself. Unfortunately, when I was with my parents, I couldn’t remember the name of this fabulous restaurant, so we picked another place that was fine, but just wasn’t the same.
A few months ago, I tried to convince my boyfriend to play the “random restaurant in the North End” game with me, but he proposed that we be a bit more organized and choose a restaurant before leaving. After perusing restaurant listings online, we finally decided on one called L’Osteria.
Imagine my surprise when we arrived at the address and stepped into what I instantly recognized as the restaurant of my memories! After about an hour’s wait for a table (even with an 8 p.m. reservation on a Friday night), I was finally reunited with my savory sauce, this time in the person of Shrimp Diavolo ($18.95). My boyfriend had Chicken al Burro e Limone ($14.95), which had a delicious lemon butter and white wine sauce. For those of age, the White Zinfandel (a rose or blush-colored wine, $6.50/glass) was excellent, though I wish I’d been warned it did not go well with a spicy dish. And the bread with olive oil was as good as I’d remembered it. We had found a new favorite restaurant.
And so we returned last Sunday with a 7 p.m. reservation. This time, we were seated without a wait. I have recently come to the conclusion that one should never pass up the chance to eat stuffed mushrooms, so I ordered some ($7.95) as an appetizer. While good, I must sadly say that they were not the best I’ve ever had. For my entree, I tried Chicken Pizzaiola ($14.95). The tomato, garlic, and parsley sauce became bland after only a few bites. My boyfriend had Chicken Braciolettine ($16.95), a piece of chicken wrapped in prosciutto and cheese with lemon, butter, dry wine, and mushrooms. He liked it, though I am not as big a fan of meat and felt that the double layer was a bit much. We did, however, find a half-carafe of the house white wine ($11.00) to have an excellent taste and be of good value, filling more than two glasses for a dollar less than the price of two glasses.
I enjoyed the ambiance of the restaurant, with its dim romantic candlelight and a small, intimate home dining room feeling. The wait staff was a bit standoffish, (it was annoying to have to ask for water refills a few times) but not at all rude. I would definitely recommend L’Osteria to North End restaurant fans, especially since the prices are reasonable compared to those of many other restaurants in the neighborhood.
Be prepared to wait on a Friday or Saturday night, though you’ll probably find it worth your while. Despite the few disappointments of my recent visit, I still plan to return. Next time, though, I’ll be sticking with the Diavolo sauce.