417 Hanover Street
North End, Boston
The two of us have always loved the North End as a romantic place to go out for a nice dinner. After all, what could be more romantic than stepping into Boston's own Little Italy, with plenty of beautiful and elegant dining areas seen through almost every window? The only problem is, many of the restaurants with the nicest atmosphere also have prices that are far more expensive than a student could afford, even for a special occasion.
That's part of why Emedio's, located right on Hanover Street seemed so appealing. Seeing that the menu was at least in the realm of our budget, and that there wasn't a long line (at 7 p.m. on a Saturday night), the two of us entered to be seated at a cozy table for two by the window. With a nice candlelit table and a view of the pedestrians on the charming street, we had enough romantic setting and then some. It was a pleasant change from MIT's general awfulness.
Probably the main attraction of this restaurant was that there were plenty of unique items on the menu. And we mean unique in the good way, not the "hair cream??" way. At first glance, we saw several entrees of chicken stuffed with other more interesting meats and unexpected vegetables, all prepared in some savory sauces. While these were tempting, loving pasta almost as much as each other, we just could not pass up a pasta dish neither of us had ever seen on any menu in our lives: pumpkin tortellini. The tortellini was definitely a one-of-a-kind experience. Like most of you, we're only used to pumpkin via pie and other sweet pumpkin-flavored desserts. This pasta had the same flavor, and was in fact stuffed with pumpkin meat rather than the usual cheese that tortellini fans know and love. It was satisfying at first, as we ate this spice infused dish as a savory main course, but after eating nearly the whole plate of tortellini, the flavor was almost overwhelming. We would recommend this only to those who really, really like pumpkin, or who don't tend to get sick of a lot of food with the same strong flavor. Or, perhaps, to share with a friend or fiancée.
Now, one of us (we'll leave it as an exercise to the reader which) is a big fan of meat. This person, while sharing in the pumpkin-filled glory, ordered one of the wonderful chicken-stuffed-with-other-meat dishes, the chicken Emedioni. The presentation was truly dazzling: chicken took the center stage on the plate, and was surrounded by potato wedges and large slices of grilled zucchini, squash, tomato, and red peppers, all cut to the same size. It gave us the impression that the chef took pride in his work, and was not satisfied in simply churning out the same standard favorite Italian dishes that you could order in any other North End restaurant. Not only was the food beautiful to look at (and create art out of, if you're into that sort of thing), but it was absolutely scrumptious. The grilled vegetables were delicious, especially with the pleasantly light sauce that covered the chicken, and the chicken itself was, as they say in musical theatre, divine. It was stuffed with prosciutto (Italian cured ham) and, unlike so many of the dishes featuring a combination of meats, each flavor was distinct and well-balanced. The sauce truly brought out the best in both meats, too, leaving both of us salivating just thinking about it.
The service was fine, as would be expected since the small dining room was barely half full as we dined. The crowd did seem to be increasing as we left though, so perhaps that was why our casually friendly and sort-of attentive waiter became less so throughout the evening. The ambience wasn't overtly flashy or showy but still managed to convey just what it needed to, namely Romantic Italian Restaurant.
In the end, the food was definitely not something to shy away from, and the prices make it an affordable (if only occasionally so) night out. We'll chalk this one up as a hidden gem in the North End; come early to avoid the crowds and stay late to avoid a cookie-cutter Italian menu.