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Maria's, the Locals' Best-Kept Secret in Boston

Maria's, the Locals' Best-Kept Secret in Boston


Everyone knows that Mike’s Pastry and Modern Pastry are the places to go for cannolis in Boston’s North End. That’s Maria’s Pastry.

As with Modern, Maria’s cannolis are filled upon ordering, but with the added benefit of losing most of the tourists. Located off Hanover Street, the North End’s main drag, Maria’s has all the claims of authenticity (family-run and operated since 1982, traditional Italian recipes), but it possesses a refreshing atmosphere. The place has a take-it-or-leave-it vibe. There’s fluorescent lighting, a cat wanders around, and during one visit a customer got chided for complaining about the mini pizzas.

Once you order from behind the counter and sit down, they pretty much forget about you, which is a good thing considering you’re not going to want to be distracted. The cannoli has a crunchy, but not overly brittle outer shell filled with a soft, not-too-sweet and incredibly fresh-tasting ricotta cream that rivals anything found at the more populated pastry destinations.


The 9 Most Iconic Bloody Marys in New Orleans

There’s a reason that New Orleans is most commonly known as “The Big Easy.” From its round-the-clock nightlife to its vibrant live music scene, it’s always easy to find entertainment… and something to drink.

What better way to celebrate Louisiana, home to some of the hottest sauces in the world, than with a bottomless, boozy, Saturday morning pick-me-up? Here are some restaurants that serve up some of the spiciest and most celebrated Bloody Marys that NOLA has to offer.

1. Apolline

Photo courtesy of @nolafoodandtravel

They don’t call it the “Deluxe Bloody Mary” for nothing. Apolline’s house-made Bloody Mary topped with spicy green beans, cherry tomatoes, lemon, lime, and even boiled shrimp, is commonly mistaken for a meal on its own.

#SpoonTip: Match this Bloody Mary with Apolline’s famous Crispy Chicken Confit & French Toast.

2. Atchafalaya

Photo courtesy of eatingwithziggy.com

For when you need to take a break from your daily dining hall salad bar: Atchafalaya has redefined the term “salad bar” by turning it into a Bloody Mary bar. Restaurant owner Tony Tocco even said “It seemed like a good thing to do, have basically a salad bar for vodka.”

3. Willa Jean

You know you’re going to leave satisfied when you go to one of Chef John Besh’s restaurants. Since its’ opening, Willa Jean has already become one of the most essential spring 2016 restaurants in New Orleans, and this refreshing morning cocktail will reaffirm that.

4. Dante’s Kitchen

Photo courtesy of fleurdelicious-nola.com

Dante’s Kitchen is an uptown staple that is best known for using an abundance of local, fresh ingredients. This includes fresh tomatoes and herbs that are thoughtfully blended together to create the perfect amount of spice in their world-famous Bloody Mary.

#SpoonTip: If you too want to get creative and make your own house-made Bloody Mary mix, look no further.

5. Elizabeth’s

Commonly known as one of the Best Boozy Brunches in NOLA, it is no surprise that their house-made Bloody Mary has made its way onto this list.

6. Hotel Monteleone

Photo courtesy of @hotelmonteleone

Everyone in New Orleans has heard about Hotel Monteleone’s swanky Carousel Bar. Come here to feel like the mature adult that you aren’t and toss back a Mary or two.

7. Wayfare

Photo courtesy of wayfarenola.com

Ah yes, another groundbreaking Bloody Mary bar. If you’re looking to brunch like you’ve never brunched before, head over to Wayfare. And be sure to wash down your decadent BLFGT (bacon, lettuce, FRIED GREEN tomato) with a hand crafted Bloody Mary.

8. Araña

Photo courtesy of @arananola

This Mexican hotspot is normally not the first place that comes to mind when you think of Bloody Marys. Their special “Bloody Maria” is filled with beer and enhanced with house-made Bloody mix and a spicy salt rim.

9. Brick & Spoon

Photo courtesy of @brickandspoon

When there is a specific Bloody Mary section on the restaurant’s menu, you know this place means business. Customers get to choose vodka type, spiciness level, and any topping their heart so desires, like a pickled green bean or a deviled egg. Power to the customer. But actually, power to the Bloody Mary, because that thing’s huge.


Remembering The Old Stove Pub in Sagaponack

The Old Stove Pub in Sagaponack was one of the East End’s most iconic restaurants.

Craig Claiborne and Pierre Franey published the Old Stove Pub’s moussaka recipe in their New York Times food column on September 11, 1977, and it was all uphill from there for the Johnides family.

Mama Bessie, as Vasiliki Johnides was known, was married to her husband John Johnides for 57 years before he died in 1969 and she moved from Boston to Sagaponack to open a roadside Greek taverna with three of her four children.

By the time Mama Bessie passed, the day after her 92nd birthday on June 18, 1992, her daughter Coula was greeting customers at the door and managing the floor, just like her mother. Coula, and the heavily charred steaks, were the reasons people kept coming back to the Greek, despite her somewhat gruff manner.

Billy Joel was a regular and when he didn’t come in for a while, Coula would ask him, “Billy, where you been?” and pinch him on the cheek. She didn’t know he was a famous musician with a regular gig at Madison Square Garden. To her, he was just a regular. “I’ve been working,” Joel told her.

She never denied loving John F. Kennedy, Jr.

Her two brothers Stephen and Constantine, or Steve and Gus as they were more well known, worked in the kitchen and behind the bar respectively. They were characters too and sometimes, Coula and Gus would go tit-for-tat in front of customers. Somehow, this added to the charm of the rickety place.

Floorboards were warped. The grand piano, out of tune.

Floorboards were warped. The grand piano, out of tune. The dining chairs were more suited to an outdoor picnic, as were the red and white checkered tablecloths. The china was mismatched. The bar was tiny. The covered “sunset” porch could be cold and the interior dining area could be hot.

Nothing was hotter than the brick-walled broiler that burned at a steady 600-degrees. The baked saganaki, moussaka, pasticcio, prime steaks, dry aged on premise, not to mention, the authentic Greek salads, the taramasalata, Greek wines and ouzo.

The food and the atmosphere were homey, because the restaurant was a home. Originally an 1820 farmhouse, the property includes the 75 seat eatery with a 10 seat bar and cozy fireplace, and a 3 bedroom cottage, an artist studio and various outbuildings.

When the Johnides family moved in, the pub was called the 19th Hole, in reference to Poxabogue Golf Course next door, which had 18 holes then. They discarded an old stove on the side of the road, hence the name that still remains on the neon sign, a red arrow pointing the way.

“ There was no doubt Coula was the boss.”

Jim and Maria Hatgistavrou, owners of Wainscott Inn down the road, were long time customers. “We’re Greek. We can eat and talk,” Maria told me, one summer night in 2018. They were sitting at one of the big round tables on the porch with their friends Anastasia and George Gavalas.

“She said it like it is,” said Anastasia. “Then gave me a great steak.” When Coulas found out the Gavalas’ were builders, she told them she had 15 acres for sale.

“Coula was a little feisty,” Maria said “She always favored the men. Gus was the bartender, and a womanizer. Steve was the quiet one.” There was no doubt Coula was the boss. When a steak came out black as charcoal, Maria told her, “Sorry, I can’t eat this steak.”

“Are you Greek?” Coula would reply in a stern voice. “She was yelling at me, telling me I don’t know how to eat steak,” Maria laughed at the memory. “She loved the restaurant.”

She didn’t always love Gus’s girlfriends, however and went as far as to tell the Hatgistavrous not to rent a room to one of his paramours. Needless to say, the siblings all remained single.

Gus, who was also an artist, kept a studio a few yards from the restaurant. One night, a friend and I got a tour after dinner and discovered his tree branch and women’s underwear sculptures. He was nothing but a gentleman, however, some other items found after his death on August 15, 1999 at 81 years were truly unmentionable.

Gounelas brought youth to the table. He had Reggae and blues bands playing on the lawn, techno DJs, karaoke theme nights ranging from the Beatles to ‘90s hip hop and even outdoor movies.

Steve, who taught their butcher a thing or two about dry aging beef, handled the Southbend broiler, (not an easy task) and gave the famous chefs his moussaka recipe, died on April 17, 2002, also at 81 years.

“At one point, it closed,” Maria said of the steakhouse. “Since it reopened, we haven’t stopped coming. We’ve been friends with George forever.”

George Gounelas is the ultimate host, and ultimately, the last host of the Old Stove Pub. “Especially in winter, they’re all regulars. On Friday, I know exactly who’s coming in,” he said during service that last summer. “That’s the kind of atmosphere I like to have. Make people feel comfortable.”

Gounelas, 37, grew up in Shirley, and served as an altar boy at the Dormition of the Virgin Mary, Greek Orthodox Church of the Hampton in Southampton when he was eight years old. “I’m Greek,” he said during service that last summer. “My dad had a diner in Farmingville, Chris’s Diner, and I worked like legit from seven to 21.”

He’s known the Johnides family and many of their regular customers for much of his life. “Coula was very involved with the Greek church,” he said. “She loved it here. She came here once a week.”

Gounelas brought youth to the table. He had Reggae and blues bands playing on the lawn, techno DJs, karaoke theme nights ranging from the Beatles to ‘90s hip hop and even outdoor movies.

Prior to Gounelas’ six year run, local Chef Colin Ambrose held the reigns for two years.

“Jimmy Fallon won’t leave. Six years, every week,” said Gounelas setting up karaoke one Thursday night in July, two months before they closed. “He was playing the theme from Zelda on the piano last night.”

Prior to Gounelas’ six year run, local chef Colin Ambrose held the reigns for two years. “I operated the Old Stove Pub in 2007 and 2008,” he said recently.

Under the Johnides’ family, eating at the Old Stove was like eating at your grandmother’s house for Sunday dinner. It was loving but a bit dysfunctional. Gounelas attracted a fun, frenetic, fraternity like atmosphere. Ambrose was the serious foodie.

Investor Brian Murray had been a regular at Ambrose’s first restaurant Estia’s. The two ran into each other at Rowdy Hall in the spring of 2007 and started to make a plan that fit Ambrose’s busy schedule, as well as the aging septic system.

They spent two months sorting through 40 years worth of the family’s remnants, and cleaning the kitchen, sunset porch, bar and dining room. They tuned the piano and opened on Memorial Day, Sunday through Thursday that first season.

“Coula was less than helpful,” said Ambrose. “However I was able to determine many of the keys to sourcing products like her brother Stephen’s prime meat supplier and several recipes by sifting through old receipts and invoices piled waist deep in the upstairs office.”

“I also found an old recipe that had been published in The New York Times Magazine in the ‘70’s for Moussaka in a frame on a shelf in the back of a closet,” said Ambrose. “The glass in the frame was broken.”

He found the original “cold fudge” recipe, a frozen fudge dessert that had been on the Old Stove Pub menu for years.

“I also found an old recipe that had been published in The New York Times Magazine in the ‘70’s for Moussaka in a frame on a shelf in the back of a closet,” he said “The glass in the frame was broken.”

It was after that story came out, the celebrities flooded in. Barbara Walters, Hugh Carey, Truman Capote, George Plimpton, Peter Maas, Mario Puzo, Joseph Heller, Sidney Lumet, Elia Kazan, Gloria Vanderbilt and Calvin Klein came for the moussaka, but came back for much more.

The recipe was also published in “Craig Claiborne’s Favorites from the New York Times: Volume 4.” I located the book, thanks to Diane Franey, the daughter of Pierre Franey, who wrote the piece, “Moussaka for the Masses,” with Claiborne.

“One of the best moussakas we know is that made by Steve Johnides, chief cook and proprietor of the Old Stove Pub in our home town, East Hampton.” Close enough. “Although the length of this recipe makes it look difficult, it is actually quite easy to prepare,” the story goes.

Even Diane, who has made the recipe, had to disagree on that one. “Look, you have to make the bechamel sauce, and tomato sauce,” she said sitting at her kitchen counter. There are 22 steps, not including the sauces.

Ambrose substituted the beef in the original recipe for lamb from Cromer’s Market in Noyac, and for a harvest dinner, used Quail Hill venison. He prepared it in hotel pans a day ahead, as per the recipe: “That way, the moussaka gets a chance to ‘set,’ and, therefore, is easier to cut into serving pieces.”

“It sold well and was the least expensive entree item on the menu,” Ambrose said.

John Legend, Shakira, Rocko DiSpirito, Jon Bon Jovi, Ronald Lauder, Kelly Klein and on more than one occasion, the pianist Peter Duchin stopped in for dinner and sat at the piano after his steak.

Cut slices were finished in the broilers’ upper deck, above the burners, the same spot where they melted the saganaki, and a kasseri cheese appetizer. “That box above the broilers maintained a constant 600 degrees so pickups were fast,” Ambrose said. “I recall incinerating a few of each of those dishes on busy nights.”

The celebrities still rolled into the joint. John Legend, Shakira, Rocko DiSpirito, Jon Bon Jovi, Ronald Lauder, Kelly Klein and on more than one occasion, the pianist Peter Duchin stopped in for dinner and sat at the piano after his steak.

“My favorite evening was a Thursday in August, 2008 when the biggest steakhouse impresarios in the world, Allan Stillman and Peter Morton came for dinner on the sunset porch and ordered our bone-in, 60-ounce, sliced New York strips, on different tables.”

“The steaks were prime 30-day aged, bone-in ‘179’ strips that we cut to 3 inches on the bandsaw,” he said. “We also cut porterhouse steaks daily at 3 inches. Colorado lamb racks were cut to 1.5 inches.”

Christopher Gachot of Gachot and Gachot, was the Old Stove’s best kept secret. The butcher was based out of the meat market, at 440 West 14th Street in Manhattan, back in the day. Now, it’s the location of Diane Von Furstenburg women’s clothing store.

“The name changed while I was buying from them,” said Ambrose.

“As I understand it, for years Stephen would drive to the city and buy aged meat in the meatpacking district,” said Ambrose. “He would then bring 30-day aged 179’s back to the Old Stove Pub and age them another 30 days or more.”

Ambrose served Cabernet Franc from their neighbor Wölffer Estate Vineyard as their house wine to wash down their steaks, and Christian Wölffer was also a regular. In fact, the winemaker had thoughts of buying the Old Stove Pub just before his tragic death in a swimming accident off the Brazilian coast.

With the economy sinking faster than the Titanic, Murray abandoned the idea of putting together a deal with other investors and the property sat empty for four years.

Gounelas met restaurateur, and New York City’s pretzel king, Tom Makkos at his Southampton restaurant, Nammos Estiatorio, formerly Nello’s Summertime. Makkos and his partner Tim Salouros of Trata in Water Mill, installed Gounelas as general manager in 2012 and again, the Old Stove Pub got a facelift and the old menu was revived.

The Old Stove Pub is currently for sale for $3,495,000, down from the original asking price of $4,295,000 in September 2018, weeks after they closed for good.

The absence of ouzo and taramasalata was the first red flag that something was off at the Old Stove Pub during my last visit. Chairs were piled on top of tables in the back dining room, which seemed more like a storage area than a place to “Come to the Greek,” as their long-time slogan proclaimed.

Coula sold off several large residential parcels adjacent to the Old Stove Pub, as well as her Bridgehampton home, shortly before she died on March 15, 2018 at the age of 90.

Less than a month after her death, on April 10, 2018, a real estate transfer noted “Bridgehampton Restaurant” sold to � Montauk Highway” for $1.9 million, for the property at 3516 and 3510 Montauk Highway, the site of the Old Stove Pub. It’s currently for sale for $3,495,000, down from the original asking price of $4,295,000 in September 2018, weeks after they closed for good.

During her final years, she donated enough money to the Greek Orthodox Church of the Hamptons for them to build the Johnides Family Cultural Center. The limestone, granite and marble building opened in 2013 on St. Andrews Road in Southampton, and includes seven state-of-the-art classrooms, a recreation room, a conference room, administrative offices, a library, and a fully equipped kitchen.

In addition, the Johnides Family Foundation will assure the maintenance of the building as well as the continued success of various ministry programs within the structure. According to Gounelas, Coula put to shame many well-to-do donors with her contributions when the Church was raising funds for a complete rebuild.

“A little old lady called them out,” he said. “She was a stickler but a good lady.”

In her obituary Father Alexander Karloutsos of the Church said Coula was like the Old Stove Pub’s steak. “Charred on the outside but tender on the inside.”


What do they look like?

The green waters of Lagoa do Fogo, only a 15 minute drive from the capital Ponto Delgado. Photo: Courtesy of Visit Azores The closest comparison is that the Azores are the Hawaii of the Atlantic, being steep-sided, beautiful, wild, but with the addition of 500 years of European culture.

There are blue lakes ringed by forests of laurel and cedar, and green pastures patterning the slopes of epic calderas.

Wild rocky coasts are broken by sandy beaches, while hot springs bubble near Portuguese architectured towns. The capital Ponta Delgada features mosaic cobbled streets meandering down to a marina lined with incredible (and super affordable) seafood restaurants.


Haute Secrets Boston: Taniya Nayak of HGTV

Taniya Nayak is best recognized for her work as a design expert on HGTV and the Food Network’s Restaurant: Impossible with Robert Irvine, but she is most known around Boston for her local interior design firm, Taniya Nayak Design LLC. The TV personality and award-winning designer takes her unique style and transforms commercial and residential spaces into a clean, modern design. (Her designs can be seen at local restaurants throughout Boston, including Whiskey Republic, Julep Bar, and Abby Lane).

Nayak is a regular on HGTV shows, including Showdown, Bang for Your Buck and White House Specials and has been featured in a variety of magazines, including People, Cosmopolitan, Glamour.

She has also appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, NBC’s Today and Rachael Ray. Next week, she is hosting a viewing party for the season premiere of ABC’s “The Great Christmas Light Fight”, which she co-hosts, on Monday, December 7 from 7 to 10 p.m. at Back Bay Harry’s restaurant, which she also co-owns. The event will benefit the nonprofit organization, Smile Train.

We caught up with her recently to find out what she loves most about Boston.

Where were you born? India

How long in Boston? Since I was 2 months old

Where do you live now? Milton

Occupation? Interior Designer and Television host (HGTV, Food Network, ABC) and Brand Ambassador for Ellen Degeneres “ED on Air” home decor line.

Best Sushi: Fuji in Quincy

Best Italian: Cafe Bella in Randolph

Best dessert: Carrot Cake at Ashmont Grill

Best place for a romantic date: Home

Best Sunday brunch: Back Bay Harry’s in Boston Back Bay and The Poynt in Newburyport

Best place for a power business meeting: Bostonia Public House

If you have out of town guests, which hotel would you recommend? The W or The Revere

Favorite shopping venue/boutique: Club Monaco Prudential Mall

Best Spa: Katana Salon and Spa in Winchester

Favorite Charity Event: Room to Dream

Best Steakhouse: Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Boston

Best Pizza: The Poynt in Newburyport

Best Gym/Athletic Facility: Milton Hill Sports Club

Best Massage: Massage by Miro at Milton Hill Sports Club

Best Driving Service: Uber

Favorite historic/legendary place to see or explore: The Freedom Trail

Describe Boston in three words: Real, Beautiful, Fun

All-around favorite locale in Boston, whether a neighborhood, restaurant, venue, or other: McGreeveys on Boyston St. (Best place to watch a game)


VisitAnnaMaria


This perfect picture postcard kind of place moves at a very slow pace. Often know as Florida's best kept secret, Anna Maria Island sits at the southern tip of Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico and is perched north of Longboat Key. Leave the car at home and travel the island by trolley bus. Cycle or walk to your favorite watering hole to enjoy the sunset. Stay at one of the Anna Maria Island hotels or vacation rental homes scatted around the Island.
There are no high rise buildings in this area, just houses with the &ldquoOld Florida&rdquo feel, in neighborhoods that are not far from the water&rsquos edge. A kayak or fishing boat is the favored transportation for exploring the inlets and canals that shelter Snook and Redfish beneath age old fishing docks. With and average temperature of 75 degrees, this year round attraction with its laid back feel is the place to relax, soak up the sun and enjoy the delights of some of the award winning restaurants. The beaches of Anna Maria Island are some of the best on the Gulf Coast. Not for just the soft sugar white sands and the rich turquoise blue water but the most incredible sunsets that this part of the world is famous for.

Manatees and Dolphins


Wildlife is in abundance everywhere you look. Stroll the shore and look for the occasional Manatee and Bottlenose Dolphin just beyond the waves. May to July is turtle nesting season so be careful where you walk. Wild Parrots can be heard chattering from the trees or see them fly past in droves searching for a safe place to perch. In the summer months Turtles come ashore to lay their eggs. Herons will wait close to the fisherman ready to steal bait from his bucket of pinfish and shiners. Pelicans sit patiently in the Mangroves and perch on the deck post waiting for fish to swim by. Sit for a while in the shade beneath the Australian Pines, sea oats dancing in the wind, Terns and Sandpiper run between the surf, hungry for crabs and crustaceans.

The Areas Most Popular Attractions


Each of the three fishing Piers are places to sit and watch the world go by. Nets in hand, locals cast their weighted mesh on to an approaching shoal of Mullet. If the catch is good, sometimes too heavy to lift back onto the deck. The Rod and Reel Pier offers tremendous views of Egmont and Passage Key whilst the most popular Anna Maria City Pier gives a closer look at the Skyway Bridge just off in the distance. Watch Cruise Ships and Cargo Vessels leave Tampa Bay to destinations unknown delicately sailing beneath its span. Ask the waitress for a window seat at the City Pier Restaurant and observe fisherman reel in a big one. At weekends, as the sun goes down, listen to Howie on the Guitar playing requested songs or talk with Bill the rock guy, who sells his wares, polishing his rocks and fossils outside the restaurant. The ice cream shop at Bayside is popular with young and old and serves up treats late into the evening long past the sunset.

Take the Trolley with its complimentary fare as it travels the full length of this island, 7 miles in length, stopping at popular spots on the way. Picture Galleries display wonderful renderings from local artists. Holmes Beach Captain&rsquos moor their vessels at Catchers Marina and couples walk the plaza shops looking for a souvenir to save the memory.

Anna Maria Island is was only accessible by boat until 1921. Passengers would arrive by steam ferry from the nearby port of Tampa, stepping off the boat at the Anna Maria City Pier. The island Visitors would walk down Pine Ave to the beach and sit on the sugar white sand to watch the Sunset on the Gulf of Mexico. A bridge was eventually built from the village of Cortez on the eastern side of the island across the intra coastal waterway. Parts of the bridge still remain today as the fishing Pier at Bridge Street Pier in the City of Bradenton Beach.

Where is Anna Maria Island?


Directions - Anna Maria Island is 53 miles from Tampa International Airport (a short 1 hour drive).
Take I-275 South from Tampa, across the stunning Skyway Bridge overlooking Tampa Bay. Then follow route 19 to 64 west which takes you to the beaches and Holmes Beach. (Google Map, Tampa Airport)

Sarasota - Bradenton International Airport is a convenient 18 miles away which takes on average 30 mins drive time.
Take route 41 towards Bradenton, Head west on route 70 (Cortez) to 75th St. Take 75th Street North to 64 west (Manatee Ave). Follow 64 to the beaches and Anna Maria Island. (Google Map, Sarasota Airport)

Whether you're planning an island wedding, looking for Anna Maria Island real estate, beach holiday or Anna Maria Island vacation rental from one of the local management companies, use this business directory to find what you need.

Take plenty of pictures when you arrive to share with friends and relatives we know that you'll be back.


Bova’s Bakery. / Photograph by Jared Kuzia

On one hand, you can’t throw a cannoli without hitting a great restaurant in Boston’s North End. On the other, when there’s so many options, it’s hard to decide where to go on any given night. Allow us, then, to narrow the scope to a handful of favorites that never fail to deliver—including pasta-filled trattorias, pizza landmarks, amazing bakeries, and more. (Of course, these being unusual times, it never hurts to call ahead and double-check operating status—especially if you’re hoping to score outdoor seating in the North End’s expanded patio scene, which has returned for another season.)

Arya Trattoria

What do Melissa McCarthy, the Rock, and Joey Kramer have in common? They’ve all dined at this intimate second-floor restaurant, where first-time restaurateur Massimo Tiberi has pulled in a crowd of celebs big and…not so big (ciao, Kris Humphries) over the past few years. Maybe it’s his genuinely warm “Welcome to my house” greeting at the start of the meal. Maybe it’s the expert wine-pairing advice—a server-recommended nebbiolo was structured and sturdy, the ideal accompaniment to our fall-apart-tender osso buco. Or maybe it’s just the generous portions of better-than-average regional Italian fare.

Bova’s Bakery

Frequent turnover isn’t usually a good thing in the hospitality industry. But it has helped Bova’s Bakery—the tipsy college student’s go-to spot for a cream-filled lobster tail or cheese-and-meatball-stuffed arancini at 3 a.m.—stay in business for nearly a century. Three extended families, all descendants of founder George Bova, each run the always-open bakery for six months before handing it over for the next “turn” to manage.

Gnocchi Sorrentina is on the takeout menu from the North End’s Bricco ristorante. / Photo courtesy of Bricco

If you feel like you’re being taken care of by an entire Italian village when you dine at Frank DePasquale’s Hanover Street flagship, it’s because you are: The restaurant’s breads, fresh pastas, and imported meats are sourced from DePasquale’s own old-world panetteria and salumeria next door. His restaurant group, in fact, is a mini North End empire, with an extended-stay pensione above Bricco and several other eateries dotting the neighborhood. But this modern standby is still the one to beat for its well-executed menu of Italian staples—pillowy gnocchi baked with bufala mozzarella was a favorite—and classic steakhouse dishes.

At first blush, this stylish Sicilian-inspired restaurant, with its open kitchen, exposed brick, and retractable front walls for warmer months, feels like it might belong in the South End. But one spoonful of executive chef Damien DiPaola’s creative pasta dishes—from the tightly curled ribbons of fresh fettuccine accented with pistachio pesto and a shock of vibrant ahi tuna to the impossibly rich baked rollati filled with prosciutto and ricotta—will bring you right back to Hanover Street.

The Daily Catch

Not many restaurants with a $88 entrée (the lobster fra diavolo for two) can get away with serving wine in disposable cups, not accepting credit cards, and asking guests to tiptoe through the dishwashing station to get to the restroom. But the garlicky squid-ink pasta golden, greaseless calamari and surprisingly addictive monkfish Marsala at this intimate, family-run hole in the wall will make you quickly forget about those minor inconveniences. While there’s no dessert menu here (who needs one when there are a half-dozen bakeries within walking distance?), at the end of a meal, you may find yourself lingering at the table, mesmerized by the one-man show in the open kitchen and the endless plates of seafood coming out hot and fast.

Galleria Umberto

From appearances, you wouldn’t know there’s anything special about this nondescript North End pizzeria: The cash-only operation kind of looks like a cafeteria, has no website, offers only a few items, and closes once they sell out (usually by mid-afternoon). But anyone who has ever tasted the decades-spanning institution’s perfect, doughy-delicious Sicilian slices knows that even in a historic neighborhood flush with competition, these are truly landmark squares.

289 Hanover St., 617-227-5709.

La Famiglia Giorgio’s. / Photograph by Nina Gallant

La Famiglia Giorgio’s

“It might even be as good as my mom’s” is a sentiment echoed over and over again inside this cozy Salem Street brownstone, where the Giorgio family has been churning out gargantuan portions of red-sauce classics for nearly three decades. Favorites range from the irresistibly spicy frutti di mare with fresh fettuccine (worth the $3 upcharge) to the tender eggplant Parm with a bright marinara.

In normal-times, it’s not uncommon to hear passerby mutter, “Is it really worth the wait?” to a legion of devotees lined up outside this seafood and pasta spot for more than an hour—on a Tuesday night. Answer: most of the time, especially if you have a big appetite. The budget-friendly restaurant sates the hungry masses with piles of butter-saturated garlic bread and heaping portions of chicken Parm, served with $20 bottles of wine. At $60 for two (or more) diners, the oft-Instagrammed zuppa di pesce, a staggeringly large platter of linguine with lobster, shrimp, scallops, calamari, clams, mussels, and your choice of sauce, is the best deal under the restaurant’s tin ceiling—and possibly in the whole neighborhood.

Note: Il Molo is temporarily closed.

For those who can’t, er, stomach the tourists and rose vendors clogging up Hanover’s sidewalks comes this waterfront spot, just a seven-minute stroll from the action but seemingly a world away. The dining room eschews the neighborhood’s traditional dark décor in favor of pearly glass tiles and marine blues and greens, creating a relaxed, contemporary ambiance for dinner with friends. Kick back with a creative cocktail—may we suggest an Il Molo Mai Tai, with rum, lemon, and almond?—before tucking into seafood-focused plates like shrimp-and-basil-stuffed trout with tomatoes and mussels daily house-made pasta with buttery lobster and mushrooms and the innovative hot seafood tower.

Serious tipplers won’t be disappointed by the selection at Lucca, which offers an of-the-moment beverage menu—cocktails like the herbal Moment in Thyme rotating craft brews on draft and a deep list of whiskeys—alongside a top-notch cellar of Italian and Californian wines. The kitchen is open past midnight, so before or after the game, post up at the dining-friendly bar for the white wine and saffron-bathed mussels with house-baked focaccia, or baked orecchiette with broccolini and fontina crema—like a northern Italian take on mac ’n’ cheese.

Mamma Maria. / Photograph by Jared Kuzia

Mamma Maria

Its name may suggest red-sauce casual, but this North Square townhouse restaurant is quite the opposite, focusing on refined Italian fare: Beef carpaccio with arugula and black truffles is a lighter spin on the mayo-topped version developed at Harry’s Bar in Venice, while fresh pappardelle pasta is tossed in a hearty Tuscan-style rabbit ragu. The service and setting—including several chandeliered private dining areas, one of which seats just four—is white-tablecloth formal. It’s a style that’s falling out of fashion these days, but is still comforting to revisit every once in a while, especially when it gives Nonna a chance to break out her pearls.

Neptune Oyster

With its sleek, brasserie-like interior, straight-from-the-water bivalves, and buttery, overstuffed lobster rolls, this landmark would earn a spot on any list of essential restaurants across Boston—not just those in the North End. Neptune remains consistently excellent both in the kitchen (try the comforting, seafood-packed cioppino and the sweet-savory johnnycake topped with honey butter, caviar, and smoked trout) and in the front of the house. Friendly yet firm hosts politely shoo out those keeping the door cracked open on a cold day, and make good on promises to call your cell in two hours when your seat at the marble bar is finally ready.

Take your chances rolling the 20-sided die that this quirky, contemporary Italian tavern offers to guests adventurous enough to accept a random selection from its secret list of numbered cocktails—no matter what you end up with, you won’t be disappointed. That said, if you’d rather know what you’re getting into, there’s plenty of spicy, sweet, and herbal tinctures described on the rotating menus of themed drinks, as well as the option to pair your favorite spirit with a shrub, offered in flavors like pineapple-citrus and blackberry-cilantro. All the tipples are equally excellent for washing down Parla’s modern small plates, which tap into some broader Mediterranean influences: Lamb skewers with cucumber labneh and a parsley, vidalia, and sumac salad, for instance.

Prezza

20 years after it opened, chef Anthony Caturano’s debut still hits the sweet spot between romantic hideaway (a candle on every table) and neighborhood hang (a game always on at the bar). Nestled on Fleet Street, the restaurant boasts a 27-page wine list and lush dishes such as raviolo di uovo, a single oversize orb of brown butter-drenched pasta filled with ricotta and egg yolk, and perfectly braised lamb shank. The minimalist dining room, with its gallery- style lighting and a few pieces of stark contemporary art, keeps the focus exactly where it should be—on your meal, and your company.

Regina Pizzeria

We can’t vouch for all the secondary locations of the North End-born pizzeria chain, but the original location—founded in 1926 and Boston’s oldest restaurant for brick oven pizza—remains legendary for a reason. The pies arrive with cheese bubbling, crusts crisped just-so, and sauce tantalizingly tangy. The atmosphere is a huge part of the experience too: Regina doesn’t look like she’s had a makeover for decades (that’s a good thing!) and the walls are covered in photos of major celebrities who have stopped by for a legendary slice or two.

Strega by Nick Varano

A glowing shelf with saffron-tinted Liquore Strega. Eight crystal chandeliers. A VIP photo wall. And yes, that’s really The Godfather and Goodfellas playing on multiple televisions in the dining room. The extravagant interior sets the scene for an evening of larger-than-life cocktails—go for the Aperol spritzed with champagne and apple cider—and rich, indulgent fare, from a huge grilled tenderloin to cacio e pepe that is prepared table-side in a giant wheel of cheese.

Table by Jen Royle opens on Jan. 22 in the North End. / Photo provided

In non-pandemic-times, guests gather at a single communal table inside sports reporter-turned-chef Jen Royle’s single-room restaurant plates are passed family-style, serving utensils are shared, and new friends are made. For obvious reasons, that approach is on hold for now—but the twice-nightly seatings are still a hit with Royle’s loyal fans, who come for the Italian comfort-food classics (including some of the best meatballs in Boston) and gregarious personality. Her following is big enough to support two new projects, too: Table Mercato, a neighboring market for grab-and-go foods and Italian groceries, as well as the forthcoming Table Caffé, which will focus on sandwiches and gelato.

Tenoch Mexican

Who knew that the Boston neighborhood inextricably associated with Italian food would happen to be home to one of Boston’s best Mexican restaurants? Anyone who has been to Tenoch, that’s who. The Medford-born trio of restaurants opened in the North End in 2014, and we’ve been fiending for the tortas ever since. When you’re not chomping on telera bread sandwiches stuffed with fried chicken, sausage, and gooey Oaxacan cheese, though, you’ll find equally tremendous tacos, burritos, enchiladas, and more.

Tony & Elaine’s upgrades nostalgic Italian-American comfort-food joints. / Photos by Justin Power

Tony & Elaine’s

One of Little Italy’s newest red sauce joints, which opened on the edge of the neighborhood in early 2019, is instantly familiar—but way better than you remember. Sink into a plush, red vinyl booth at a checkered-red table—yes, that really is Billy Joel’s “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant” on the speakers. Then dive into old-school Italian-American comfort foods like mozzarella sticks, spaghetti and meatballs, and crispy-juicy chicken parm.

111 N Washington St., Boston, 617-580-0321, tonyandelaines.com.

Man can not live on pasta alone—sometimes, even in a sea of red sauce joints, you just need some elevated New American gastropub fare to set your mouth a’watering. In that event, Ward 8 is where to go. A big four-sided bar dominates the buzzing interior, ready to pour out plenty of fine whiskeys and shake together drinks like the spicy-sour Trial by Fire, made with green chili-infused vodka and hellfire bitters. Once your thirst is sufficiently slaked, find sustenance in the form of tantalizing duck wings smothered in a sweet chili and sesame glaze, or braised short ribs with sunchoke purée, spring onions, and roasted carrots.


Shelter from the rain

If storms threaten, take heart. Treat the kids to a spin on the Flying Horses (508-693-9481, mvpreservation.org/properties/flying-horses-carousel) in Oak Bluffs, the oldest platform carousel in the country, then head across the street for pizza and family fare at Giordano’s (508-693-0184, giosmv.com), an island staple.

Satisfy your curiosity about the island’s past and present at the Martha’s Vineyard Museum (508-627-4441, mvmuseum.org) in Edgartown, which this summer features a photo exhibition on the immigrants who call the island home.

Despite the name, the Vineyard doesn’t have any commercial vineyards, but it does have two breweries. Bad Martha (508-939-4415, badmarthabeer.com) in Edgartown and Offshore Ale (508-693-2626, offshoreale.com) in Oak Bluffs both serve food as well as hyperlocal beer.

Or take in a movie. In addition to first-run theaters in Edgartown and Vineyard Haven, the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center (508-696-9369, mvfilmsociety.com) in Vineyard Haven screens indie flicks. Though the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival (508-645-9599, tmvff.org) is in March, the Summer Film Series schedules documentaries and festival-circuit narratives from June 28 through August, often with speakers included.

Flying Horses Carousel. Maria Thibodeau

Santa Maria Novella, The World's Oldest Pharmacy, Is A Best-Kept Beauty Secret

You can find them in Florence in one special place: The Officina Profumo -- Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella. On your next luxury trip to Florence, you must, must, must visit this under-the-radar attraction. It's one of the world's oldest pharmacies, which once made treatments for the Black Death. Today, the Florentine company makes award-winning, botanically inspired beauty products that inspire a cult following.

The Officina Profumo — Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella is an off-the-grid beauty secret that inspires much excitement among globetrotters. It has 75 stores worldwide—including one in New York City on Lafayette Street — and it does no advertising. Instead, it relies on word-of-mouth from its wildly enthusiastic patrons, who swoon over its special skincare, perfumes, soaps, body care and much more.

The shopping area of Santa Maria Novella, the world's oldest pharmacy in Florence

Santa Maria Novella is a museum and a pharmacy selling lotions, potions, notions and nostrums.

Much more than a museum, Santa Maria Novella in Florence is a mecca for beauty junkies and lovers of history.

The luxury perfumes, soaps, beauty products and other goods are all handmade in the Old World way, and every day more than 2,000 beauty-obsessed travelers visit the shop on the Via della Scala. There, they not only can learn about and indulge in beauty confections but can use the free Wi-Fi and refresh themselves in the tea room. There’s also a museum, where tourists can view original 16th– and 17th-century pharmaceutical pottery, and early books offering an alchemist’s view on how to combat the bubonic plague. You can also see some of the original soap machines that were used up to the year 2000. Today, the soaps are still handmade, one by one, wrapped and then aged for 30 days on ventilated clapboards. “They last three times more than other soaps,” says Gianluca Foà, chief commercial officer, who granted me an individual tour of the premises.

Santa Maria Novella is probably the world’s oldest apothecary. It was started in 1221, when there were outcasts living in Florence, Foà says. “Monks were called in to take care of the outcasts and preparations were made to help them while a convent was established… The monks (later) tried to defeat the Black Death.” One of the earliest preparations, in 1380, utilized roses, as the monks thought that petals of roses combated pestilence. Thus distilled rose petals — rose water — was born.

In the 16th century, when Catherine de’ Medici became queen of France, she brought Florentine customs to the royal court. One was the wearing of perfume and she commissioned the Dominican monks to create a fragrance in her honor, “Eau de la Reine.” It represents the first time that alcohol (and not olive oil or vinegar) was used in the preparation of perfumes. Today, the fragrance, called Acqua di S. M. Novella in Italian, is a bestseller.

In 1614, Friar Angiolo Marchissi created the Acqua di Santa Maria Novella. This elixir, to be diluted in a glass of water, was originally called “anti-hysterics water” and contains essential oils of aromatic plants.

Potpourri is one of the pharmacy's emblematic products, create d in the middle of the 17th century. It is a mixture of buds, leaves and flowers typical of the Tuscan hills.

Today, the imperial houses of Japan and the United Arab Emirates purchase products for their households from the tony pharmacy. Santa Maria Novella is a particular favorite of the Asian market, which comprises a large part of the clientele. “Our customers understand that we create different products. We have a high position in the marketplace… We carry on the tradition of the monks with innovations in our laboratories,” Foa says.

The products include Pasta di Mandorle, a hand moisturizer containing almond paste Polvere per Bianchire le Carni for facial restoration and a line of restructuring shampoos and conditioners. The Acqua di Colonia — filled with violets — is sumptuous. There’s a wide selection of products designed specifically for babies, a freesia cream that will soon be available to the US market, and an award-winning anti-wrinkle eye contour gel that won raves in a newspaper in Korea called Fluido Antirughe Contorno Occhi. The new antioxidant skincare line, the Aetas Salubris, features a day cream made with milk thistle and a regenerative serum made with apple stem cell extract.

Freesia cream that is made only in Florence at Santa Maria Novella

“Our aim is to always increase the level of our quality,” Foa adds. Many of the products are made with irises, which are an important ingredient in its face and body powders. “It costs 30,000 Euro ($31,820) for one liter,” Foa says. “We win because our quality is like that and our customers recognize it.”

Indeed, the iris, the symbol of Florence, is featured in a special toothpaste.

And in our time, the brand has, of course, found its way into Hollywood movies, In addition to being featured in films such as “Hannibal,” and “Portrait of a Lady” (with Nicole Kidman), the company’s pomegranate perfume made an appearance in the James Bond movie “Casino Royale,” starring Daniel Craig. After the character of Vesper (played by Eva Green) dies, her handbag is opened by 007, and the luxury perfume is seen inside. “Oh yes,” Foa says, “Miss Green is also a customer.”


Best Kept Secrets In South Carolina

Which hidden gems in South Carolina should I visit?

There are many lesser known places in South Carolina you can visit to discover the hidden beauty in them all. For a scenic town, take a trip to Walhalla, South Carolina. This picturesque town is marvelous in the fall especially. It’s also close to hidden gems like the Stumphouse Tunnel. You can take a trip to a nostalgic country store in the Palmetto State by visiting Cooper’s Country Store in the town of Salters. It looks right out of the good old days, and it’s fun to visit for the whole family. It’s no secret that South Carolina’s beaches are popular summer destinations. Skip the busy places like Myrtle Beach and discover some of the other great spots along the coast that are quieter but just as fun. Edisto Beach is a good example of exactly that, with beautiful sandy shores that don’t have every square inch taken up by someone else’s beach towel.

What one-of-a-kind destinations can I visit in South Carolina?

With so many things to do in South Carolina, here are a few that should top your list when visiting since they are unique to the state. Not many states can say they have a “fountain of youth,” but SC is said to have exactly that just out in a seemingly random spot in the woods. Gods Acre Healing Springs is a simple spot with a pipe in the ground with fresh spring water running from it. This water is said to have healing properties and people swear by it. Another unique spot is a topiary garden unlike any other, with a unique story behind it. Pearl Fryar’s Topiary Garden in Bishopville has delighted many passersby for years. The enchanting shapes and patterns made in the bushes and trees of one man’s yard are quite impressive and worth checking out at least once.

What are the best little known restaurants in South Carolina?

If you enjoy discovering restaurants that may seem a little off the beaten path, so to speak, South Carolina has plenty that are worth seeking out. Charleston is known for its great culinary establishments, but not so many people know places like the Coast Bar and Grill are hiding down alleyways. They may be hidden, but their food is spectacular. Edisto Island, South Carolina has a restaurant hiding inside an old post office that’s fittingly named The Old Post Office. Their tasty dishes are worth a try. If you enjoy German food, there’s a restaurant in Myrtle Beach called the Cafe Old Vienna with tons of charm and a menu full of deliciousness.