Quick! Name the oldest Italian restaurant within the Boston city limits. And no, believe it or not, it isn't in the North End. Stumped? You're probably not alone, as even after nearly one century of being in business, relatively few Bostonians have ever been to (or even heard of) Jeveli's Restaurant in East Boston. But this Day Square neighborhood spot is indeed a local institution that has been in continuous operation longer than any other Italian eatery anywhere in Boston, and the restaurant continues to serve solid food at reasonable prices after all these years.
Although it doesn't look all that large from the outside, Jeveli's is a surprisingly spacious restaurant that can seat well over 200 people. In addition to its main dining area, a separate addition called the Presidential Room sits off to the left, while a bar called the Terminal J Lounge is situated in a separate room to the right. The L-shaped main dining section is attractive in an old-world kind of way, with brick arches, wooden beams on the ceiling, noise-deadening carpeting, stained-glass windows and lamps, and comfortable booths and tables that are spaced a good distance apart from one another.
Being a classic red-sauce dining spot, Jeveli's Restaurant is the perfect place to order a heaping bowl of pasta, some of which really impresses. The house-made manicotti, for instance, has a delightfully chewy consistency that goes perfectly with the rich ricotta cheese inside. The lasagna, which is also made fresh, has been another favorite here (though it is currently off the menu but may hopefully return soon), with zesty red sauce and thick layers of cheese making this a comfort-food lover's dream. The eggplant and chicken parmigiana is a hearty, filling meal that is loaded with their terrific red sauce. And the lobster ravioli is tremendous, with the pasta overstuffed with lobster meat and the cream sauce complementing the ravioli perfectly. There is much more than just pasta at Jeveli's, by the way; the extensive menu includes starters such as the earthy chicken escarole soup, the large meal-in-itself antipasti, and the fresh-tasting caesar salad; meat entrees such as the delicious chicken tips and steak tips plates, the tender veal cutlets, the savory veal marsala, and the sweet Italian sausages; and seafood dishes such as deep-fried calamari and shrimp scampi. Desserts include freshly-made cannoli, nutty and sweet-tasting spumoni, a very rich tiramisu, and a decadent chocolate lava cake.
East Boston used to be predominantly an Italian neighborhood, and while much of it is now populated by Central American and South American immigrants, you can still see signs of the past here and there. And Jeveli's certainly fits in this category, as it pretty much defines what an old-school Italian restaurant should be. It may seem strange that this restaurant remains a bit of a hidden place after all these years, but don't let that stop you from trying this casual neighborhood spot; its combination of old-fashioned atmosphere, tasty food, and rock-bottom prices make it well worth a trip.
Copyright © 2009-2015, Boston's Hidden Restaurants (www.hiddenboston.com).