Even though gentrification has hit the neighborhood to some extent, Boston's North End continues to be known mostly as an Italian neighborhood with lots of charm and history, and, of course, countless Italian restaurants, bakeries, pastry shops, and markets. But the North End is also known as a place that tourists and other out-of-towners go to, and yes, some businesses here do seem to cater more toward visitors than to locals, which sometimes keeps longtime Bostonians away from the neighborhood, opting instead for Italian food in other parts of the city or the suburbs. If you look hard enough, however, you can find plenty of local hangouts for dining, including a longtime fave for neighborhood folks called Pagliuca's which may not be a trendy hotspot or a touristy eatery with lines out the door, but if you like family-run spots with Southern Italian fare at reasonable prices, there are few better options in this section of the city.
Pagliuca's is literally steps from the North End's main drag--Hanover Street--and it is also about a one-minute walk from the busy Salem Street, but once you are off those two roads, things get quiet in a hurry and the restaurant's location on the short and narrow Parmenter Street makes it get much less foot traffic than other restaurants, especially with the out-of-town crowds who tend to stick to Hanover Street (and to a lesser extent, Salem Street). The storefront itself is pretty easy to miss, as it looks like countless other Italian restaurants in the North End, and while the interior appears to be tiny, the place doesn't get the constant crowds that, say, Giacomo's on Hanover Street gets, so even though only a handful of tables are set up in the dining area, it typically isn't difficult to get seated. Brick walls, a tiled floor, and lots of hanging pictures and posters all add a homey feeling to the space, and there is also a private dining room and bar downstairs for events and functions.
You won't find too many surprises on the menu at Pagliuca's, but that's ok because this is basically your classic old-school Italian spot with plenty of familiar comfort food dishes. Some of the highlights here include both a regular antipasto and a hot antipasto; an earthy-tasting escarole soup; a huge portion of lasagna that is overloaded with cheese and house-made red sauce; an old-fashioned eggplant parmigiana that is also covered in tomato sauce and includes very thin strips of eggplant; a simple but tasty plate of linguine with garlic and oil; chicken cacciatore with boneless white meat and a mix of herbs and onions; a tender veal marsala with plenty of musthooms and a slightly sweet wine sauce; tripe, for those who like old-fashioned dishes (or are a bit adventurous); a creamy fettuccine alreado with house-made noodles; risotto with shrimp, calamari, and clams; and a very old-school dish called Chicken Campagna which includes boneless white meat, roasted peppers, onions, mushrooms, potatoes, and pasta. A few beer options are available at Pagliuca's, but this is really more of a place to have an Italian wine or a cocktail, with the restaurant having an extensive list of red wines from Tuscany and other parts of Italy, as well as the U.S. and South America.
Those who avoid the North End because they think it's too touristy are missing some real gems hidden away in the neighborhood, with Pagliuca's being one of the best of the lot. It may not look like much from the outside, but the staff is friendly, the food is simple and delicious, and the prices are lower than many of its neighbors. There's a reason why locals frequent this place, and those in the know tend to hit it as well when they happen to be out and about in this still-endearing section of Boston.
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