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A zig-zag pattern of cannoli from Mike’s Pastry and Modern Pastry, arranged on a white background. Some are garnished with chocolate chips or pistachios.
Cannoli from Mike’s Pastry and Modern Pastry.
Chris Coe/Eater

25 Iconic Dishes in Greater Boston

Get to know the city and surrounding area with these essential eats

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Cannoli from Mike’s Pastry and Modern Pastry.
| Chris Coe/Eater

Attention, tourists: Boston’s dining scene hasn’t been defined by baked beans and chowder in decades. Sure, seafood is a standout option around town — in a multitude of non-chowder preparations — but there’s much more to try when eating your way around the city.

Here are 25 iconic dishes and drinks that define Boston (and the surrounding area) in one way or another. Some of these dishes have earned a place here primarily by way of their longevity and important place in Boston’s dining history; others are truly the best of the best of their kind, regardless of age; and others are unique items that can’t be readily found anywhere else in the area.

Further reading:

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This map was originally published on June 27, 2017; it is updated periodically, and the date of the most recent update appears above.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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Woodman’s of Essex: “Chubby’s Original” Fried Clam Plate

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Nothing screams “summer in New England” like a plate of fried clams — ideally accompanied by fries and onion rings. And fortunately it’s not just available in the summer: This classic North Shore spot, founded more than a century ago, is open year-round. Woodman’s claims to have invented fried clams; true or not, it’s one of the best places to try them. Note: The restaurant separates its food counter from its drink counter, so be sure to proceed to the beverage line (there’s a full bar available) after placing your food order. There’s plenty of seating inside and out.

A paper plate is stacked high with fried onion rings, clams, and fries, with cups of ketchup to the side, served on a cardboard tray on a red checkered tablecloth.
“Chubby’s Original” fried clam plate at Woodman’s of Essex.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Kelly's Roast Beef: Roast Beef Sandwich

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Roast beef sandwiches are practically ubiquitous in Massachusetts, particularly in the North Shore region, and there is no roast beef spot more well-known than Kelly’s Roast Beef, which opened in 1951 on Revere Beach. (These days, there are also four other locations — Saugus, Danvers, Medford, and Logan Airport.) The company even claims to have invented the roast beef sandwich in the form that it appears around the state, and mega-chain Arby’s acknowledges drawing inspiration from Kelly’s. True North Shore roast beef fans tend to go for the three-way sandwich, which comes topped with James River barbecue sauce, basic Land O’Lakes white American cheese, and mayonnaise.

A roast beef sandwich with cheese, mayo, and barbecue sauce sits on a paper plate, accompanied by thick onion rings.
Roast beef sandwich at Kelly’s Roast Beef.
Katie Chudy/Eater

Yume Wo Katare: Ramen

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Boston has no dearth of ramen these days, but one of the most unique options in town is an eccentric little shop in Cambridge’s Porter Square where diners stand up and share their dreams after finishing massive bowls of jiro-style ramen (a hefty pork-topped style not found elsewhere in the Boston area). Dress for the weather; there’s often a line outside.

Ramen noodles and slices of pork are stacked impossibly high in a white bowl, topped with ample garlic.
Ramen at Yume Wo Katare.
Yume Wo Katare

Bagelsaurus: T-Rex Bagel Sandwich

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Bagelsaurus started as a pop-up at Cutty’s in Brookline before opening in its own Cambridge space in late 2014. The perpetually crowded bagel spot is an Eater Boston reader favorite, snagging wins in several reader polls over the years, for both its bagels in general and its T-Rex bagel sandwich, which is stuffed with almond butter, banana, honey, and optional bacon.

A hand holds a halved bagel sandwich in front of a white brick wall, showcasing the filling of almond butter, banana, honey, and bacon
T-Rex at Bagelsaurus.
Bagelsaurus

Neighborhood Restaurant: Cream of Wheat

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Non-Somerville residents may raise a confused eyebrow to learn that one of the most iconic dishes in town is a humble bowl of Cream of Wheat, but anyone who has ever braved the line for brunch at Neighborhood — ideally on the pastel umbrella-bedecked seasonal patio — knows the truth. Every Neighborhood breakfast comes with a choice of fruit or Cream of Wheat. Don’t make the wrong choice. (Note: You can also order Cream of Wheat on its own, and it’s available for takeout as well. Let this information get you through all future Somerville winters.)

A white bowl of Cream of Wheat sits on a dark background, topped with a generous sprinkling of cinnamon
Cream of Wheat at Neighborhood.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Union Square Donuts: Maple Bacon Doughnut

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Union Square Donuts has expanded beyond its Somerville home, now with satellite locations in Brookline and Boston, not to mention distribution of doughnut holes to various area businesses. But the growing company hasn’t lost its focus and still knows how to please fans and draw long lines, particularly on weekends. A mainstay on the menu since day one, the maple bacon doughnut delicately toes the line between sweet and savory, making it the ideal brunch treat.

Union Square maple bacon doughnut
Maple bacon doughnut at Union Square Doughnuts.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Oleana: Baked Alaska

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Boston’s been paying particular attention to desserts recently; talented pastry chefs are making names for themselves with beautifully plated, intricate creations that in some cases overshadow the main courses. But go back a few years before the explosive growth of Boston’s dessert scene, and you’ll find one classic that has always been there — the lovely baked Alaska at Oleana, full of coconut ice cream and sitting in a sweet pool of passion fruit caramel.

Glamour shot of a baked Alaska dessert on a black background, featuring a billowy, charred cloud of meringue
Baked Alaska at Oleana.
Kristin Teig

Pammy's: Lumache

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Pammy’s, self-described as a “new American trattoria,” features several pastas made carefully in-house that may start from an Italian-ish place but end up somewhere else thanks to global influences. On the menu since the beginning, the lumache is a must for all occasions, whether one is in need of comfort or celebration. It’s tossed in a hearty Bolognese sauce with a kick of heat from gochujang, a Korean chile paste.

A big white bowl on a white tiled surface, filled with lumache in a red sauce and garnished with a thinly sliced green herb.
Lumache at Pammy’s.
Natasha Moustache

Regina Pizza: The Giambotta

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Sure, nowadays the Polcari family’s Regina Pizza is a chain with a tendency to open up locations in malls, and Boston’s pizza scene has exploded with plenty of new options since the days of Regina’s domination, but there’s no denying the importance of the original North End location of this classic brick oven pizzeria, which opened back in 1926. And yes, it still draws long lines. For a true Regina experience, get the Giambotta pizza, which includes all of the traditional toppings — pepperoni, sausage, salami, mushrooms, onions, peppers, and anchovies (upon request).

A sliced pizza covered with peppers and onions
Pizza at Regina.
Regina Pizzeria

Mike's Pastry: Cannoli

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The subject of one of Boston’s fiercest food debates is cannoli. In the eyes of locals, Mike’s Pastry may or may not win out all the time — you’ll get a different answer from every person you ask — but it’s been a destination for tourists and Bostonians for decades, and there’s something about that tied-up white box that always triggers a cannoli craving. Mike’s expanded to Cambridge’s Harvard Square and Somerville’s Assembly Row in recent years.

A single cannolo, stuffed with an orange-yellow filling and dusted with powdered sugar
Cannoli at Mike’s Pastry.
Katie Chudy/Eater

Seabiscuit: Beef Stew Pie

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This space was previously home to East Boston favorite KO Pies, known for its Australian meat pies. It’s now under new ownership and a new name, Seabiscuit, but the new team has kept KO Pies’ recipes alive; the meat pies are just as good as you remember. Find the restaurant tucked away in Eastie’s artistic Boston Harbor Shipyard, which gives it a hidden gem vibe — and the Boston skyline views can’t be beat.

A small round pie sits on a red tray with a dark brown bottle of Bundaberg ginger beer in the background.
A meat pie and ginger beer at Seabiscuit.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Toscanini's: Any Flavor of Ice Cream

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Boston adores ice cream, and there are plentiful options in most parts of town, but one is a bit more iconic than the others. Open since 1981, Toscanini’s is one of the most celebrated ice cream destinations around, garnering quite a bit of press locally and beyond thanks to flavors such as B3 (brown sugar, brown butter, brownies), burnt caramel, early grey, and more.

A scoop of chocolate ice cream in a branded yellow cup from Toscanini’s, with chunks of chocolate scattered in the background
Ice cream at Toscanini’s.
Toscanini’s

Neptune Oyster: Maine Lobster Roll

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If someone were to write up an FAQ list for Boston tourist dining inquiries, “Where should I go for a lobster roll?” would certainly be one of the top questions. There are plenty of options at a variety of price points, and whether you want no mayo, a tiny bit of mayo, or all the mayo — or hot butter — there’s something for everyone. But to answer the question simply, you should go to Neptune Oyster for a lobster roll. Yes, you’ll have to wait in line. Yes, it’s pricey. But when it comes to an iconic Boston lobster roll, this is the one. Available hot with butter or cold with mayo, served on a toasted roll. (Also available without the roll if that’s your thing.)

A lobster roll with a side of fries and ketchup sits on a white plate on a marble bar
The lobster roll (hot with butter) at Neptune Oyster.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Parker's Restaurant: Boston Cream Pie

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One of the most decidedly Boston dishes bears the city’s name and dates all the way back to 1856. Originally called the chocolate cream pie, the Boston cream pie — which is actually a cake — was born at Parker’s Restaurant at the Omni Parker House, where it’s still available. The restaurant will even ship it anywhere in the country.

A small round piece of Boston cream pie sits on a white plate, garnished with a strawberry, chocolate sauce shaped like a row of hearts, and whipped cream
Boston Cream Pie at Parker’s Restaurant.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

No. 9 Park: Prune-Stuffed Gnocchi

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Open for over two decades, this classic Barbara Lynch restaurant will probably never remove the prune-stuffed gnocchi from the menu. The longtime staple, a rich dish embellished with foie gras, almonds, and vin santo, harkens back to the stately white-tablecloth era of Boston dining.

Gene's Chinese Flatbread Cafe: Hand-Pulled Noodles

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Gene’s first opened in Chelmsford in 2011 and quickly developed a cult following for its Xi’an-style hand-pulled noodles — garlicky, chewy perfection — a dish hard to find elsewhere in the Boston area at the time. Since then, Gene’s has expanded to Boston proper, Westford, and Woburn (the Chelmsford location is now closed.) These days, Boston now has a few other options for hand-pulled noodles, but Gene’s is still a must-try.

A black plastic bowl of thick hand-pulled noodles, heavily dusted with chile powder and topped with greens and a generous dollop of garlic. A wooden skewer of lamb pieces sits across the rim of the bowl, which is on a Chinese Zodiac placemat on a red tray
Hand-pulled noodles with a lamb skewer at Gene’s Chinese Flatbread Cafe.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

O Ya: Omakase

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If money’s no object, one of the best ways to go all-out for an epic Boston meal is to try the O Ya tasting menu, which is currently $250 for around 20 courses. Over the years, the menu has been packed with memorable bites, including the “Faberge” onsen egg with caviar and gold leaf; a small portion of the best steak you’ll ever eat, the wagyu seared petit A5 strip loin; the foie gras nigiri with balsamic chocolate kabayaki; and “legs & eggs,” a combination of tiny Maine lobster legs and caviar.

In O Ya’s “legs & eggs” dish, several pieces of sushi sit on a plate, topped with caviar and Maine lobster
“Legs and eggs” at O Ya.
Bill Addison/Eater

Drink: Talk to the Bartender

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Barbara Lynch’s subterranean cocktail bar helped usher in a new era of cocktail enthusiasm in Boston. Drink used to be known for its lack of a drink list; customers would have a discussion with their bartender to discuss likes, dislikes, etc., receiving an expertly crafted cocktail to fit their mood. These days, there is a cocktail menu, useful for busy hours or introverts, but try going at an off-peak hour if you still want that personalized experience.

Sweet Cheeks: Bucket o’ Biscuits

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Don’t take it as an insult to the rest of Sweet Cheeks’ menu that the restaurant’s iconic dish is merely a side — the Sweet Cheeks jumbo biscuits, served with honey butter, are just that good, and they’re an essential complement to whatever else you choose to order. These fluffy, big-as-your-face biscuits will draw you back to this Fenway barbecue spot again and again. Optional: Add on a seasonal jam.

A dramatic black and white photo of a basket of large biscuits, accompanied by a small mason jar of butter
Sweet Cheeks biscuits.
Sweet Cheeks

Sullivan's: Hot Dog

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Located on Castle Island, this seasonal Southie mainstay has been serving up inexpensive hot dogs, burgers, fried seafood, ice cream, and more since 1951. There’s no seating inside; grab a picnic table and enjoy the outdoors. Each season, Sullivan’s opens during the last week of February — the first sign that spring is near.

A double cheeseburger, hot dog topped with relish, container of fries, and cup of soda sit outside in the sun
Food at Sullivan’s.
Sullivan’s

Flour Bakery & Cafe: Sticky Bun

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Joanne Chang first opened Flour in the South End in 2000, eventually expanding the bakery and cafe throughout Boston and Cambridge. Today, there are nine locations. They all serve up a wide variety of baked goods, from cakes and pies to scones and muffins, not to mention full meals, including sandwiches, salads, and more. But there’s one item that has always been synonymous with Flour: the sticky bun. Dripping with caramel and sprinkled with toasted pecans, Flour’s sticky bun is one popular pastry.

A closeup shot of the Flour sticky bun, one of Boston’s iconic dishes, sitting on a white plate on a wooden counter
The Flour sticky bun.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Toro: Maíz Asado con Alioli y Queso Cotija

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Longtime South End tapas destination Toro serves up plenty of crowd-pleasers, including popular paellas, but if there’s one dish that Bostonians talk about when describing the restaurant — or even the neighborhood as a whole — it’s Toro’s corn on the cob, grilled and slathered with alioli, cheese, lime, and pepper. Sitting on the restaurant’s sidewalk patio and devouring a portion or two of Toro’s take on Mexican street corn is the ideal way to spend a summer evening.

Four ears of corn, charred and topped with aioli, cotija, and lime wedges, sit side-by-side on a plate
Maíz asado con alioli y queso cotija at Toro.
Andrea Merrill

Cutty's: Buttermilk Fried Chicken Sandwich (available one Sunday each month)

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This cozy Brookline Village sandwich shop churns out plenty of excellent sandwiches, but it’s the long-running one-Sunday-a-month event, Super Cluckin’ Sunday, that inspires lengthy (but fast-moving) lines. On these special Sundays, advertised months ahead of time on the Cutty’s website, the regular menu flies out the window and is replaced with the buttermilk fried chicken sandwiches. Pre-ordering is a must.

A fried chicken sandwich on a sesame bun is topped with slaw and sits on an orange tray
Buttermilk fried chicken sandwich at Cutty’s.
Cutty’s

Singh's Roti Shop: Roti

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Now in a new, slightly larger location, Dorchester favorite Singh’s Roti has a little additional space for relaxing over Trinidadian roti packed with fillings like jerk chicken, goat, or shrimp. Top it with Singh’s house-made hot sauce — it’s fiery — and save some room for the sweet and hot doubles, fried dough stuffed with curried chickpeas.

Overhead view of takeout containers with Trinidadian roti and more
Roti and coco bread with a beef patty, plus hot sauce and mango lassi, from Singh’s Roti Shop.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Bánh Mì Ba Le: Banh Mi

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Lucky for lovers of banh mi and pho, Boston has quite a Vietnamese food scene, particularly in Dorchester. If you’re visiting Boston and only have time for one banh mi, make it the outstanding — and very affordable — one at Ba Le. Ba Le’s version features spiced pork and shredded pork skin, pickled carrots, daikon, cucumber, cilantro, a choice of hot peppers, and special sauce, served on a baguette that achieves that enviable crispy-on-the-outside-soft-on-the-inside balance.

Hands hold two banh mi over pavement
Banh mi from Banh Mi Ba Le.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Woodman’s of Essex: “Chubby’s Original” Fried Clam Plate

A paper plate is stacked high with fried onion rings, clams, and fries, with cups of ketchup to the side, served on a cardboard tray on a red checkered tablecloth.
“Chubby’s Original” fried clam plate at Woodman’s of Essex.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Nothing screams “summer in New England” like a plate of fried clams — ideally accompanied by fries and onion rings. And fortunately it’s not just available in the summer: This classic North Shore spot, founded more than a century ago, is open year-round. Woodman’s claims to have invented fried clams; true or not, it’s one of the best places to try them. Note: The restaurant separates its food counter from its drink counter, so be sure to proceed to the beverage line (there’s a full bar available) after placing your food order. There’s plenty of seating inside and out.

A paper plate is stacked high with fried onion rings, clams, and fries, with cups of ketchup to the side, served on a cardboard tray on a red checkered tablecloth.
“Chubby’s Original” fried clam plate at Woodman’s of Essex.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Kelly's Roast Beef: Roast Beef Sandwich

A roast beef sandwich with cheese, mayo, and barbecue sauce sits on a paper plate, accompanied by thick onion rings.
Roast beef sandwich at Kelly’s Roast Beef.
Katie Chudy/Eater

Roast beef sandwiches are practically ubiquitous in Massachusetts, particularly in the North Shore region, and there is no roast beef spot more well-known than Kelly’s Roast Beef, which opened in 1951 on Revere Beach. (These days, there are also four other locations — Saugus, Danvers, Medford, and Logan Airport.) The company even claims to have invented the roast beef sandwich in the form that it appears around the state, and mega-chain Arby’s acknowledges drawing inspiration from Kelly’s. True North Shore roast beef fans tend to go for the three-way sandwich, which comes topped with James River barbecue sauce, basic Land O’Lakes white American cheese, and mayonnaise.

A roast beef sandwich with cheese, mayo, and barbecue sauce sits on a paper plate, accompanied by thick onion rings.
Roast beef sandwich at Kelly’s Roast Beef.
Katie Chudy/Eater

Yume Wo Katare: Ramen

Ramen noodles and slices of pork are stacked impossibly high in a white bowl, topped with ample garlic.
Ramen at Yume Wo Katare.
Yume Wo Katare

Boston has no dearth of ramen these days, but one of the most unique options in town is an eccentric little shop in Cambridge’s Porter Square where diners stand up and share their dreams after finishing massive bowls of jiro-style ramen (a hefty pork-topped style not found elsewhere in the Boston area). Dress for the weather; there’s often a line outside.

Ramen noodles and slices of pork are stacked impossibly high in a white bowl, topped with ample garlic.
Ramen at Yume Wo Katare.
Yume Wo Katare

Bagelsaurus: T-Rex Bagel Sandwich

A hand holds a halved bagel sandwich in front of a white brick wall, showcasing the filling of almond butter, banana, honey, and bacon
T-Rex at Bagelsaurus.
Bagelsaurus

Bagelsaurus started as a pop-up at Cutty’s in Brookline before opening in its own Cambridge space in late 2014. The perpetually crowded bagel spot is an Eater Boston reader favorite, snagging wins in several reader polls over the years, for both its bagels in general and its T-Rex bagel sandwich, which is stuffed with almond butter, banana, honey, and optional bacon.

A hand holds a halved bagel sandwich in front of a white brick wall, showcasing the filling of almond butter, banana, honey, and bacon
T-Rex at Bagelsaurus.
Bagelsaurus

Neighborhood Restaurant: Cream of Wheat

A white bowl of Cream of Wheat sits on a dark background, topped with a generous sprinkling of cinnamon
Cream of Wheat at Neighborhood.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Non-Somerville residents may raise a confused eyebrow to learn that one of the most iconic dishes in town is a humble bowl of Cream of Wheat, but anyone who has ever braved the line for brunch at Neighborhood — ideally on the pastel umbrella-bedecked seasonal patio — knows the truth. Every Neighborhood breakfast comes with a choice of fruit or Cream of Wheat. Don’t make the wrong choice. (Note: You can also order Cream of Wheat on its own, and it’s available for takeout as well. Let this information get you through all future Somerville winters.)

A white bowl of Cream of Wheat sits on a dark background, topped with a generous sprinkling of cinnamon
Cream of Wheat at Neighborhood.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Union Square Donuts: Maple Bacon Doughnut

Union Square maple bacon doughnut
Maple bacon doughnut at Union Square Doughnuts.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Union Square Donuts has expanded beyond its Somerville home, now with satellite locations in Brookline and Boston, not to mention distribution of doughnut holes to various area businesses. But the growing company hasn’t lost its focus and still knows how to please fans and draw long lines, particularly on weekends. A mainstay on the menu since day one, the maple bacon doughnut delicately toes the line between sweet and savory, making it the ideal brunch treat.

Union Square maple bacon doughnut
Maple bacon doughnut at Union Square Doughnuts.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Oleana: Baked Alaska

Glamour shot of a baked Alaska dessert on a black background, featuring a billowy, charred cloud of meringue
Baked Alaska at Oleana.
Kristin Teig

Boston’s been paying particular attention to desserts recently; talented pastry chefs are making names for themselves with beautifully plated, intricate creations that in some cases overshadow the main courses. But go back a few years before the explosive growth of Boston’s dessert scene, and you’ll find one classic that has always been there — the lovely baked Alaska at Oleana, full of coconut ice cream and sitting in a sweet pool of passion fruit caramel.

Glamour shot of a baked Alaska dessert on a black background, featuring a billowy, charred cloud of meringue
Baked Alaska at Oleana.
Kristin Teig

Pammy's: Lumache

A big white bowl on a white tiled surface, filled with lumache in a red sauce and garnished with a thinly sliced green herb.
Lumache at Pammy’s.
Natasha Moustache

Pammy’s, self-described as a “new American trattoria,” features several pastas made carefully in-house that may start from an Italian-ish place but end up somewhere else thanks to global influences. On the menu since the beginning, the lumache is a must for all occasions, whether one is in need of comfort or celebration. It’s tossed in a hearty Bolognese sauce with a kick of heat from gochujang, a Korean chile paste.

A big white bowl on a white tiled surface, filled with lumache in a red sauce and garnished with a thinly sliced green herb.
Lumache at Pammy’s.
Natasha Moustache

Regina Pizza: The Giambotta

A sliced pizza covered with peppers and onions
Pizza at Regina.
Regina Pizzeria

Sure, nowadays the Polcari family’s Regina Pizza is a chain with a tendency to open up locations in malls, and Boston’s pizza scene has exploded with plenty of new options since the days of Regina’s domination, but there’s no denying the importance of the original North End location of this classic brick oven pizzeria, which opened back in 1926. And yes, it still draws long lines. For a true Regina experience, get the Giambotta pizza, which includes all of the traditional toppings — pepperoni, sausage, salami, mushrooms, onions, peppers, and anchovies (upon request).