North End Dining on Busy Nights: Trust Hidden Gems Like La Summa

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A love affair with Beantown inevitably brings you to the romance of the North End. What gets me hot and bothered? The food! Boston’s North End is known as our Little Italy and as such, the wine flows, passions are hot and plates are never empty. Yet, with any romance, there can be tension. What makes my blood boil? Getting in and out of a restaurant on a Saturday night. I have spent 45 minutes waiting, even with a reservation. Yes, I’m looking at you, Carmen.

Insider Tip: If you make a reservation after Thursday for a Friday or Saturday, you’re not getting a seat until 9:00 PM. Harsh North End reality. As such, stay off Hanover Street. Wandering the side streets, you’re more than likely to find a quaint spot more deserving of your time.

I recently spotted La Summa (30 Fleet Street) and decided to give it a try. You won’t find La Summa on Open Table. When I called to make a reservation? Busy signal. Twice. Oh yes, La Summa is that “off the grid” and more notably, a completely hidden gem.

When we walked in, La Summa was missing something. Chaos. While there were plenty of tables full, there wasn’t a stressed out hostess or sprinting wait staff. Instead we were greeted by numerous smiling faces, those of the La Summa family. Upon entering you’ll find a book case crammed with framed family photos of kids and grandkids. I took a stab at guessing the sequence of the family Christmas cards while a member of the staff cleared a table for us.

The service was a little on the slow side with the initial greeting and taking of orders, but very pleasant and capable. Our waitress notified us of several house wines for just $7 a glass. Why not? A few sips later, our food was on the table. Kudos to the kitchen for swift action!

First, we split the Arancini appetizer. This was my first time trying the cheesy Italian rice balls, as they are not on many local menus and more customary for summer street festivals. Rice is combined with cheese, peas and chicken, then deep-fried. So delicious. The marinara dipping sauce left us wanting however: too runny and acidic.

I love the white wine sauces of the Northern Italy. As such, I ordered the Pollo Limone. The chicken is sautéed in an egg batter and then topped with fontina cheese and artichoke hearts in a lemon butter sauce. This dish is served with spinach tagliatelle. A feast for the eyes as well!

My boyfriend tried the Salsiccia, or Italian sausage dish. This Italian sausage is grilled and tossed with fusilli, broccoli rabé and roasted peppers. The Italian sausage is spicy and not for the tame of heart. Also, the broccoli rabe is not just a sprinkle of color! The dish is equal parts broccoli and pasta. No worries! As a veggie lover, I happily nabbed a little bit for myself and then laughing, watched my boyfriend pilot around the excess.  Overall, the dish was a hit.

We decided not to stay for dessert as we were way too full. The staff graciously let us laze about however as we worked off our carb laden stupor. After lots of great, uninterrupted conversation we rallied the strength to stumble home.

Extra Sweet Insider Tip: Want something sweet and delicious but don’t feel like standing in line at a pastry shop? Hit up Café Vittoria which sells pastries by Modern without the obnoxious wait. Granted , the selection is less, but the standard Cannoli, Lobster Tail (a personal favorite) and Tiramisu are still on hand. Wash it all down with an espresso. I bet you feel more Italian already.