It’s December in Boston when the weather in the city has turned decidedly colder and snow flurries are in the air. Holiday strolls and carolers abound; the Mallard family members, commemorated by the “Make Way for Ducklings” children’s book statue in the Public Garden, are dressed in their holiday finery; and, simple wreathes and lamp post decorations in historic neighborhoods add touches of elegance. I love visiting Boston this time of year.
In Boston’s Italian North End, bakeries have windows stacked with panettone, a holiday Italian sweet bread, as well as Christmas cookies. This neighborhood is truly Italian and it’s not unusual to be greeted with a “buongiorno”.
I have headed to the North End to stop at a landmark restaurant, Galleria Umberto, which is famous for its Sicilian-style pizzas and has been in the North End for years. The outside of this restaurant is unremarkable but it’s what’s inside that counts. Beginning around 11 a.m., a line starts forming for lunch, regardless of the weather. It’s nine degrees on my latest visit but that doesn’t stop the crowds from lining up for delicious trays of rectangular cheese pizza. Local residents order boxes to go and the slices of pizza practically disappear from the trays. The dough is soft, the tomato sauce tangy and for $1.65 a slice, visitors can’t go wrong.
Arancini are also on the menu which are fried rice balls filled with meat and peas. A friend of mine has told me that a meal of arancini is “old school” Italian, as her Italian grandmother used to make these. I have had these on several visits to Galleria Umberto and can almost fill up on one. The taste is divine.
Calzone (basically a filled turnover) is also on the menu with flavors including spinach, spinach cheese and sausage, and ricotta, ham and salami.
Galleria Umberto keeps their prices down by accepting only cash. The interior is very basic and one man in line told me it hasn’t changed since he was a kid. With roughly twenty tables, worn travel posters of Italian cities and a mural of Italy painted on the wall, this restaurant represents simple Italian at its best.
I wish Galleria Umberto was open for dinner but lunchtime is their only meal. They stay open until the pizza sells out, so visitors should get there early.
I like eating where the locals eat and Galleria Umberto is a North End tradition. I love that I can eat lunch for around $3.00 and the food is worth the wait. This restaurant should be on the itinerary for any Boston visitors to the North End.
289 Hanover Street
Boston, MA 02113