4.27.2011

A Spring Afternoon in Boston's North End

Tourists, locals and college students alike flock to the North End of Boston for great Italian food. However, a spot on Cooking Channel's Unique Eats seafood episode drew us past Bacco's and Al Dente and straight to Neptune Oyster for some amazing fresh seafood.


The plate glass window with Neptune's trident is the tell-tale sign that we've arrived at our desired location. The oyster shucker/tender of the raw bar inside that window, silently shucking briny oysters and clams, and arranging Jonah crab claws in a gorgeous pattern, tells us all we need to know. We step in the small doorway and out of the windy sunshine. The place is much smaller than we had anticipated, and crowded, even at the later-than-usual 2:00 lunch hour. Men in suits are lined up at the bar slurping their way through a choice of over a dozen different types of oysters, from both coasts.


The (only) server/host offers us a table as soon as one opens up. Friendly, accomodating and certainly enthusiastic, he makes our exquisite lunch all the more enjoyable with his affable nature. He pours water out of a large, wide-mouthed jar and gives us just enough time to peruse the menu. Chris is all about the oysters, and orders a surprisingly few six, two each of three types of Atlantics, to start. Succulent and perfectly shucked, they are served with (in the end unnecessary) mignonette and cocktail sauces. Amy, ever the meat lover, recalls the spot on t.v. and craves the "Neptunes on Piggyback" - described on the menu as "crispy oysters, Berkshire pig, golden raisin confiture, pistachio aioli" - a layered concoction that seems like it shouldn't work. But it sooooo does. The flavors are as layered as the dish, the textures balanced, and even though there are only two, Amy offers one to Chris and immediately wishes she hadn't.


For the main event, Amy wants lobster, and the hot buttered lobster roll with fries calls her name. The second-largest lobster roll she's ever seen (the first being a gluttonous 3-footer in Maine) arrives, accompanied by freshly cut, crispy, salty French fries. Chris chooses the "North End Cioppino," New England's answer to the San Francisco classic - a spicy fish stew made with grilled fish, huge shrimp, and plenty of clams and mussels, served over saffron rice. Chris asks for bread, server smiles and says, "Let me toast some up for you," and returns within minutes. We dig in and stop talking until we're done because everything is that good.


Once done, we pay and thank and return to join the throngs of people lining the sidewalks of the North End. Although we are satiated (read: stuffed), being who we are, food is not far from our minds. Next door (or maybe two doors down), we spot Lulu's Sweet Shoppe. Amy cries, "Cupcakes!!! Yay!!!" We each buy one; Amy's goes in a little box for later, Chris eats his right away (offering a little taste that Amy can't resist). Yummy stuff. We pass Modern Pastry. Since it's Holy Thursday, the line is half a block past the door. Good thing we got cupcakes because cannoli seem out of the question for now. Next stop? Salumeria Italiana, another tiny location crammed with locals stocking up for the holiday. But this time we'll wait, patiently. The speck, guanciale, 24-month aged prosciutto and amazing citrus oils are worth it.

Now we're stocked up as well, so we take the long way, walking through the neighborhood back to our car. The sun is shining, our bellies are full and we have treats for later.

Life is good.
Neptune Oyster on Urbanspoon

8 comments:

jck said...

Better than good, I'd say...

Angela@RecipesFromMyMom said...

Our trips to Boston always include at least one dinner at a North End restaurant. Thanks for letting me in on your evening of food and fun.

Simply Life said...

I love going to the North End and especially hearing recommendations from others!

Parsley Sage said...

Great day! Both to describe the events of your lunch and the prodigious lunch itself :)

celia said...

Thanks for the recs! I'm moving home to Boston for the summer and am looking forward to exploring new eateries...Definitely checking Neptune out!

Susan Lindquist said...

What a fun day in town! I love the North End!

Laurie Alves said...

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you..It has been a dew years since I've been to Boston and I so loved being able to go there through your eyes ans tummys :) Thank you :)

star said...

Your photos are spectacular. The lobster roll looks divine and the Berkshire also. Great job on the pics.