How does a half-Italian, half-American Eggplant who has lived twenty years in Italy feel about the North End, Boston's Little Italy?
I have mixed feelings. I most certainly do not think it is Italy. Neither do I think it is a mere tourist trap for the unwary.
I go there once every month or two, and make a day of it. Despite what people will tell you, there is still a very significant Italian presence above and beyond the mere numbers, or stats that show that Italian-Americans are an ever-decreasing presence. Although many of them have moved elsewhere, they somehow maintain a base in da hood. Witness the old men in their outdoor chairs who come in from the 'burbs.
There are many reasons to visit the North End. Countless eateries, often not authentic, but rarely bad, and sometimes quite good. Gelati, salumerie. Polcari's herb and dry goods store, quite unique. Hidden resources such as my friends at the Green Cross Pharmacy, who have (besides some nostalgic Italian toiletries such as Pino Silvestre), Italian CDs, magazines, and even my beloved Settimana Enigmistica, the inimitable puzzle magazine I have known since my childhood and which hones my Italian skills.
As if this wasn't enough, we have the Haymarket open market on Fridays and Saturdays, just across the way. In summer, we have the proximity to Long Wharf, whence boats to the Boston harbor and beyond depart. More than once I have spent the day first shopping and eating in the North End, and then on the ocean, perhaps to Georges Island.
Don't forget that the North End was the site of one of the oldest settlements in America, including the (very reasonably priced) Paul Revere's House, a must see, right smack in the middle of the North End. And other colonial American sites as well.
Boston's North End. 1) Go there 2) Buyer beware.