Ciao North End!

I am not Italian.  Not even a little bit.  But there is something just so wonderful about the Italian culture that I can't help but be drawn to it.  A culture based on savoring divine homemade foods and treasuring family recipes,  I can't help but feel there must be some mistake along the way and I am in fact, Italian.  (My Mother has assured me that this is not the case).

My favorite place in all of Boston is the North End.  Here, I can channel my inner Italian and take my time grocery shopping for the finest Italian imports.  To get the most out of a trip to the North End, you have to wait until the weather is absolutely perfect.  And today was such a day (plus, I was running a little low on extra virgin olive oil, so that is what originally prompted the trip).  In the North End, I can't help but feel delirious happy.  With Frank Sinatra's greatest hits playing on my iPod, I love taking it all in.  There is something so endearing about the old men that sit on the benches smoking a cigar and speaking in a loud throaty hybrid of Boston and Italian accents.  The air smells of fresh bread and there is so much chaos and noise from the mobs of people crowding the street, open air dining, and of course that guy that sits on the corner playing the theme from "The Godfather" on an accordion.  Oh sweet, sweet heaven.

I always stop at two places to get all of my Italian Imports, Polcari's on Salem Street for a wonderful selection of herbs, spices and dried foods (coffee, rice, beans, etc) and J. Pace on Cross Street for canned tomatoes, olive oils, and an exceptional quality of dried pastas.  I love the atmosphere at Polcari's.  It gives you that "old-time" feel as you step into a very small store with herbs and spices galore.  I feel like a kid in a candy shop as I excitedly place orders for ounces of dried rosemary, chives, Spanish paprika, etc.  If you give them a smile, chances are, you'll find yourself with a more generous couple of ounces than you had bargained for.  Practicing my Italian, (yes, I have taken Italian language classes and was dying to try it out) I'd cheerfully said, "Grazie! Ciao!" and was on my way.

At J.Pace (pronounced Pah-chey and not pace) I found myself facing some seriously difficult decisions over what pastas to get.  They have so many to chose from, it's hard to not want to spend a fortune.  I also love their tomato selection.  I can be rather particular about my canned tomatoes and insist on the best.  Here, there sell these beautiful Italian cans of tomatoes at $1 each!  It's almost unheard of.  Naturally, I stocked up. I also bought some extra virgin olive oil and opted for a Sicilian variety because it had a nice dark bottle, which will ensure the oil stays at its peak for an extended period of time.  Below is a picture of all my loot.  I can't wait to get into the Small Boston Kitchen to whip up an Italian feast!

Enjoy the beautiful weather!

Mi Piace la Citta!

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