With so many Italian restaurants serving pasta on the North End, it was difficult to know where to begin searching for the best. After looking up several local favorites, we came upon Giacomo’s Ristorante and felt reassured when we saw the line going out-the-door. We were well-trained in the art of waiting after the many visits to Daikokuya back home. Giacomo’s seemed to be one of those restaurants that, regardless of the time of day, there was most assuredly going to be a wait. After only a few short minutes in line, it became evident that we weren’t the only newbies to Giacomo’s; many people stopped and peered at the line and menu, often asking “Is this place really that good?” I’ll answer that question later.
An hour later, we were seated at a cozy two-top next to the “Specials” wall, making it impossible to view it but amazingly close to the open kitchen with its wall of copper cookware. Each one of the 20 or so seats had only inches separating it from the next. Despite being purely the luck-of-the-draw, the tables next to the window were definitely the worst spots simply because all the hungry, slightly irritated (I would know) patrons would be staring you down, Jedi mind-tricking you to eat faster and leave.
At Giacomo’s, the pace is fast and it may even be considered rude to nurse that second glass of wine. It’s reminiscent of the lack of pleasantries and hand-holding at some Vietnamese restaurants. Our waitress basically threw the menus at us, quickly explained how the combinations of pasta and sauces worked, and hurried off to another table. We weren’t offended at all and openly embraced this high-speed dining experience.
Definitely one of the best calamari I’ve ever tasted. The batter was perfectly seasoned with a slight kick of the pickled peppers sprinkled throughout. They look SO much like a calamari ring the way they were sliced and totally blew my taste buds before Alice pointed out their true identity. She happily ate the rest of them. The marinara was so flavorful we had to ask for a second helping to accompany the calamari. I honestly could have gone with three large orders of the calamari and be content…sans pickled peppers.
We also picked up an order of the garlic bread, which used olive oil instead of butter. The strong garlic flavor might have turned off other diners but we enjoy bold flavors like this. The drawback was that the edges of the bread were burnt, causing every other bite to be bitter even though we had removed most of the burnt edges. I was disappointed because although Alice had plenty of garlic bread middles (her favorite part), I was missing out on the garlic bread crusts (my favorite part).
Alice decided to branch out from the main menu and select a dish off the day’s list of specials – the homemade fusilli with lobster and shrimp in a fra diavolo sauce. With the allure of homemade pasta coupled with a sauce so spicy it bears the name of the devil himself, she just could not resist and was very happy with her choice. The pasta was al dente, the sauce was piping hot in temperature and spice, and the chunks of lobster and shrimp were fresh and plentiful. For those who can’t quite take the heat, Giacomo’s also offered this dish with the house Giacomo sauce (red, non-spicy marinara) or half-and-half with the fra diavolo to lessen the blow.
I went with one of my favorites, lobster ravioli with diced tomatoes in a garlic cream sauce. The lobster meat was generous and ravioli thin enough to let the flavors of the lobster shine through. The cream sauce wasn’t heavy and along with the tomatoes, made the dish very enjoyable.
The check came as quickly as our menus. In the end, we gave up on the garlic bread due to its bitter, burnt crust. The rest of the meal gave us a better appreciation for authentic Italian flavors. Los Angeles does have some great Italian restaurants but the sheer density of delicious Italian eateries in Boston is truly impressive. Giacomo’s is one of those places we were glad to have saved our valuable, limited stomach real estate for.
In and out in under 45 minutes… less time than we had waited for our seats. And yes, it is THAT good.
So when in the North End with time to kill, drop by Giacomo’s. No time? Call ahead and pick up!
Check out Giacomo’s Ristorante online at: www.giacomosblog-boston.blogspot.com
355 Hanover St
(between Tileston St & Clark St)
Boston, MA 02113
Check them out on Yelp! here!