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The Best Boston Area Bakeries, Donut Shops, Ice Cream Places and General Dessert Destinations
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Image of Modern Pastry in the North End of Boston MA
Modern Pastry in the North End of Boston (photo by Eric)

We've always regarded Boston as a sweet destination and several Boston bakeries, cafes, donut shops and other sweet tooth spots have taken that description quite seriously. Whether an Italian pastry, a creative tower of cupcakes or some novel donut and ice cream flavors like apple cider or gingersnap molasses, Boston and its suburbs really "take the cake" when it comes to yummy desserts:

There's always the age old- argument, which is better Modern Pastry or Mike's Pastry, both in the North End of Boston? We have a definite opinion on this one: both! Modern Pastry at 257 Hanover St., has been around more than 70 years and does everything well: cakes, pastries, torrone and chocolate, cookies and other Italian specialties. The feeling here is old school and the displays are a colorful wonderland of sweets. It's hard to know where to turn first, but we like the huge chocolate cupcakes. Mike's Pastry, at 300 Hanover St., frequently has lines out the door and is best known for its cannoli -- a traditional Italian pastry with a tube-shaped shell of fried pastry dough, filled with a sweet, creamy filling containing ricotta. They even have a version with chocolate cream filling and real pistachios!  Mike's goes well beyond being a single note pastry destination by offering absolutely delicious Italian and American favorites like biscotti, brownies, cannolis, cakes, cookies, fruit squares, gelati, marzipan, pies and torrone. They also serve up incredible lemon squares, chocolate layer cake and the "lobster tail" crusty baked pastry with yellow custard filling Mike's also has a bit more room than Modern Pastry with a 50-seat cafe offering espresso, a caffe latte, cappuccino or tea.

As if Modern Pastry and Mike's weren't enough, the North End of Boston also has two other standout places for sweets: Bova's Bakery and Caffe Vittoria. Bova's, at 134 Salem St., has been family owned and operated since 1932, has an array of sweets almost as impressive as Modern Pastry and Mike's Pastry, but also is renowned for its made-fresh-daily-breads. We like the “spucadella” or  "Spuckie,"  as it is often called -- a fresh-tasting Italian sub roll made here. But, I think we'll go with the delicious strawberry cheesecake here! Caffe Vittoria at 296 Hanover St. is a charming sit-down Italian cafe that is well known as a place for just desserts, but they also serve coffee and adult beverages. In business since 1929, the dessert list is indeed extensive with traditional Italian pastries like cannoli, tiramisu, cheese cake, eclairs, cakes and biscotti. What a nice place to go after a show or after an Italian dinner at one of the North End's great Italian restaurants.

Guarino Pastry Shop is located in Norwood -- the next town over from Walpole --   could be mistaken for a North End of Boston bakery. Located, at 865 Washington St., the whole scene is mouthwatering: Italian pasties, Italian and American cookies  rum and specialty cakes, Cannoli, tiramisu and a large variety of breads have made Guarino's a staple in Southwest suburban Boston since way back when!

Now sinking out teeth into the Boston donut scene, let us start with Kane's, at 120 Lincoln Ave. in Saugus. The donuts are absolutely huge here at this well-known old-fashioned North Shore donut shop established in 1955. Sweetness, soft texture are prioritized in flavors like apple cider, black raspberry jam with whip cream, and the classic honey dip. Kane’s also experiments with different flavors, so be prepared for donuts you don't always see on the menu! Pure donut heaven here!  Verna's, at 2344 Mass. Ave., in Cambridge is another  donut shop gem -- a no-frills donut shop that seems stuck in time offering a great butter crunch and chocolate frosted, amongst the many other wonderful flavors. Then there's Linda's Donuts, at 247 Belmont St., in Belmont. I remember, as a kid, Linda's being a Sunday morning staple in our home with a great, soft melt-in-your-mouth donut -- Boston Creme and chocolate frosted are my favorites!

One more category: ice cream! The Boston area has many high end and traditional ice cream places, my favorites being Crescent Ridge in Sharon and Kimball Farm, a little bit farther out in Westford. Crescent Ridge, at  355 Bay Rd., is a classic ice cream stand with walk-up windows and a big field with cows. National Geographic's "An Ultimate Guide for Travelers" ranked Crescent Ridge Dairy Bar in Sharon, MA, in 2007, as the eighth best ice cream place in the world! The ice cream is thick and creamy, my favorite flavors being chocolate ripple, peppermint stick and mint chocolate chip. Kimball Farm, at at 400 Littleton Rd., is about an hour northwest of Boston and has, at this writing, the best tasting ice cream in the Boston area (my tastes do change, though). I love the gingersnap molasses, malted milk ball, German chocolate fudge, cherry vanilla chip, chocolate raspberry swirl and orange pineapple! Kimball Farm goes well beyond ice cream, however, with an outdoor seafood and grill dining area (featuring lobster rolls, burgers and fried seafood), two state-of-the-art mini golf courses, a country store with cafe (with baked goods and tea), batting ranges, arcades, bumper boats, a driving range, pitch and putt, and an animal display area.

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