New England dining >>> Boston area Italian restaurants
The Best Traditional
Restaurants in the Boston, MA, Area
These old school Italian dining gems will please the appetite and bring back great memories of a previous era!
Lorenzo's, a "hidden gem" Italian-American restaurant in Middleboro, MA (photo by Eric H.)
By Eric H.
The "contemporary" Italian food scene seemed so
revolutionary a few years back, but lately the restaurant market has become so over saturated with restaurants with the "trattoria" moniker, specializing in hand-rubbed, encrusted or infused entrees, all masterminded by some guy with only one name like Georgio, Antonio, Bono or maybe even Melvin.
Sometimes it's enough to say, "Give me a nice fried chicken parm served by waitresses who smoke 80 cigarettes a day, call you 'honey' and work in an atmosphere full of formica tables, red and white tablecloths and Jerry Vale playing in the background."
Happily, that kind of Italian restaurant still exists. There's something so warm and homey about traditional Italian fare. After all, that's what we grew up on. It seemed like every neighborhood had that type of restaurant. Some even served pizza. Parents loved the price and geographical convenience. We loved it because it kept us away from the dreadful alternative, Howard Johnson's.
Many traditional Italian restaurants have not veered too far from their roots. Sure, they might serve some nouveau dishes, but people realistically come for the old-time food and family-operated presence that pays attention to every detail.
Some that still thrive today:
Abbondanza, Everett, MA -- A hidden gem nestled in the heart of urban working-class Everett, Abbondanza is a classic neighborhood favorite located in a small storefront with limited seating and a chef's unlimited passion in making great traditional Italian cuisine that is every bit as good as the restaurants in Boston's famed North End. You'd be hard-pressed to find better homemade breads and fresh pasta. The portions are plentiful and the down-to-earth staff will make you feel right at home at this local's secret, just minutes from Boston.
Abbondanza, 195 Main St., Everett, MA. Tel. (617) 387-8422.
Genesio, Randolph, MA -- It's hard to find more authentic Italian food served with pride than Genesio. Located in South Randolph near the Avon border on Route 28 (about a half hour south of Boston), Genesio creates plentiful portions of red-sauce dominated homemade, fresh traditional Italian dishes in an unpretentious atmosphere. The carpeted, slightly worn dining room with booths and tables and a more modern bar on the other side of the restaurant provide a pleasant foundation for the overall dining experience.The immediate tip-off of what's to come can be found in the salad -- fresh, deeply red-colored tomatoes, a true dining microcosm of a restaurant's commitment to overall quality of food. At a Mother's Day get together, our party of 16 sampled out-of-this world traditional Italian food including a tender Vitello all Maria with veal, artichokes in batter served with mushrooms and a wine lemon sauce; a wonderful, ample chicken picatta; a substantial, flavorful escarole soup (Italian greens in chicken broth) and a huge calamari salad marinated with olive oil, garlic and vinegar. Desserts are brought in from a local bakery--it must be a great one judging from the homemade chocolate mousse cake and teramisu. Service is fine, although in no hurry to serve (not a problem; this is very European). Genesio provides a nice touch by having owners and chefs come out to greet customers and serve food. Overall, Genesio ranks as one of the best traditional Italian restaurants in the Boston area -- outranking many of Boston's highly regarded, heavily advertised and promoted Italian restaurants. Genesio is a true Italian restaurant hidden gem.
Genesio, 482 South Main St., Randolph, MA. Tel. (781) 961-2223
Lorenzo's, Middleboro, MA -- Lorenzo's make delicious hand-made pasta and red sauce that requires a big, old-school appetite and a love for fresh-from- scratch Italian cuisine. Standout dishes include meat ravioli, pan seared scallops with pasta and vegetables (the latter straight from Lorenzo's nearby farm) and chicken escarole soup. Service is friendly, family-oriented and the multi-dining rooms are surprisingly spacious, as well as comfortable. Middleboro is not exactly considered a restaurant mecca, but Lorenzo's sure puts this small town near Plymouth on the dining map! We can hardly wait to return to share other pasta dishes and the delicious-looking pizza!
West Grove St., Rt. 18,
Greg's, Watertown, MA -- Huge portions, low prices, lines outside the door and such dim lighting that you can't read the menu. Old time waitresses and comforting and plentiful pasta entrees create the appeal that keeps the faithful coming back.
Greg's, 821 Mt. Auburn St., Watertown, MA. Tel. (617) 491-0122.
D'Parma, Winthrop, MA -- Located minutes from Boston's Logan Airport, D'Parma uses fresh organic ingredients to create some wonderful traditional and "newer" Italian cuisine. The atmosphere in this small neighborhood gem is lively and personality-filled from the staff to the locals craving great Italian food. Just a few minutes walk from the ocean, D'Parma is worth finding whether it be coming from the airport, or anywhere else within a 50-mile radius for those looking for fine traditional Italian cuisine.
D'Parma, 467 Shirley St., Winthrop, MA. Tel. (617) 846-5867.
The Villa, Wayland, MA -- A great, meaty lasagna and some very fresh pizza highlight the menu at this moderately sized dining room with plenty of booths and lots of families. Surprisingly, the Villa serves some of the best steak dishes around, but it's the pasta and sauces that have been around forever and with good reason: it tastes just like the food your Mama used to make. Unless your name is Melvin.
The Villa, 48 Plain Rd., Wayland, MA. Tel. (508) 653-8570.
Jeveli's, East Boston, MA -- Former President Bill Clinton ate here once, but more importantly the working class from the Boston neighborhoods have recognized Jeveli's as the prototype for good Italian food from the 1920s. You'll never get a bad dish here and things always start off right with the delicious homemade bread. Great desserts top off this terrific eatery located in the heart of the heavily Italian populated East Boston.
Jeveli's, 387 Chelsea St, East Boston, MA. Tel. (617) 567-9539.
Mario's, Lexington, MA -- Upper class Lexington can sometimes seem like its own exclusive republic, but Mario's has survived the growing elitism of this western Boston suburb. Well-prepared baked ziti, eggplant parm and pasta, it appears, can survive anything. Mario's always seems crowded and its small but pleasant dining room creates a waiting list. Once you sit down at the formica table and sample the Italian fare, you'll be glad you chose Mario's over the surrounding trendy coffee and sandwich places that charge a fortune for virtually nothing. Mario's, on the other hand, serves lots of food, really good food at low, low prices.
Mario's Italian Restaurant, 1733 Mass. Ave., Lexington, MA. Tel. (781) 861-1182
Guido's, Walpole, MA -- Located in a nondescript shopping center, Guido's has that family-run feel, a great revolving glass case of desserts, oldies music playing on the radio and enough food to serve the entire town of Walpole. The gnocchi with spinach and mushrooms is particularly good and the parm dishes are frequently consumed. Friendly, informal and reasonable priced, Guido's certainly fulfills the need for good Italian food in the southwest suburbs of Boston.
Guido's, Route 1A, Walpole, MA. Tel. (508) 660-1533.
The Chateau Restaurant, Waltham and Norwood, MA -- Every Bostonian knows about the Chateau: the myriad big dining rooms, the great sesame seed bread and the high quality, old time favorites Italian dishes. Chicken parm might be the best bet, but you can't go wrong with the pizza or seafood specials. The Chateau actually went down in quality for awhile, but has resurfaced as the restaurant we all grew up to love. It's an institution, one of the true landmarks of traditional Italian food in the Boston area.
The Chateau, 195 School St., Waltham, MA. Tel. 781 894.3339. 404 Providence Hwy., Norwood, MA. Tel. - (781) 762-5335.
Joe Tecce's, Boston, MA They stick to their guns with almost incomparable pasta and red sauces, and we can be so grateful for that. Another Boston landmark that has retained its quality through the many years. A must try when looking for old-fashioned Italian food.
Joe Tecce's., 61 N Washington St, Boston, MA. Tel. (617) 742-6210.
Camille's, Providence, RI -- They many times dabble in newer dishes, but Camille's is based more in old-time traditions. Camille's feels more like a New York City restaurant with its lovely dining room, wait staff with great personalities, and overall flair for taking pride in their restaurant. Camille's is located in the heart of Providence's Italian Federal Hill.
Camille's, 71 Bradford St., Providence, RI. Tel. (401)751.4812
Al Dente, Boston, MA -- Perhaps the best representation of traditional (and some contemporary) Italian food in Boston's North End, Al Dente lives up to its "authentic Italian cuisine" billing. Drawing from from all regions of Italy, the chef has a mastery of concocting incredibly fresh Italian fare. A must when visiting New England. The Chicken Marsala is a must-try with its flavorful chicken, ham and mushrooms in a wine sauce.
Al Dente, 109 Salem St., Boston. Tel. (617)523-0990.
Luciano's, Wrentham, MA -- Luciano's offers some of the freshest traditional Italian food in the Boston suburbs. It's a big restaurant with several pleasant and nearly romantic dining rooms. Its Frutti de Mare is chock full of tasty seafood and pasta, and the parm dishes rise above the pack. Luciano's is a high end, somewhat expensive dining spot but they raise traditional Italian fare to an art form, well worth trying.
Luciano's, 800 Washington St., Wrentham, MA. Tel. (508).384.3050.
Do you have a favorite traditional Italian restaurant? Let us know at Visiting New England.com!
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