It Took 82 Years, But Polcari’s Coffee Now Takes Credit Cards

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Bobby & Nicky

From left, Bobby and Nicky with Polcari’s Coffee new credit card machine.

I’m at Polcari’s Coffee picking up a pound of dark Italian roast and some ground cinnamon when a strange, rectangular box catches my eye on the counter. There’s a keypad and spool of white paper–can it be? There’s no denying that nestled between the old cash register and the original scale still in use since the shop opened in 1932 there sits a credit card machine.

Nicky confirms that Polcari’s Coffee now accepts credit and debit cards. “We were turning away business,” he says. “I’ve only been asking Bobby to do this for the last decade.”

Welcome to the 21st century. I still paid my $12 bill in cash.

Power Move: Modern Pastry Expansion

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Modern Pastry

In a recent power move, Modern Pastry took over the vacant, next door space once occupied by Piccolo Venezia. Last week, a screen print sign appeared to herald the expansion. This weekend, a brand new awning was installed. It stretches across both store fronts and proudly proclaims, “Established 1930.”

The expansion has pushed the bakery to more than double in size, which means more seating for patrons and twice as much kitchen. In fact, the new space is already open for business and now offers a brand new lunch menu. Don’t fear, you can still order their signature, spectacular cannolis too.

I can’t help but wonder, how does Mike’s Pastry feel about the Modern Pastry expansion?

 

Rock Your Next Potluck with this Pasta Salad

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FinalSo your invited to another summer potluck. Skip the pre-packaged veggies and dip and make something interesting. This caprese-inspired pasta salad will leave guests satisfied and make you the undisputed potluck winner.

Ingredients:

  • 1 box of whole wheat farfalle pasta (bow ties)
  • 2 balls of fresh mozzarella
  • 1 package sun dried tomatoes (12oz)
  •  A handful of fresh basil leaves
  • 1 hard salami
  • Fresh parmesan
  • 1/2 cup olive oil plus a little extra
  • Sea salt & fresh cracked black pepper

Directions:

1. Select a medium sized pot with a tight fitting lid. Fill ‘er up 8 cups of cold water, a sprinkle of salt, and a dash of olive oil. Secure the lid and bring the mixture to a boil. The salt adds flavor and the olive oil ensures that the pasta won’t stick together. As you wait for the water to boil, begin prepping other ingredients.

2. Cut the mozzarella into 1/2 inch chunks. The cheese is easier to slice with a slight sawing motion–pushing straight down will squish the cheese if you blade isn’t sharp.

3. Slice the sun dried tomatoes into strips. I cut four strips per sun dried tomato as mine were rather large.

4. Roughly chop a generous handful of fresh basil leaves.

5. Once the water boils, remove the lid and add the pasta. Cook according to the package instructions until al dente. In the meantime, set a timer and continue prepping ingredients.

6. The hard salami is the most challenging item to cut. To make sure the pieces are bite-sized, I like to cut the salami in half lengthwise. Then, cut it lengthwise again so you have four logs. Re-assemble the salami and begin to slice it normally. Thanks to the logs, each slice yields four small bite-sized pieces.

7. When the timer beeps, drain the pasta in a colander and run it under cold water to stop the cooking. Dump a whole tray of ice cubes over the pasta and toss well so it can continue to cool.

8. Combine all of your chopped ingredients (fresh mozzarella, sun dried tomatoes, fresh basil, and hard salami) in a bowl. Add a 1/2 cup of olive oil and gently fold the ingredients until everything is coated. Add sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste–as a pepper lover, I do about 20 cranks of my pepper grind.

9. Give the pasta a final shake in the colander to remove excess water–the pasta will still be a little wet and that’s okay! Transfer the pasta to a large mixing bowl. Pour the olive oil-covered ingredients over the pasta and fold the ingredients together with a  large spoon.

10. Finally, using a fine cheese grater pile on a ton of fresh parmesan. I used enough to cover the entire mixing bowl with a dusting of parmesan. Mix again.

11. Don’t forget to bring a serving spoon to your potluck. Serve and enjoy!

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Where to Brunch

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Picture of Ferrara's Kitchen + Bar façade

Brunch favorites served all day long at Ferrara’s Kitchen + Bar, located at 76 Salem Street.

The North End has a plethora of Italian options but when it comes to breakfast spots, the neighborhood is surprisingly lacking. Ferrara’s Kitchen + Bar is the exception, they serve from their brunch menu all. day. long. With James Dean and Marilyn Monroe adorning the walls, it’s an unexpected Italian diner experience. Playing 1950s music on repeat, I can’t help but dance a little in my chair and sing-a-long to my favorite Motown hits.

Anything smothered in their pesto will be delicious but my favorite dish to order is the Benedict because I’m still mastering the art of poaching an egg. With two options on the menu, making a decision is like picking a puppy. The Seafood Benedict features lump Maryland crab while the Ham Benedict has maple-cured Canadian bacon. Either way, I’m always pleased with the outcome, yet somehow that doesn’t translate to the next visit’s decision making process. Other favorites include Chicken & Waffles and French Toast. Spicy bloody Mary’s and tangy mimosas make for a great boozy brunch accompaniment.

Reservations are not taken for brunch. Expect to come early (10am latest) or in you’re in for a wait. However, you can leave your name and number with the hostess and receive a phone call when you’re table is ready.

Casual Dining Without the Tourists

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Outside Beneventos, the best spot for casual dining without the tourists. 111 Salem Street.

Outside Beneventos, the best spot for casual dining without the tourists. Located at 111 Salem Street.

On Sunday, my boyfriend’s parents took a trip into the city to help us with our taxes (mine are DONE, phew!). After a grueling DIY H&R Block session, we desperately needed some food. The Red Sox were playing the Yankees so a television was a must. Since this was a family outing after all, we wanted a casual dining experience that didn’t scream sports bar.

Enter Beneventos, perhaps my favorite spot for laid-back neighborhood dining. The food isn’t going to win any awards but it’s reliably good and relatively cheap. Although it’s right on Salem Street, the restaurant rarely has a wait and gets a lot of local patrons. As a bonus, small flat screen TVs placed high on the walls make for an unobtrusive way for the sports fan in your life to keep an eye on the game and an eye on the table.

The restaurant does accept reservations. Try their brick oven pizzas, anything in vodka sauce or arrabbiata sauce and you won’t be disappointed. Avoid the bread basket, it’s not worth the calories (see my post about Bricco’s bread which IS worth the calories). Also, your check always comes with limoncello shots on the house. Enjoy and bottoms up!

Italians Don’t Do Easter Baskets

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…they do chocolate eggs!

Have you been wandering around the North End wondering about the pretty, colorful, patterned, oval packages that seem to be hanging from the ceiling EVERYWHERE? Well, that makes two of us.

Nicki at Polcari’s Coffee tells me that on Easter, it’s traditional in Italian culture for parents to give their children large, hollow, chocolate eggs wrapped in pretty paper. Often, but not always, there are small toys or prizes inside the eggs. Note that the Easter Bunny does not make an appearance with an Easter basket.

Here is a short round up of shops selling the chocolate treats in my favorite neighborhood.

For Better Bread, Visit Bricco Panetteria

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My love for Bricco Panetteria (241 Hanover Street) results in a weekly pilgrimage to the hidden shop. Located in a little alley just off Hanover Street, it’s easy to miss. The bakery is an extension of Bricco Ristorante and sells bread to many North End restaurants. Use the restaurant as your landmark and you won’t get lost.

Check out this great write up by Boston Magazine which crowned Bricco as “Best Bread Bakery” in their 2013 Best of Boston awards. I couldn’t agree more.