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.

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!

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.

DIY Italian Stuffed Peppers

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This recipe is adopted from America’s Test Kitchen Slow Cooker Revolution cookbook which is available for purchase in the America’s Test Kitchen bookstore for under $20.

Buon appetito!

 

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 4-6 hours

Serves: 4-5 people, approximate 1 bell pepper per person

 

1. Combine 1 minced onion, 6 minced garlic gloves, 1 T EVOO, 1 T tomato paste, & 1/4 t red pepper flakes in a bowl. Microwave stirring occasionally for 5 minutes until onion is softened.

2. Cut top 1/2 inch off 4-5 bell peppers (red, yellow, & orange only). Chop pepper tops fine but discard stems. Remove core, ribs, and seeds. Rinse and dry peppers thoroughly.

3. Tear 1 slice high-quality white sandwich bread into 8 pieces. Place in a large bowl with 1/4 cup whole milk. Mash bread and milk into a paste with fork or bean masher. Stir in onion mixture from step 1 and chopped pepper tops from step 2.

4. Add 1 small zucchini chopped (1/4 inch pieces), 1lb. hot Italian sausage casings removed, 3 oz. grated Monterey Jack cheese, 3/4 cups cooked rice (you can substitute ready rice if you’re short on time), 1/4 cup Parmesan, 1 t salt, & 1/2 t pepper. Mix with your hands.

5. Pack mixture into cored bell peppers with hands. It’s okay if the mixture is slightly overflowing the top of the pepper, the mixture will condense during cooking. Pour 1/3 cup water into slow cooker. Place stuffed peppers in slow cooker. Lean them against each other and the walls of the slow cooker so they stand upright. Cover and cook 4-6 hours on low.

6. Use a slotted spoon to lift peppers out of slow cooker. Tongs will be helpful in maneuvering the tender peppers into a serving dish. Sprinkle with minced basil and additional Parmesan for garnish.

How the Locals Eat at Regina Pizzeria

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Since 1926, the Polcari family has been making pizza at 11 1/2 Thacher Street in Boston’s North End. The chain now includes over 20 locations but the original restaurant is a humble place with battered booths and paper plates. Wine is served in plastic cups and you can get beer by the pitcher or in mismatched pint glasses. Reservations are not accepted so there is usually a line of tourists waiting to be seated. The pizza is pricey but the crust is incredible and their signature garlic oil – lovingly called “crack” by some of the staff – make it worth it. This spot is great for a casual date night or dinner with friends. Here are four suggestions to get your Regina fix the local way:

1. Go on a Monday night – I’ve observed that lines on Mondays are short or nonexistent.

2. Go in a duo or at max a trio and grab a seat at the bar. You can order the full menu and you don’t have to wait in line.

3. If you live nearby, call ahead and get takeout. You can order pizza by the slice – cheese, pepperoni, and featured special. Or, you can order any pizza on the menu by the pie.

4. Don’t miss the yearly Coupon Calendar that staff give out to patrons in December. The calendar features TWO monthly coupons for different pizzas ranging from the ever-popular Giambotta to the classic Margherita (pictured). Discounts vary from $3-$5 but it makes the pizza just a little bit more affordable for the cash-strapped who want to eat something better than DiGiorno.

A single slice of Regina's Margherita pizza thanks to the February coupon.

A single slice of Regina’s Margherita pizza made a delicious dinner at home. Coupon from February. 

The 2014 Coupon Calendar

The 2014 Coupon Calendar features two coupons per month!

How to Beat the Lines at Giacomo’s Ristorante

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Outside Giacomo’s in the South End.

Giacomo’s has a reputation for creative specials and reliably superb food at a very reasonable price point. The kicker is that the North End eatery always has a wait that often wraps around the block. In the rain, in the cold, on a Monday – you will wait. Make no mistake, your entire party must be present and no, you may not leave your phone number and come back later.

What if you could eat at Giacomo’s Ristorante without the wait? You can.

Giacomo’s Ristorante on Hanover Street in the North End has a sister location on Columbus Avenue in the South End. The menus are identical and in fact the South End location offers more variety. The specials are often different but  the Columbus Avenue eatery has three amenities you won’t find at the historic North End location:

  1. Reservations can be made via phone with a hostess.
  2. Coffee & dessert – think chocolate lava cake – mean no waiting in line at Mike’s or Modern.
  3. Valet parking is offered for $15.

Wherever you end up for dinner, remember that both Giacomo’s Ristorante locations are cash only so make sure to stop at an ATM.

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Jason ordered a special – pappardelle pasta in a sweet braised pulled pork sauce. We’re sharing a bottle of the house Montepulciano.

Earl Grey at Polcari’s Coffee

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Image of Outside Polcari's Coffee in the Sunshine

Located at the corner of Salem Street and Parmenter Street in Boston’s North End.

Yesterday, I finished my box of Twinings Earl Grey so this morning I went to visit Polcari’s Coffee to pick up some more.

Run by the Polcari family since 1932, Polcari’s Coffee is a North End institution. Originally selling just coffee, they expanded to dry goods and specialty items upon customer request. In fact, everything they sell, a customer at one time asked for. Dry goods are measured in to plastic bags, weighed, tied, and labeled for you to take home. If you’re buying a new spice, don’t worry, they sell spice jars and cannisters too.

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Jars upon jars of loose leaf tea and coffee. That old school scale (middle left) is actually the scale they use to this day.

The store proudly has a Boston Bruins flag hanging behind the counter and someone from the Polcari family is always working at the store. During the week, expect to see Nicki (short for Nicholas) but on the weekends expect to see family from his father’s generation. Last year, I was running late from work and needed to stop by Polcari’s Coffee to pick up flour and vanilla for a birthday cake. I called the shop and Nicki kept the store open an extra 15 minutes so that I could get my ingredients. You just don’t get that kind of service anywhere!

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Spices for sale in any weight you can imagine. Check out that massive jar of rainbow sprinkles! (lower right corner)

This is a great place to go if you’re a tea drinker like me but also for coffee which can be ground for drip or french press. You will also find a plethora of spices, flour & yeast, legumes, assorted nuts, olive oil, cheeses, and other Italian imported goods. Their tomato paste may be the best I’ve ever had and their prices are very reasonable. Compare $15 for jar of saffron at a chain grocery store to $7 at Polcari’s.

Even if you don’t need to buy anything, stopping in to Polcari’s Coffee for this old-world experience is worth it. Don’t forget to stop at an ATM, they are cash or check only.