Boston’s Cantina Italiana, damn you’re old.

Boston's Cantina Italiana
Cantina Italiana; like a beacon in the night. Fuggedaboudit.

Boston’s Cantina Italiana

Welcome back captive readers to the Pot & Pan Handler’s scurrilous blog. Today we put on cologne soaked gold chains and head to Cantina Italiana in Boston’s little Italy, mundanely called the North End. That’s where we defied reason and somehow found seats at Cantina Italiana’s bar with no reservations on a Friday night. Two hours later we left full of passable wine, good beer and great food, it was a good night.  Come along culinary ninjas we’re going back and bringing you with us.

Harbor day

Our day started on the waterfront, a nightmare flurry of travel related snafu’s that eventually led to us walking to the South Station where we found much needed respite in the form of alcohol.

Tavita's Michelada
Mmmicheladaaa. Bloody Mary w/a Mexican accent.

One of the better michelada’s we’ve ever had and an always satiating beer in the restaurant Tavitas. After imbibing in a heightened state of contentment we took a liquored up stroll along the harbor walk. Eventually our meanderings took us to Boston’s north end. The exceptional weather had turned the entirety of little Italy into a bottleneck of tourists and locals alike. The distinct New English accents make massholes hard to hide especially when they are in earshot.

Boston's harbor walk
This sculpture captures the essence of the Big Book of British Smiles.

Lines are everywhere it’s like Scarface’s desk. We’ve been to Strega before, but unless we wanted to get seated at about 5 pm the next day, we had to look elsewhere. We walked, if meandering around throngs of people at the speed of slugs in a theme park, is your idea of walking. As we walk by the unassuming Cocina Italiana a small miracle happened. Two people finished up their dinner and left the bar, leaving just enough room for us to sit down and procure menus. So that’s what we did.

Boston's Harbor Walk
Harbor your boat? No thanks, I’ll stick to harboring grudges.

 Yelp I think I need somebody

One look at Cantina Italiana’s yelp page and you’ll find hordes of people complaining that Cantina Italiana isn’t a trendy hipster, ultra-modern product of marketing to yuppie millennials. Or you’ll find people grumpily grouching that Cantina Italiana isn’t an authentic Italian restaurant, using only imported ingredients from Milan or procured from the inner depths of Mt. Vesuvius.  These bitchy fucks don’t even deserve yelp accounts. Take it from us, we’ve got a food blog and they don’t just give those away.

The fact of the matter is Cantina Italiana has been there since 1931, serving up classic Italian American eats to grateful massholes with flourish. And they’re still flourishing despite hypocritical locavores and douchenozzles bitching about authenticity. Cantina Italiana do it right, 1931 was a different era when to sell food in America it had to be suited to American tastes. So, that’s what they did. And they did it pretty fuckin’ well. Cantina Italiana is still serving up Italian American red sauce eats that remind Italians of home. Yet they also serve eats familiar enough to American palates so they can sell to Italian Immigrants and tourists alike. Classic New England.

Peroni on tap @ Cantina Italiana
My Peroni has a first name, it’s B-E-E & R.

Getting sauced

We sat at the bar; the expedient bartender took our drink order immediately. Congratulations are in order, they have Peroni on tap. Italy’s answer to lite beer, light and crispy carbonated. Peroni on tap is a rare treat in this country. We took advantage. We perused the menu, the bartender dropped off a loaf of light & airy Italian bread and a dish of olive oil for dipping. Crusty, exterior with heavenly, hollows. The pillowy pits greedily suck up the olive oil, seductively enticing, I dare you not to eat it. The art of free bread is increasingly rare.

Cantina Italiana's Italian Loaf & Olive Oil
“Give us, us free”. -Bread

First up, an appetizer of Bresaola con Arugola e Parmigiano. Thinly sliced, similar to prosciutto, dry aged cured beef with arugula, dressed lightly in extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice with a healthy garnish of Parmigiano. Delicious, the beef is tender, salty and tasty with a hint of the olive oil, it tastes like prosciutto and steak tartare had a love child. Served along the palate cleansing lightly dressed arugula, and nutty parmigiana this was a perfect first course. Like an amuse bouche it left us wanting more. So more we had.

Cantina Italiana's Bresola
The Cure. This course is charcuterie, than yours.


We typically avoid pastas in American Italian joints. Why? Because most restaurants serve the same dried pasta from a factory production line in Bannockburn Illinois you’d buy in the store. Only they slap on a 100% markup for taking the trouble to boil it for you. This fact has Old Italian grandmas rolling over in their graves at the thought. Resto Facile Nonna, at Cantina Italiano, they make their own house made pasta. Who doesn’t like the thought of that? Add meat sauce to that equation, now you’re in Italian American heaven, also known as Bolognese.

Cantina Italiana's Bolognese
Made up fact; Bolognese is Italian, roughly translated it means: Where’s the defibrillator?

Bolognese that was, slightly spicy but a delicate sweetness balanced the acidity of tomatoes. Unctuous with the classic Italian meat mixture, 1/3 ground veal, 1/3 ground beef and 1/3 ground pork. Cantina Italiano’s served this Bolognese in classic American-Italian style resting atop the deliciously light and house made tagliatelle pasta in a 1:1 ratio. I don’t know how long it will be until we have another bowl of Bolognese & pasta this delectable, but I trust it won’t be soon enough.

Wine sauce, what are ya’ chicken?

Milanese… You won’t find this on the menu, but it was on special that fateful night. They had me at chicken. That was a lie, they had me at wine. Like everything else, this dish was exceptional. The olive oil, wine sauce tastes velvety like a butter sauce. The juicy chicken artfully seared and a city of mushrooms all cloaked in the delicious, velvety sauce, tastes so light, almost deceptively so. Juicy, earthy, sweet, buttery chicken and mushrooms in wine sauce is a revelation here.

Cantina Italiana's Chicken Milanese
Chicken Milanese, has nothing to do with Alyssa Milano. What a ripoff.


We eschewed the typical dessert like millennials and gender norms and opted for another Peroni and a glass of wine. We celebrated the fact that we were able to get dinner in the North End without reservations on a Friday night. Then we took the harbor walk back to the hotel… But that dear readers is another post.

Coming soon: A tale of two restaurants, one bad, one good all in the same building. Whaaaaa???? Exactly. graffiti
That’s us B.

The Pot and Pan Handler are 100% all natural, free range, hormone fueled, crate free, local, organic, escaped restaurant veterans  and red blooded American food porn fluffers. No massholes were harmed in the making of this post.


Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments on “Boston’s Cantina Italiana, damn you’re old.

    • Thanks Mindy! It was amazeballs, and yeah if I ate bolognese as often as I wanted… There would be a lot more of me! LOL Thanks for reading!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.