It’s cramped, it’s colorful, it’s overwhelming: it’s the North End fit-to-burst with life on a sunny day. The hub of Boston’s Little Italy is the “top” of Hanover Street at its intersection with Richmond and Parmenter. This is where Quattro — which took over the Il Panino Express spot this spring — stands, inviting passersby into its cool interior of sleek pale marble countertops, wall-to-wall white, and floor-to-ceiling windows that connect it to the bustle of the street when weather permits.
Quattro’s minimal — but appealing — menu offers authentic Italian comfort food. Yes, there’s pizza. A simple crust is cooked in seconds in Quattro’s custom-made brick oven. The chewy dough is seared with mozzarella and topped with figs, goat cheese and a generous pile of arugula dressed with lemon and a dash of salt. The flavor proportion is perfect: a touch of sweet, a hint of sour, a tinge of bitter.
Succulent, lightly battered stuffed zucchini flowers are paired with a crunchy salad of yellow zucchini, onion and marinated red pepper. Another appetizer of fluffy green Boston Bibb leaves and crisp, bitter radicchio is splashed with balsamic vinegar, forming a regal looking salad of wonderfully contrasting textures.
A bowl of gnocchi (made from potato flour, not durum wheat) gets the Caprese treatment with burrata (melting slightly from the heat of the dumplings,) a fresh cherry tomato sauce and an oversized sprig of basil as aromatic as it is tasty. They don’t call Italian the Mother Cuisine for nothing.
264 Hanover St., Boston