Few North End residents remember the Big Dig fondly. The megahighway construction that buried the South East Expressway underground once enveloped Boston’s Italian neighborhood like bad smog, severing it from the rest of the city for years.
The Rose Kennedy Greenway?— which stands where bulldozers roared for a decade— has its own detractors, who claim the park is barren and underwhelming. However, city planners hoping the growing trees and shrubbery make a far more welcoming entranceway than the old, raised highway are seeing the difference.
The North End’s bustling narrow streets are crammed with visitors. The Freedom Trail, which winds through Boston, marking historic spots — such as Paul Revere’s house in the North End — brings in droves of tourists. But most people come to eat.
Dining has been key in the North End’s commercial rise over the past decade. Terraced brick buildings house traditional cafes and sleek boutique restaurants like natural seafood boite, Mare, on Richmond Street. Frank DePasquale, chairman of the North End’s Chamber of Commerce and owner of Mare, says the area’s old red sauce attitude is long gone.
“There’s no canned tomatoes anymore in the North End; it’s all heirloom tomatoes and fresh local produce, homemade pasta. The standard in the North End is as high as anywhere in Boston or anywhere in New York.”
An influx of young, urbanites has brought a level of sophistication, too. The upscale vegan raw food restaurant Grezzo on Prince Street is indicative of this progressive side.
You’re as likely to find a yoga studio and boutiques like Injeanius on Hanover Street and Twilight on Fleet Street, as you are to hear cries of “bon giorno!”