The North End, while a classic location for those looking to attend a street festival or go on a date, can be intimidating with its seemingly endless options for Italian food. From “Panza” to “Mare” to “Tresca,” it’s easy to see how the names of the restaurants in Boston’s famous Italian neighborhood can start to run together for the non-Romance language-speaking patron. Fortunately, Al Dente Ristorante offers a great option for those who want to grab a more substantial meal before heading over to snag a cannoli from Mike’s or Modern Pastry, both of which are, conveniently and thankfully, located a block away on Hanover Street.
Nestled in a series of other alluring restaurants, Al Dente offers a well-priced menu, a relaxed atmosphere and, most notably, incredibly fast service. Slightly before 9:00 p.m on a Saturday night, every table was still occupied, a testament to the popularity of the restaurant. Even though there was no line waiting to enter, food service was still very efficient. A large basket of Italian bread, accompanied by a dish of olive oil with seasoning, was delivered moments after patrons were seated at their tables. Though it only took a short time for the waitress to arrive at the table, she was enthusiastically apologetic for the momentary delay. This friendly and quick service remained throughout the meal.
In classic Italian style, the portions at Al Dente are huge. Sharing the caprese salad appetizer and carbonara pasta dish provides more than enough food for two people. Kindly, there is no sharing fee associated with splitting an entree. At $9.95 for the appetizer and $15.95 for the pasta, diners don’t have to worry about their wallets or stomachs being empty. While the mozzarella in the caprese salad was slightly dry and more basil instead of onion would have served the dish well, the salad was still quite tasty and served as a light counter to the heavier carbonara. The bacon in the carbonara at times seemed slightly fatty, but was tasty all the same. For those of age, the wine list was also priced accessibly for college budgets, with white wine ranging from $6.50 for a glass of white zinfandel to $9.50 for chardonnay, and $7.00 to $12.00 per glass of red wine.
All food and beverages can be enjoyed in a comfortable atmosphere. Al Dente’s intimate setting and size offer a great location for a relaxed date or a night out with a small group of friends. Whether going with a small or large party, it is highly recommended to make a reservation — especially for popular weekend nights as the weather becomes nicer. If only later dining options are available, there are plenty of small bakeries nearby at which to grab a light snack. Plenty of grassy areas and pleasant streets are nearby to relax in as well.
The vast majority of Tufts students will find it easy to take the T to Park Street and walk 15 minutes to the restaurant, or to get off closer to the North End at the Haymarket Green / Orange Line stop. For those who choose to drive, however, validated parking is available within a five-minute walk away at Parcel 7 Garage at the corner of Sudbury and Congress St. The cost of parking there is only $1 for up to two hours and $3 for up to 3 hours.
Al Dente offers just one of many wonderful dining options in the North End, yet its convenience, fair pricing and good service set it slightly apart from its competitors.
Al Dente is located at 109 Salem Street, Boston, Mass., 02113. It can be reached by phone at (617) 523-0990 or online. It is open Sunday through Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. and Friday through Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.