Who Serves the North End’s Best Italian Subs, Cappuccino, and Ricotta Cannoli?

We pit seven neighborhood favorites against one another to find the best of each dish. Do you agree with our winner picks?


north end italian sub sandwiches

Italian Sub

The ingredients for a satisfying North End lunch? Top-notch meat, bread, and a little bit of sandwich magic.

Pauli’s vs. Monica’s Mercato & Salumeria

Where to Get It: 

Pauli’s: 65 Salem St., 857-284-7064, paulisnorthend.com.
Monica’s: 130 Salem St., 617-742-4101, monicasboston.com.

What’s In It:

Pauli’s: Ham, mortadella, provolone.
Monica’s: Prosciutto, mortadella, salami, provolone.

How Long You’ll Wait for It:

Pauli’s: Five minutes on a weekday at lunchtime.
Monica’s: Thirty minutes on a weekday at lunchtime.

Tasting Notes:

Pauli’s: Spicy pickles and oregano hit the palate first; a cut above what you’d get at the corner bodega; nearly translucent red-onion slices.
Monica’s: Crusty bread didn’t get soggy en route to the office; prominent balsamic flavor; provolone was as sharp as an old sock (in a good way).

THE WINNER: Monica’s, for its razor-thin, high-quality cured meats and dense house-baked bread. But it came in with the upper hand, as Pauli’s is better known for its lobster roll.


north end cappuccinos


Two classic Hanover Street cafés face off in a high-octane battle of the brew. Who serves the best milk-topped espresso?

Caffè Paradiso vs. Caffè Vittoria

Where to Get It: 

Caffè Paradiso: 255 Hanover St., 617-742-1768.
Caffè Vittoria: 296 Hanover St., 617-227-7606, caffevittoria.com.


Caffè Paradiso: A hangout straight out of Milan: Soccer scarves hang from the ceiling, calcio is always on the TV, and you can test your luck at the lottery machine in the back.
Caffè Vittoria: Ice cream parlor–esque vintage chic, with round café tables and old-fashioned espresso machines on display.


Caffè Paradiso: Typically comes in a stylish Caffè Paradiso logo cup, topped with a generous dusting of cocoa powder.
Caffè Vittoria: Served in a Lavazza-branded cup, with a few shakes of cocoa powder in the center of the milk foam.

Tasting Notes:

Caffè Paradiso: Well balanced; not too bitter; velvety milk foam; latte-art game is weak.
Caffè Vittoria: Bold, slightly bitter flavor; spot-on temp—hot yet sippable upon arrival; visible bubbles in milk foam.

THE WINNER: Tie. Head to Caffè Vittoria for an eye-opening, stronger cup in the a.m., and Caffè Paradiso for a more mellow after-dinner cappuccino (try it spiked with amaretto).

The Royal Rumble

north end ricotta cannolis

Ricotta Cannoli

When it comes to the granddaddy of Italian sweets, sometimes the crowds don’t tell the whole story.

Mike’s Pastry vs. Modern Pastry vs. Maria’s Pastry Shop

Where to Get It: 

Mike’s Pastry: 300 Hanover St., 617-742-3050, mikespastry.com.
Modern Pastry: 257 Hanover St., 617-523-3783, modernpastry.com.
Maria’s Pastry Shop: 46 Cross St., 617-523-1196, mariaspastry.com.


Mike’s Pastry: The fattest of the bunch—and best for sharing.
Modern Pastry: Less golden, more beige.
Maria’s Pastry Shop: Standard size and shape, with the largest chocolate chips.

How Long You’ll Wait for It:

Mike’s Pastry: Up to an hour on weekends.
Modern Pastry: Up to an hour on weekends.
Maria’s Pastry Shop: As long as it takes Maria to fill a shell.

Tasting Notes:

Mike’s Pastry: Shell had a slightly oily aftertaste; sweetest filling; reminiscent of an egg roll.
Modern Pastry: Almost overflowing with perfectly sweetened cream; hints of vanilla in shell; held up the best in transit.
Maria’s Pastry Shop: Rich ricotta flavor; crispiest shell; won’t give you (quite as much of) a sugar buzz.

THE WINNER: Maria’s, for its ricotta-forward filling, restraint with sugar, and well-structured shell. (Bonus points for fewer tourists.)


Photographs by Emily Sotomayor


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