Boston North End - JoannVitali
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Gennaro's 5 North Square - Boston

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What is it about the North End? Part genuine, part theme-park salute to Italy, it offers strolls on cobblestone, moments of charm, good torrone, bad gelato, tight-knit neighbors, obnoxious partiers, often overpriced meals of varying delight, cartoonish statues of chefs marking restaurant doors, increasingly decent boutique shopping, plenty of opportunities to purchase pink Sox hats and T-shirts with corny Boston- and/or Italian-themed slogans, and limitless offers of pedicab rides. Sometimes it's delightful; others it comes with extra cheese.

It's particularly confounding when it comes to eating. People are eternally compelled to come here for Italian food. Yet, as with many theme parks, there isn't always strong incentive for restaurants to serve delicious, consistent fare. Many diners are just passing through. If a restaurant has a good location with plenty of foot traffic and is decorated to look like someone's idea of the quintessential trattoria, it stands a reasonable chance of success.

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