Arts restaurant review

Carmelina’s, (Carb)elina’s: A pan of pasta, a pan of comfort

A gem of the North End

9921 carmelina gravy  web
The Sunday Gravy from Carmelina's is certainly a sight to behold; it includes generous chunks of tender meats, a flavorful red sauce, and finished with a dollop of whipped ricotta.
Kelly Kim–The Tech
9922 carmelina carbonara  web
Carmelina's carbonara is truly made "the real way" and is perfectly creamy, rich, and generously speckled with salty pancetta.
Kelly Kim–The Tech

Italian, $$
307 Hanover St, Boston, MA 02113
Open daily 12 p.m. — 10 p.m.

Upon entering the North End, one immediately finds themself surrounded by countless Italian restaurants, smelling the steam from freshly-sauced pasta, cheesy baked meatballs, and free bread served alongside olive oil and balsamic for dipping (obviously the best part of any restaurant meal!).

Making the trip to the North End, one should be sure that they know which Italian restaurant is truly worth the inevitable large consumption of carbs, which, of course, must be followed by a massive cannoli or lobster tail from Mike’s Pastry (sorry, Modern!). While the choices seem endless, only a few can truly be the best.

My experience of dining in the North End in search of quality, authentic, and, most importantly, yummy Italian food was brought to a level of deliciousness I once thought unachievable after my visit to Carmelina’s.

As Yelp is one of my most used apps, it is not surprising that I found myself scrolling through the endless Italian restaurants in the North End in search of the few that have hundreds of reviews and received above four stars. My eyes soon caught sight of Carmelina’s, which has amassed more than a thousand Yelp reviews and received an astonishing 4.5 stars. As a Yelp enthusiast, I knew the place had to be special. So what better time to go than after the closing of CPW? I went with my father, who was excited about not only the prospect of me soon being an official MIT student, but also the delicious Italian cuisine he was about to experience.

Snagging a reservation at Carmelina’s is particularly tricky. They are booked for weeks at a time, especially on weekends and Fridays, with not much availability on weekdays, either. My biggest piece of advice is to make a reservation multiple weeks in advance, which you can only do on Yelp Reservations, turn on notifications to be told if a table opens up around your desired time, or arrive at “odd” times of the day. For example, you might be able to get a table right around when they open for lunch at noon or around 3–4 p.m. for a late lunch or early dinner. That way, the line for Mike’s Pastry, which is conveniently right across the street from Carmelina’s, will not be too long either.

After making a reservation about a month in advance, my dad and I excitedly sat down in Carmelina’s small but charming space. Soon, the free bread was brought to our table: small rolls served alongside oil and balsamic for dipping.

We decided to try two contrasting pasta dishes: their carbonara, which they claim is made “the real way,” and their Sunday gravy. Admittedly, what really sold me on Carmelina’s was not just the high Yelp ratings, but the pictures of their pasta served in large gray frying pans just waiting to be devoured. So, not surprisingly, my heart leapt, my mouth watered, and I stared in awe as two huge steaming pans of pasta made their way to our table.

The Sunday gravy was bright red and adorned with generous chunks of short rib, sausage, and meatball, all on top of their homemade rigatoni and finished with a mound of whipped ricotta. The carbonara, my personal favorite Italian dish, glistened and was speckled with countless pieces of salty, fatty pancetta. As a former visiter of Rome and, hence, proudly familiar with what carbonara should be, I knew it was truly made “the real way,” for there were no green peas or ham in sight. One bite of their Sunday gravy fills one up with feelings of warmth and homemade comfort, while the decadence and creaminess of the carbonara is sure to make one close their eyes and wonder how a pasta could be so indulgent yet balanced. The presentation, coupled with the generous portions and authentic flavors, made the Carmelina's experience well worth the Uber trip.

If you are looking for a place to carb load for a marathon, have a special-occasion dinner with friends and family, or simply enjoy authentic and delicious Italian food, Carmelina’s small interior will always have enough room to satisfy your carb cravings, appetite, and empty stomach. With training for and running the Boston Marathon on my bucket list of things to do before graduating MIT, I intend for Carmelina’s to be both a fueling station and post-race celebration spot. Maybe they will allow me to make a reservation a few years in advance?