Food & dining

quick bite

Italian food with an edge at North End’s Parla

Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Where to Parla, a self-styled speakeasy on a busy stretch of Hanover Street in the North End.

What for The restaurant bills itself as a “curious dining experience” with delicacies not typically found in the neighborhood, such as oxtail arancini, beef tongue bruschetta, and a fine assortment of craft beer.

The scene A candlelit nook suitable for poetry readings or college breakups, with framed Prohibition newspaper headlines on the walls and a single red rose on every table. Young women — and the room is mostly women — conspire over plates of pasta and glasses of rose. A waitress in suspenders and booties delivers shots of something potent to a group of lady friends, who throw them back and stagger into the rain. A lone middle-aged man watches the scene unfold from a corner table and leaves when the women do, pausing first to scrub his bifocals clean.


What you’re eating Italian food with an edge. No signs of lasagna here. Instead: reasonable portions of tripe in smoky tomato sauce, lobster and uni ravioli (top), quail egg carbonara, and lamb leg fettuccine. Vegetarian dishes are available upon request.

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Care for a drink? This is a speakeasy, after all. The house special White Lightning Fizz features apple pie moonshine; other cocktails are categorized by liquor. There are craft beers, a limited-release Ommegang Game of Thrones Fire and Blood red ale, white and red wines, sangria, and — lest we forget our surroundings — Sam Adams.

Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff
Customers at Parla’s bar.

Overheard Very little, until someone adjusts the soundtrack and an accelerated version of Dr. Dre’s “The Next Episode” gives way to ambient jazz. “I’ve already seen everyone I need to see. I don’t need to go to a reunion!” a waifish woman harrumphs to her companion, stabbing a meatball for emphasis. “The subject line of his e-mail said thanks, but then he didn’t actually say thanks in the e-mail,” an angular Brit sniffs to an understanding friend. “Plus he asked to see all my baby photos. What a freak!” A hostess steers a happy group toward the exit. “Do you have umbrellas? Do you need them?” she asks, opening the door into the drizzle. A portly man in fleece entertains two women at the bar, pantomiming a gun to his head. “I’m getting a tattoo on my 65th birthday!” he declares. “DNR! Let ’er rip! I’m an organ donor!” The women howl, and a bartender pats him on the back.

Parla, 230 Hanover St., North End, Boston, 617-367-2824,

Kara Baskin can be reached at