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quick bite

Italian food with an edge at North End’s Parla

Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff/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.

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.

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

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, www.parlaboston.com

Kara Baskin can be reached at kcbaskin@gmail.com.