Where to Rina’s Pizzeria & Cafe in the North End.
What for Pizza, pasta, cyclopean sandwiches, and scene-scoping courtesy of restaurateur Nick Varano. The counter-service pizzeria is right next to his North End flagship, Strega.
The scene Hanover Street mayhem. Workmen trudge through the door and shout hello. A dad and his toddler negotiate over one more bite of pizza. A man in a garish plaid suit sneaks up behind another fellow, dressed down in shorts and a T-shirt, and hugs him from behind. Laughter all around. Someone’s cellphone keeps buzzing. An unflappable waitress tends the cash register — it’s counter-service only — and uncorks soda bottles with the agility of a personal trainer. Above a six-seat dining counter, flat-screen televisions play a muted black-and-white Frank Sinatra movie as the Bee Gees trill across the sound system. Poor Frank!
What you’re eating Whatever tempts you from the sidewalk. Grilled vegetables, arancini, and Neapolitan pizzas are displayed in the window. Slices are $3; full pies top out at $11. They’re cooked in a 1,000-degree Italian brick oven, which is visible from the dining area and branded with the “Strega” logo. There are also calzones stuffed with meat, cheese, or vegetables ($10); missile-like panini dripping with Strega’s slightly sweet house tomato sauce ($8); and a smattering of pastas such as homemade gnocchi ($15) and baked penne in Bolognese ($13). For dessert, try a pizza topped with Nutella ($10). Meals come on paper or plastic plates, quaking under the weight of their portions.
Care for a drink? There are glass-bottled sodas, espresso, cappuccino, and plenty of red, sparkling, and white wines by the glass (most are $8 or $9) or bottle. There are a few beers, too, such as Peroni and Sam Adams.
Overheard Good-natured ribbing; naked desire. “You ate two pieces, and you didn’t even know it! C’mon, eat two more!” a dad begs his fussy child. A troop of camp counselors marches through the door. “Eggplants! Whee!” one whistles. “Everything here looks so good. But are you able to put chicken on a salad?” murmurs a woman in a sundress to the cashier. (The cashier indicates yes.) A cook’s phone keeps going off. “Your wife’s calling — a-gain!” another man behind the counter teases. Outside, a gent with a small dog on a leash pauses in front of the window to admire the pizza. “Delicious. Can’t eat it, but delicious,” he mutters.
371 Hanover St., North End, Boston. 617-456-5700,