During Holy Week, Boston’s oldest neighborhood, the North End, is a special spot. The locals have strong ties to Italy, and Easter is a holiday that is adored and celebrated with ritual and tradition, including specialty foods — like Marzipan lambs, Easter bread, ricotta pie, and pizzagaina (Italian Easter pie with eggs, cheese, and meat). The mood is festive and the shops are decked out with colorful displays of large, wrapped chocolate Easter eggs with surprises inside, imported from Italy.
The bakeries and pastry shops to visit for the freshest pastries and Easter treats are easy to find: They’re the ones with lines out the door. And if that’s not a clue, just follow the aroma of fresh baked bread and cookies.
Here’s a sampling of some of the North End’s best bakeries and shops to visit. (Some of these shops in the North End are open on Easter Sunday but with limited hours.)
Family-owned Modern Pastry on Hanover Street has been in business 70 years and is one of the most popular North End Italian bakeries, especially revered for its homemade cannoli. It may be called Modern, but recipes are time-tested Old World Italian. At Easter, they line up for all the traditional treats like the Marzipan lambs and ricotta pie. It’s on the tourist radar, so expect long lines, especially Easter weekend, which makes it all the more festive. There are tables and chairs, too, if you wish to linger with a cup of coffee. www.modernpastry.com
This bakery is open 24 hours (yes, you can get a cannoli, even a calzone, at 2 a.m.). The family-owned bakery dates to 1932 and is located off the beaten path on Salem Street in the North End. For Easter, you can also expect the classic Easter pastries like authentic Italian Easter egg bread and, of course, cannoli. www.bovabakeryboston.com
Maria’s Pastry Shop
Pizzagaina is just one of the Easter favorites at family-owned Maria’s — the flaky crust pie is filled with ricotta and parmesan cheeses and prosciutto, ham, and salami. There’s also the sweeter Easter specialty, Colomba, a dove-shaped cake that’s topped with powdered sugar and sliced almonds and candied fruit inside. And, of course, Marzipan lambs and those colorfully-wrapped chocolate Easter eggs with a surprise inside. www.mariaspastry.com
Another popular family-owned bakery that’s been a North End fixture for generations, the pastries at Mike’s are homemade, and the ricotta pie is a specialty. You’ll find long lines here for Mike’s traditional Easter pastries like that ricotta pie, Easter bread, pizzagaina, and marzipan lambs.. There’s a café here, too. www.mikespastry.com
A Parziale & Sons Bakery
Fresh homemade bread and pizza has been baked at this authentic, off-the-radar Italian bakery for a century. And it’s still a family-owned shop where you can buy bread of all shapes and types, including whole grain. The bakery bakes traditional Easter bread for Easter, as well as ricotta pie and lemon-frosted cookies. www.parzialebakery.com
Bricco Salumeria & Pasta Shop/Bricco Paneteria
You can pick up an Easter pizzagaina at the salumeria and pasta shop, as well as those imported chocolate Easter eggs with surprises. Visit sister bakery Bricco Paneteria, for fresh-baked bread. www.briccosalumeria.com www.briccopaneteria.com
An Italian specialty stop that’s been feeding the North End for decades, you’ll want to visit to stock up on cheese, salumi (cured meats), olives, and other authentic Italian food for the holiday — and you’ll also get a taste of the Old World at this salumeria, too. www.salumeriaitaliana.com
Laurie Wilson can be reached at email@example.com.