North End Home Cooking
Before opening the North End's newest restaurant, Al Dente,
owner Joe Bono conducted his food service career curbside.
Bono, sometimes known as the sausage cart king, owns a
number of the savory-smelling sausage carts around Boston.
Now, instead of providing meals on wheels, Bono has opened
a restaurant that specializes in Italian cuisine from all regions
Bono hopes the name of his eatery, Al Dente, meaning
"cooked to order," will reflect the care his cooks take in
preparing each individual pasta dish. Nothing is made ahead
of time, and Bono draws from fresh produce, meats and
fish available nearby.
Located on Salem Street, known as Restaurant Row
to North End natives, Al Dente caters to neighborhood
residents seeking relief from their own kitchens as well
as tourists strolling off the Freedom Trail.
The menu is expansive, offering cuisine from Sicily,
Calabria and the northern regions of Italy.
Appetizers such as egg, spinach and tomato tortellini
con panna ($5.95) are delicious. The tri-colored tortellini,
sauteed with cream and cheeses, wasn't heavy; in fact, we
were still looking forward to our entrees. The Italian
antipasto (small, $4.95; large, $7.95), with a variety of
meats and marinated vegetables, is also a good pick.
The gnocci Luigi ($8.95), a chef specialty, is light
and tasty. The dish, made with fresh basil and blended
cheeses in a marinara sauce, is enough for two meals.
The chicken, penne and broccoli ($7.95) is a classic,
with boneless medallions sauteed in white wine and garlic
butter surrounded by broccoli florets and a sprinkle of
Parmesan cheese. The eggplant parmigiana ($6.95) is
perfect, the cheese not drowning out the tangy taste of
the lightly battered eggplant.
The veal dishes are slightly more expensive, but they're
worth it. The Veal Sorrentino ($10.95) has veal layered
with eggplant, prosciutto and fresh mozzarella sauteed in
a dry vermouth mushroom sauce. All entrees are served
with a side order of homemade pasta.
After one eats Al Dente's huge portions, dessert seems
impossible, but the homemade tiramisu is too tantalizing to
refuse. Consisting of marscapone cheese, cognac, lady
finger cookies and espresso, tiramisu can be made only
with time consuming care. Bono's mother, Lauraine Bono,
devotes the time to make the best-tasting tiramisu on
And if the tiramisu doesn't grab you, Joey will be around
to your table with his mother's homemade cookies.
Al Dente left us with the feeling that we had been to the
Bono's for dinner, except that we didn't have to pitch in
with the dishes.