Photo by Osman Rana on Unsplash

Home to generations of Italian immigrants, Boston’s famed North End is a bustling neighborhood of historic sites, Catholic churches, and mid-19th-century buildings. Boston’s oldest neighborhood is also a required stop for anyone who loves good food, sweet treats, and a tight-knit community with character.

On sunny days, old-timers crowd the sidewalks with folding chairs to sip espresso or strong liqueurs and discuss the daily news. Cars double and triple-park along Hanover Street as tourists and locals dine in award-winning restaurants, shop in specialty food stores, and cheer in neighborhood cafés while watching an A.C. Milan football match on the big screen.

While the neighborhood is home to a half-dozen bakeries, one stands out from the rest. With its glowing yellow neon sign, Mike’s Pastry shop entices Presidents, movies stars, and regular folks through its glass doors for something delicious. One look at the long line snaking down the sidewalk and you know something special is happening inside.

Through the doorway, the smell of sugar, butter, and cream overwhelms the senses and starts your mouth watering. Work your way through the crowd for a good look at the glass cases filled with glorious confections made fresh on-site each day.

In business since 1946, Mike’s Pastry gained notoriety for its handcrafted cannoli. Today, the shop offers more than a dozen flavor options for its signature pastry. Purists will enjoy the original with its crispy shell and creamy, not-too-sweet ricotta filling, but chocolate chip, pistachio, or amaretto are also on the menu.

Not a fan of cannoli? Not to worry, Mike’s Pastry makes something for everyone. Try the tiramisu with coffee soaked cake, and sweet mascarpone cheese, Italian cookies in a dozen varieties, rich ricotta pie, tart lemon squares, or sugary cupcakes piled high with colorful frosting for the kids. The more ambitious and hungry might like Mike’s famous Lobster Tail. Shaped like the bottom half of the Boston’s favorite crustacean, the massive confection combines a buttery, flaky crust and a creamy frosting-like center.

On most days the wait to order is long, but it’s worth it. With a quick, sharp Boston accented “How ah ya” (translation – How are you?), the harried folks behind the counter want your order now, so make sure you’ve decided before you get to the front of the line.

Once served, take your white and blue box down the street to Paul Revere Park at the entrance to the Old North Church to find a bench in the sun. Listen to street musicians while you enjoy your treat from one of Boston’s favorite culinary landmarks.

Mangia!

PS – While you’re in the neighborhood, book a tour of the underground crypts at the Old North Church for a unique perspective on this historic landmark.