It was the first snow of winter, and after hauling my bag through the narrow, slippery streets of the North End and getting slightly lost, I found it: a little red-brick building set several yards back from the others, behind a wrought-iron fence and up a few stairs.
There was no sign, but I knew from the address and the website photos that this was La Cappella Suites, a one-story chapel built in 1941 and now a five-floor home and tiny inn. Innkeeper Tricia Muse had e-mailed me a code for the front-door security system, and had left me a key in an envelope in the front entryway, which had all the markings of a family: coats, boots, scarves, and gloves, big and small.
It would have felt as if I were staying with friends, except all other signs that this is the Muses' home were invisible from the common hallway. They live in the first three floors of La Cappella, with the guest suites on floors four and five. I made my way up the stairs to the top floor, went into the suite, and immediately rushed to appreciate the most appealing quality of the place: the views.
From a little balcony off the common kitchen area, I could see the Custom House and other downtown towers, peeking up behind the snow-covered rooftops of neighbors. Then I went into my room, where a larger balcony looked onto a breathtakingly intimate convergence of residential buildings: roofdecks above, courtyards below, and windows into living rooms and kitchens.
The views make La Cappella Suites a beautiful perch for a weekend in Boston's Little Italy. The place is scaled to fit the neighborhood, with only three rooms on two floors, each floor with a sunny common kitchen area. The decor is light and airy, with polished Italian marble floors, white and off-white walls, and lots of windows and skylights.
The fifth-floor suite would be perfect for a family or two sets of friends, because its Messina Room -- where I stayed with a friend one night, and my sister the next -- is right off the kitchen area, behind pocket doors that don't block much sound. It is also the only room of the three that doesn't have a bathroom "en suite," meaning you have to go through the kitchen and down the hall to the little bathroom, which is barely big enough to hold your toiletries bag, let alone a change of clothes. (The fourth floor, meanwhile, has just one room, which is where anyone interested in complete privacy should stay.)
Thankfully, our suite-mates, young British newlyweds, were quiet and polite. If they had been loud, the weekend would have much less pleasant.
Our bigger complaint was with the breakfast setup. The refrigerator, freezer, and pantry were stocked with frozen waffles and pancakes, cups of yogurt, English muffins, boxes of cereal, and cans of Maxwell House coffee. That seemed a shame, especially in a neighborhood full of cannoli and espresso.
La Cappella's website honestly describes the morning offerings as "modest, complimentary, self-serve," but we couldn't help but wish for something less modest. Even a continental breakfast could feature excellent coffee and freshly baked pastries. Worse, La Cappella describes itself as a bed-and-breakfast, which is only half right. (If you have to go out for a hot breakfast, or bring one in, then it's not a B&B, it's a B & BYOB.)
The kitchen space seemed a bit wasted, frankly, with all those counters and cabinets but no pots, pans, or stovetop. Our suite-mates one night tried to make a pasta supper after foraging in one Italian market or another, and the cooking process involved multiple rounds in the microwave, which we heard from inside our room as a half-hour series of beeps.
Even so, it was hard not to be charmed by La Cappella's tucked-away feel, light-filled rooms, and quiet location just around the corner from the hubbub of Hanover Street. On Saturday morning, while Muse and her toddlers tidied up the room left vacant by the departing Brits, I made just enough coffee from a can to power myself out for a real breakfast and shopping: limoncello, olive oil, dried favas, and espresso beans.
On Sunday morning, with the floor to ourselves, my sister and I lounged about in the kitchen area, reading the newspaper and drinking perfect lattes and warm croissants she had fetched from Caffe Graffiti and Modern Pastry while I slept in. We figured the Eggos and Maxwell House could wait for the next guests.
Joe Yonan can be reached at email@example.com.