When thinking of the North End, the neighborhood’s rich variety of Italian restaurants and bakeries might come to mind.
But with so many options, where do you start, and will you ever be able to sample it all? The annual Taste of the North End will get you pretty close.
Now celebrating its 20th anniversary, the Taste of the North End is a culinary tour of the neighborhood that doesn’t require you to wander through all its twisty Colonial streets. Instead, you just show up at the Steriti Memorial Rink on Commercial Street, and nearly 40 restaurants and bakeries come to you.
The event’s organizer, North End restaurateur, Philip Frattaroli, said even he will be sampling some new fare.
“I am excited to try some of the new restaurants that have opened in the past year,” he said in an e-mail interview, citing Aria and Quattro as two additions to the lineup that he was looking forward to.
Frattaroli owns Ducali and belongs to a family of restaurateurs that includes the owners of Filippo Ristorante, Lucia Ristorante, and Artú — all of which will participate in the event.
His uncle and aunt, Donato and Nancy Frattaroli, who own Lucia, founded the event in 1993 as a fund-raiser for the Casa Monte Cassino, which provides housing for people who come to Boston for medical care from overseas.
Since then, it has grown much larger, and in recent years its charitable focus has shifted to supporting several North End non-profit organizations, including event co-host, North End Waterfront Health, a neighborhood clinic with a mission to provide “high-quality healthcare that is consumer oriented, culturally appropriate, neighborhood-based, and affordable,” according to its website.
Like many local events since the terror bombings at the Boston Marathon last month, though, the Taste of the North End will be a bit different this year. Philip Frattaroli said a portion of the money raised will go to the One Fund Boston, set up by Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Governor Deval Patrick to benefit those injured and the families of those killed in the bombings.
The event will also include a giant Boston Strong banner that guests can sign, Frattaroli said.
More lighthearted additions will include contests for best food, best display, and best dessert, he said.
“We think it will add a great element to the event, kind of like a North End version of Top Chef,” Frattaroli said.
Because it is an anniversary year, the event will also honor restaurants that have participated since the start, such as La Summa, and it will include a silent auction, and festive music and decorations to help create the right mood.
Frattaroli praised his uncle’s work in creating the Taste of the North End and nurturing it through many years so that it grew to be the important annual event it has become. Since he took over a few years ago, Frattaroli said, he has been impressed by the dedication and support of local businesses.
“For a restaurant to send hundreds of portions of food and staff on a busy Friday night, that’s asking a lot,” he said. “But we have restaurants who have done it for us every year. Even the businesses that aren't restaurants support us with sponsorships. It’s a testament to the kind of people we have in our neighborhood.”
Frattaroli said the event draws a crowd that shows the changing face of the North End, including longtime residents and newcomers.
“The North End isn't just Italian Americans and neither is the event,” he said. “We have people who have just moved to the North End and want to support the neighborhood, as well as people who have lived here for 80 years. Most of the food is Italian though.”
The Taste of the North End will take place from 6 – 11 p.m. on Friday, May 10, at the Steriti Memorial Ice Rink at 561 Commercial St. Tickets for the event are $99 and can be purchased at totne.brownpapertickets.com or by calling 617-643-8105. For more information, visit www.tasteofthenorthend.org.