As you go deeper into the North End on Salem Street, the pretense drops toward the levels of old, pre-gentrification “Little Italy.” La Galleria 33 is thus a rather old-fashioned red-sauce restaurant owned by two sisters whose family has run various eateries since the mid 1960s. This spot is modern in some ways, but old school enough, especially on prices — so long as one is wary of the daily specials.
|La Galleria 33 | 125 Salem Street, Boston | 617.723.7233 | Open daily, 4–11 pm | AE, DI, MC, VI | Beer and wine | Validated discount parking in Parcel 7 garage | Access up two steps from sidewalk level|
We started with really good bread and extra-virgin olive oil, doctored with herbs and filled with an assortment of olives. (Olives in olive oil is the new table setter in the North End.) Then we moved on to the very modern broccoli or artichoke dorati appetizer ($8.95), eggy fritters of (our choice) broccoli, fresh fried without excess grease. Two orders of this take care of any vegetarians in the group that don’t like eggplant. (An eggplant report is coming up right after the appetizers.)
Italian antipasto ($16.95) has apparently evolved from a flat plate to a bowl of salad. The good news is that the mozzarella is now fresh, and that the salami and provolone are as good as they’ve always been. A caprese salad ($13.95) was a game try on an April visit, but tomatoes will be better in July. We could, at this price, use more shredded basil and somewhat softer mozzarella.
Clams casino ($12.95), however, are not what they used to be. The ones at La Galleria 33 are chopped into bread crumbs without the expected bell peppers and topped with bacon. It’s greasy fun, but six of these don’t justify the price or the saturated fat. Pasta fagioli ($4.50/cup; $7/bowl) is a best buy. The cup is the size of most dinner bowls, and this simple soup of ditalini and shell beans never lets you down.
Now, for the eggplant report. La Galleria 33’s eggplant Parmigiana ($15.95) is as gooey and greasy and wonderful as ever. You can hardly go wrong with a dish like this — until the tomato sauce. The North End has its issues, but no one ever serves an undercooked tomato-sauce dish, so that, too, was superb. A guest had the side linguine with it, which wasn’t bad at all.
How cool is this, starch fans? La Galleria 33 has a ravioli del giorno (a/k/a ravioli of the day). Our visit it was eggplant ravioli ($18.95), obviously house-made, in a tomato sauce with a little cream. It’s worth ordering for the pasta quality alone, but the eggplant filling was not remarkable.
Regular cheese ravioli is everyday fare at $12.95. You get nearly the same excellent pasta quality as the eggplant ravioli with an order of homemade pappardelle ($14.95), wide ribbons with a choice of Bolognese or marinara sauce. I chose Bolognese and didn’t regret it.