Gennaro's offers several "family-style specialties" intended to serve four or so people. Our team did manage to pry loose a side order of giambotta ($8/side order; $28/for four): seasonal vegetable stew that in late spring was a hefty plate of roast fennel, turnip, celery, onion, and such, with fresh basil popping up on the palate.
From the all-Italian wine list, and one of the southernmost (and newest) top-level Italian wine appellations, aglianico del vulture, we had the 2009 Bisceglia aglianico ($10/glass; $30/bottle), a triumphant combination of California technology and an ancient Greek red wine grape, making a very drinkable yet full-flavored wine with complex aromas and a hint of its origin in volcanic soil. Oversize glasses collect and magnify the aromatics, and this column salutes their use in restaurants. Gennaro's has excellent espresso ($3) and remarkable decaf cappuccino ($4).
Unlike most North End restaurants, Gennaro's has desserts, and they are choice. Chocolate bread pudding ($8.50) is an intense cylinder of chocolate, not much like Iocco's creamier non-chocolate bread pudding at Spiga. Cheesecake ($8.50) is not ricotta-based, but American cheesecake with a nice cherry sauce. The cannoli di ricotta ($7) is just one cannolo, and just fresh and honest, not overly sweet. The chef revises tiramisu ($8.50) from its American restaurant form as a creamy cake back to its Italian origin as a creamy glass of something like British trifle, with even less cake.
Service, already warm, has been amped up to familial, and Iocco is one of those chefs who come around after the meal to make sure everything went well (and to take well-deserved bows). Some of the clichéd décor is down on the ground floor, and the soundtrack, which once mixed Sinatra and Cesara Evora, now seems settled on neo-flamenco. But thus does a one-time tourist trap evolve into a gourmet destination.
Robert Nadeau can be reached at email@example.com.
GENNARO'S 5 NORTH SQUARE |5 NORTH SQUARE, BOSTON (NORTH END) | 617.720.1050 | 5NORTHSQUARE.COM | OPEN SUNDAY–THURSDAY, 11:30 AM–10 PM; AND FRIDAY AND SATURDAY, 11:30 AM–10:30 PM | AE, MC, VI | FULL BAR | ACCESS UP TWO STEPS FROM SIDEWALK LEVEL TO SOME TABLES | NO VALET PARKING