Aria Trattoria, North End — One of my absolute favorite spots for dinner, drinks, more drinks and snacks… everything! And yes, this is my second and last North End restaurant on the top five list. I would add more, but I don’t want you all to think I’m afraid to leave my neighborhood.
Massimo Tiberi has hit it out of the park with Aria. Named after his daughter, the best part of the menu is Tiberi’s love for having pasta fit into every meal. I agree with Mass, you must squeeze the pasta in somewhere. In fact, a small bowl of homemade bolognese is what makes your night at Aria complete. And the fact that you can order a small bowl of pasta in between your starter and main dish is, in my opinion, righteous. Yeah, I said righteous.
To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of running into athletes when I’m out for dinner; it has the potential to become awkward. I mean, unless they pick up the tab. However, if you want to catch a glimpse of Rob Gronkowski, Brad Marchand – who had his birthday meal there — or Mike Napoli, this is the place to go. Tiberi prides himself on feeding both locals and tourists his delicious food, but having some of the top athletes in the city call his place home has been extremely satisfying.
Some suggestions: the Caprese salad because the red and yellow tomatoes are slightly roasted; though I prefer Burrata cheese over any other kind of mozzarella, Tiberi’s is superb; the shrimp appetizer that is marinated in limoncello and topped with pine nuts and crunch fried capers. (I’m not a big fan of shrimp, but Massimo forced me to eat this one and since then, I dream of taking a bath in the sauce.) I literally have to have the plate taken away from me or I’ll soak up all the juice and have no room for anything else. And that, my friends, would be tragic.
For my main course, I usually go with the salmon because it’s cooked medium rare to perfection, or the Ridley’s Ribeye – yes, named after Tiberi’s buddy Patriot’s running back Stevan Ridley — another face you’re likely to see dining in this small yet intimate restaurant.
Aria’s really isn’t the place to “stop by for a drink” because the bar is extremely small and you may not have room to breath. But if you do, I can guarantee it’ll be packed with some of the friendliest faces and voices in Boston. Everyone who drinks at Tiberi’s bar is a friend of Massimo’s. In turn, they become a friend of yours.
BONUS: If you’re lucky enough to have Gil as a bartender, your experience at Aria just skyrocketed. Don’t like a drink on the menu? Just ask Gil to make you something yummy and he will go out of his way to satisfy you. To me, that’s what makes a great bartender.
Seriously… this place is a gem. Get your ass over there and tell Massimo I sent you.