In Boston’s North End, touristy Hanover Street gets most of the traffic. Yes, Hanover Street overfloweth with Italian bounty. But duck just a block to the side and you can find hidden gems like the tiny supermarket paradise that is Monica’s Mercato.
The space is small, bursting with fresh pasta, canned specialty Italian goods, fine cheeses, and cured meats. There’s no menu posted inside, but a chalkboard declares their Italian sub the best in Boston.
In here the guys behind the counter call you “sweet-haaht.” They shave the prosciut’ methodically by hand and layer it in lacy curls alongside salami and slips of provolone. They add lettuce and tomato, red onion and pickled peppers, and a slick of dark balsamic glaze. A sprinkling of dried Italian herbs, and the mighty sandwich is halved, wrapped in paper, and handed to me. It hefts like a club in my hand.
This is a great sandwich. The meat is bold, salty and savory, and the fresh soft bread has the rich taste of olive oil dough. There’s enough crust to stand up to the fillings without shredding the roof of my mouth. The onion is superbly sweet, not a hint of that raw onion acrid bitterness lingers on my tongue. The balsamic glaze and pickled peppers lend welcome acidity. I’d ask for a few more peppers next time; I loved their vinegary pop. Amazingly, none of the fillings fall out as I eat, even though the vegetables are cut small.
In summary, here are some steps for a perfect spring day:
- Walk around Boston with a friend. People-watch, browse, try on clothes in the middle of the overcrowded H&M at Downtown Crossing.
- When you get hungry, go to Monica’s and buy an Italian sub.
- Sit in a sunny spot, like the Paul Revere Mall by the Old North Church, and share the sub.
- Optional: Get artisanal sweets from Cocoanuts, take them home, and eat while watching terrible sci-fi movies. (Rosemary truffle caramels and passionfruit macarons: do it.)
130 Salem St
Boston, MA 02113