By Devin Fletcher
As a rice-and-bean vegetarian who loves food yet knows very little about it, the North End with its vast array of choices can be a wildly overwhelming place. Especially when my mother is with me, hungry, a meat-eater, and I’m a college student trying to prove knowing my way around – while eating on a dime.
Fortunately, while wandering around the North End, I took a dive into the lovely corner restaurant that is the Florentine Café – a surefire win based on the name alone, similar to my mother’s favorite haunt in Venice: Café Florian.
Located on the corner of Hanover and Prince, and renovated in 1995, the Café has served the Boston area for over seventy years, and welcomes costumers with an old-world charm as well as a contemporary sophistication. Of course, initially entering a place with fine wooden furnishings, enormous windows, and sweet paintings made my pocketbook skittish, but within moments these fears were laid to rest. While not cheap, the menu was perfectly manageable on my bi-weekly Emerson Stage paycheck, yet suitably nice enough to treat my magnificent mother.
The space itself it wonderful and comfortable, with light music playing and the classic North End windows that open from door to ceiling and wall to wall, allowing plenty of fresh air (when warm enough) and ambient noise. The food was simple and delicious, easily pleasing vegetarian and omnivore alike – for just over twenty dollars, I was able to order two salads, two paninis, and drinks for us as a pair – and seriously, thess paninis were the perfect balances of melting cheese, fresh tomatoes, crisp mesclun, and a splendid array of herbs. Thinking about it just made me hungry. Perhaps greatest of all was that in moniker it reminded my mother of Venice; but it food and charisma, service and charm, she immediately noted: “wow, this is so like our French café in Los Angeles!” Wrong nationality, but high compliment: she was always happiest when we lived in LA. Clearly, Café Florentine is a success in every way.