While staying in the the North End of Boston, we noticed two restaurants where lined up waiting for tables outside: The Original Regina Pizzeria and Neptune Oyster.
We might not have made very far past the North End for meals, but we did hit them both.
We cut our journey along the Freedom Trail short to go to Neptune. We figured if we arrived fifteen minutes before opening, we could make the first seating. We were right by exactly six people.
Neptune is tiny and extremely popular. Your shoulder will most likely touch your neighbor’s.
We sat at the bar and marveled at how smoothly the servers navigated the tiny space behind the bar. A woman shucked lots and lots of oysters near the window.
This is not going to be the restaurant for dedicated vegetarians or vegans. Everything contains seafood. Order from the raw bar, full menu, or daily special (Lobster Spaghettini on Mondays).
Jake ordered a few types of New England oysters from the raw bar. He enjoyed their different flavor notes and freshness. I know we can get fresh seafood in Minnesota now, but there’s still something to say about proximity and abundance when you’re not landlocked.
I spotted Uni Toast ($4) written on the chalk board above the bar. In my mind, I pictured a tiny piece of toasted bread topped with a blob of uni. Two hearty pieces of tasted bread arrived, covered in a uni-infused butter sprinkled with sea salt and chives.
I’d never tried uni before. The uni butter was spread thick like frosting. I wasn’t sure what I was tasting – there was a funky, almost cheesy note that reminded me I wasn’t just eating butter. When I asked our server what was in it, she replied uni and butter. I’m still not sure if I love uni.
Jake ordered the made-to-order clam chowder, and, what he thought would be a light salad. Neptune’s clam chowder is not thick and pasty, but brothy with a real creamy sheen. Plump oysters dot the surface. We still think Sea Salt’s clam chowder holds its own in Minneapolis.
The little salad Jake thought he ordered turned out to be quite hearty. He had imagined small sardines like you find in tins. Two whole sardines arrived next to at least two juicy tomatoes chopped on top of a fresh green vinaigrette.
I ordered my favorite seafood of all time; seared sea scallops. This plate made a full meal. A generous portion of sweet corn kernels, pea tendrils and sweet corn shoots rested on a thick, creamy sauce (possibly also made of corn?) along with an abundance crisp bacon pieces. And of course there were the four plump scallops.
This was too much bacon for me, but probably perfect for bacon enthusiasts. I was here for the scallops, anyway.
The lobster rolls look glorious. We did not order one, but just about every other customer did. Big toasted rolls on plates, splayed open and filled with a shimmering pile of buttery lobster, accompanied by really good looking fries. No mayo, no filler lettuce.
If you can’t arrive before opening, Neptune will record your phone number and call you when your seats are ready. There are plenty place nearby to enjoy a snack and a drink.
There are many Regina locations but the original North End is supposed to be the best. According to this Serious Eats post, the brick oven was built in 1888; Regina has baked pizzas in it since 1926.
The weeknight scene quieter than the weekend. Although the restaurant was still full inside, we would have been able to pull up a seat at the bar or wait briefly for a table.
We ordered a #23 Formaggio Bianca to go – it’s topped with ricotta, mozzarella, pecorino romana, parmesan, basil and garlic sauce.
At Regina, you can order pizza and drinks (alcoholic and not). There are no bread sticks or salad. We stopped by Wild Duck Wine & Spirits for beverages and Monica’s Mercato for a side of olives while we waited for the pizza. These knives mark the sidewalk in front of Monica’s.
Monica’s is known for excellent Italian subs. You can also buy meats, cheeses, pizza, homemade pasta and ingredients.
And the pizza? Excellent. The crust was somehow crisp through and through along the bottom all the way to the center of the pie, but yet still soft and chewy and giving in the right places. And flavorful. You wouldn’t dare toss this crust aside. Here I always request a side of ranch in case a dry-ass bland crust needs some kick.
It didn’t even occur to me here and I didn’t need it.
Gooey, high quality cheese, lots of garlic, fresh basil and the perfect wood-fired crust in an old oven. . . also worth the hype.
My mouth watered, I want to go…now? And eat immediately.