Monica's is a family owned establishment in the North End, and is our favorite restaurant in the North End.
The family that owns Monica's actually owns three establishments in the area. Monica's restaurant is the most upscale of the three. They recently remodeled the interior and added a whole new sitting area and a bar, which means it's easier than before to get a seat. There's also Monica's Trattoria, which offers a slightly more simple menu and a more casual atmosphere. Finally, there is a store, which sells their homemade sauces, fresh pasta, freshly baked bread, and a whole variety of Italian imported food.
The food at Monica's is top notch. They make fresh pasta on the premises, they use all fresh ingredients, and the flavors are absolutely amazing. They also have a good wine selection, and the waitstaff is very knowledgeable about both the dishes and the wines.
On this past trip, my favorite appetizer was the truffle mushroom salad ($22). A special for the night, the dish consists of a variety of different wild mushrooms sauteed and tossed together with truffle oil and salt. The result? Each bite burst with a complex concert of flavors from the wild mushrooms. The dish was absolutely heavenly. Bryan's favorite appetizer (off the regulary menu) is the Involtini di prosciutto e provoline al forno.
Provolone cheese, prosciutto, and tomato slices are baked in layers with basil oil and roasted red peppers. The appetizer is really good. My favorite appetizer off the regular menu is any bruschetta that they have. They pan grill the bread with olive oil and then put fresh, seasonal ingredients on top. The combination of the crusty, olive-oil infused bread with the fresh tomatoes (or mushrooms) on top is delicious.
We almost always order pasta when we go, since that is one of Bryan's favorite foods of all times. We've been happy with everything we've ordered, in general.
July 2009 Update
We ordered the seafood with fresh linguini, shown above, which was excellent. Fresh, seafood flavors permeated the dish. And of course, the texture of the fresh pasta was incredible.
This past time Bryan and I ordered the special of the night, which was paper thin pasta tossed with truffle oil and sliced truffles. The dish was quite light (no meat), and very expensive (unpleasant surprise of finding out it was $38 a dish!), although pretty good. I have realized, however, that even though I LOVE things flavored with truffle oil, I think that truffles are only OK. They don't have that much flavor, in my opinion.
I've also ordered the gnocchi there. Bryan thought it was pretty good, although I thought it was a bit mushy and soft. I personally like a much chewier gnocchi - sort of like mochi or Chinese rice cakes. I've only been able to find one restaurant in Boston whose fresh gnocchi has the right chewy consistency that I like (Umbra). In general, I actually like frozen gnocchi better (such as the ones they serve at Il Panino Express or sell at Harvest COOP in the freezer section). So strange so strange.
Update: July 2009
Perhaps my tastes have changed, but I really enjoyed my gnocchi this time around. The texture was soft but definitely had a bit of a "bite." The sauce, a simple veal Bolognese, was perfect.
Over all, Monica's is an excellent restaurant in the North End. We think it beats out most of the competition (and we've tried a lot of restaurants in the North End!). We've highly recommended it to others, and everyone who has tried it loves it and continues to return. Definitely try to go out there for a special occasion!
Originally posted June 13, 2007; Updated July 2009
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