I distinctly remember having a conversation with my mom a couple years ago where she made this telling statement:
"That's what our family is all about: going to church and eating."
I'm not going to touch the first part of that declaration, but you'll get no argument from me about the latter half.
Meals are the major pillars that define my family's time spent together. Don't get the wrong idea; it's not like we're these skilled food connoisseurs looking to hit up all the "It" spots or dine on delicacies. For us, food has a more subtle, ingrained presence: my grandma making daily trips to Shop Rite every time we visit, even if just to replace the four bagels consumed that morning; lengthy discussions about the quality of this year's Jersey corn and tomatoes; debates over where to go for dinner based on the possession of strategic gift cards and coupons.
It's even more than that. Treasured memories always seem to take place around a dinner table or in the kitchen, and the first step to entering the ranks of the adult women in my mom's family is mastering the art of making Easter bread. (For my dad's family, it's spaghetti sauce — or "gravy," if you're talking to my aunt Rosie.)
So it only makes sense that when my parents visited last weekend, our time together was planned around food. It's the Lombardi way.
- Rino's in East Boston was the perfect place to stop on the way back from the airport. My mom heard about it on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives (not sure that it fits any of those three descriptors, but okay), and eating here was one of her two only requests for the visit (the other was visiting the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum; check and check). It easily stood up to my favorite Italian place in the North End, and the portions were massive, so my parents blessed me with the greatest gift of all: their leftovers.
- Saturday morning, we walked a few blocks from my apartment to The Paris Creperie for breakfast because my dad (1) hates eating too much "heavy" food and (2) turns into a hangry monster if he has to wait too long for his meal. I have yet to have a bad meal here, and they get bonus points for having a Liz Lemon-themed crepe! Word of warning: this place is always packed during peak hours, so be prepared to get your crepe to go if all the tables are taken.
- Post-museum, we took an ice cream break at FoMu in Allston. Each flavor is dairy-free, made with either coconut or some other nut-based milk and, more importantly, is ridiculously good. I'm not lactose intolerant or vegan, and I'd still pick this over other traditional ice cream joints in the area any day.
- The Publick House in Brookline was a place I'd heard good things about, and this was my chance to give it a shot. My grilled pork chop with maple chipotle glaze didn't disappoint, but the clear winner was my mom's soy braised short rib with asian pear risotto and napa cabbage slaw. I'll be getting that next time.
- Sunday morning was spent in the South End, getting brunch at The Gallows. We started with a shared blackberry lavender donut from The Gallows' sister shop Blackbird Doughnuts and admired the giant Ouiji board wall while waiting for our meals to arrive. I tried to offset the weekend of crazy eating by ordering the kale salad (with crispy ham and fried egg — I'm not dead) but was eyeing my mom's wild mushroom frittata the entire time.
- We had just enough time to wander around the SOWA market and share a snack from The Cookie Monstah before it was time to head to the airport.
At the rate I'm going, I may have hit all the best food spots in Boston in, oh, let's say 100 years.