Cities Food & Drink Historical Travel

SmarterTravel Spotlight: Polcari’s Coffee Shop in Boston

If you spend a morning walking the narrow streets of the North End, Boston’s historically Italian neighborhood, the first thing you notice is how delicious it can smell. The scents of freshly baked bread and Italian pastries seem to waft through the air here, but before you pick up breakfast, I recommend stopping for coffee at Polcari’s.

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Your First Stop in the North End

At this old-school coffee shop on Salem Street, you can buy more than just a cup of coffee. With shelves full of coffee beans and other rare ingredients, Polcari’s Coffee is a kind of curiosity shop that local chefs love to peruse. Here, you’ll unearth spices and scents from all over the world in a shop covered in black and white photographs and Boston memorabilia. Behind the counter, you’ll find friendly staffers who are more than happy to chat about coffee varieties and North End history.

Local History

Opened in 1932 by Anthony Polcari, an immigrant from Italy, and staffed by his whole family, the store was eventually passed on to Anthony’s son Ralph. Today it is under the management of Bobby Eustace, who worked with Ralph Polcari for 26 years and is dedicated to keeping the history of the coffee shop and the Polcari family alive. The store is full of Old World flavor and opens its doors to locals looking for neighborhood comforts and tourists looking for a taste of Boston’s Italian history.

Stay Nearby

If you’re planning a trip to Boston, consider a stay in the North End, which is close to local attractions and full of history. And did I mention it smells like bread in the morning? You won’t find many hotels among the neighborhood’s well-preserved historic homes and restaurants, but the nearby Kimpton Onyx is comfortable and chic, and offers a free daily wine hour. This is a huge advantage on any trip to Boston, especially since happy hour specials are illegal in Massachusetts.

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Jamie Ditaranto is a writer and photographer always looking for her next adventure. Follow her on Instagram @jamieditaranto.

By Jamie Ditaranto

Jamie Ditaranto is a traveler in a love triangle with writing and photography. Follow the drama on Twitter @jamieditaranto and Instagram @jamieditaranto.

Ditaranto joined SmarterTravel in 2015. She loves ecotourism, cities with history, and discovering local hangouts. Though she likes all the continents equally, she holds a special place in her heart for rainy little islands.

Her work has also appeared online at USA Today, Huffington Post, Business Insider, and other publications. You can check out her photography on her website.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: "My instant camera comes in handy for giving instant gifts to new friends."

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: "Befriending penguins in Antarctica."

Travel Motto: "You have to get the hard places out of the way first."

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: "On short flights, the window. For long flights, the aisle."

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