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May 2000 Issue
Enjoying the Boston Coffee Scene
by Chris Schaefer
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Winding through Boston is a historical walk called the "Freedom Trail." It winds through and past such places as Bunker Hill - a pivotal spot in the history of American freedom from the British; Fanuel Hall - a great meeting place for the colonists; and the still-standing residence of Paul Revere. This house sits nestled in what is now called Boston's North End. Little Italy. And as European as they come (at least, by the standards of this Great Lakes lad). The North End, accessible by Boston's well-routed and well-working "T" (subway system), sits precariously in and among non-linear streets and alleys, and perches near "the Big Dig." (Boston is currently undergoing a dramatic change addressing its automobile-crazed citizens' needs for better thoroughfares.) The North End is home to one of the first Unitarian churches the Commonwealth worshipped in (now, Roman Catholic) as well as a myriad of bars, cafes, delis, bistros, groceries, and living quarters.

It should not have startled me so: we were walking towards Hanover Street after having gotten off the "T" at Haymarket. These two "picture perfect" older blokes were sitting on a bench outside one of the cafes; hands flying about madly while their discourse wafted through the air and into the streets. An elderly woman, charging in her own unique way across the street, shouts out to a younger man something likening to an order but with a quaint spot of gentility to it. Patrons flood in and out of the local eateries and bars; their conversations, while thought to be between themselves, picked up by wandering ears. All of this in Italian.

Little Italy.

Let me say that there are too many cafes in Little Italy. What were they thinking? How could the two of us POSSIBLY sample the goods at EVERY stop? Alas, it was our dutiful task to try, despite the odds. The walk along the Freedom Trail began early. Once we braved, and survived, the madness of the city market, having completed half of the trail we were revived by the liveliness of Little Italy. After having finished the Church, and having crossed the mall which housed the infamous statue of Paul Revere and his horse, a small and clean-looking bar sat before us. The sign above it proudly displayed "Lavazza;" the number one consumed and exported commercial espresso of Italy. I couldn't stand it anymore. Our stomachs had not yet finished dealing with the early morning breakfast massacre. And our bodies needed encouragement to continue the journey. I lead. My friend, I'm sure questioning my impetuous nature, followed. The bar comfortably held a handful of patrons. Harry Connick Jr. was in the stereo, and a shiny Cimbali sat atop the bar. A few moments later, Harry was still in the back of my mind and leaking from my lips (although I am an atrocious singer) but my tongue was singing the praises of a beautifully crafted espresso. Our day could now officially continue.

I must skip through the details that proceeded my first North End experience. Suffice to say, we did a grand amount more walking. Fortunately, my best friend has very good taste. Our travels returned us to Little Italy. And our appetites delivered us into the caring hands of the wait staff at Mother Anna's Italian restaurant. Here's a trick for anyone wishing to get good food, fast. Go early. You say you're a late-night dinner person; that's why God made desserts. Eat dinner early. Walk it off. Recharge with some coffee. And right when the lines start forming at the restaurant, you're already seated in a charming cafe downing a thick and well-packed cannoli topped with chocolate and crushed walnuts. And the gelato: it walks well with you; whether you're sporting a cup or a cone.

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