Where To: Tony & Elaine’s, a red-sauce joint from North End restaurateur Nick Frattaroli (Bodega Canal, North Square Oyster, Ward 8).
Why: The restaurant is new, but it feels like a throwback, intentionally: red-checked tablecloths, raffia-wrapped Chianti bottles, cheesy vintage posters, the works. It follows in the footsteps of restaurants like Carbone and Parm in New York, opened by a younger generation of Italian-Americans paying homage to the spaghetti and meatballs and chicken parm they grew up eating. Surprisingly, given the North End and its rich history, Boston hadn’t really jumped on this bandwagon. Now it has. Come for the lobster ravioli, stay for the adorable downstairs grotto strung in colored Christmas lights.
The Back Story: Frattaroli has spent the last few years bringing a more-youthful vibe, and non-Italian food, to the North End. He started with the cocktail-centric Ward 8, then opened seafood spot North Square Oyster (currently closed for a revamp) and Mexican restaurant Bodega Canal. But Frattaroli has lifelong ties to the traditional side of the neighborhood: Tony & Elaine’s is named for his parents, who worked for many years as servers at Lucia, his uncle’s restaurant. It represents a return to his roots.
What to Eat: Well, you’ve got to get the meatballs. Chef Eric Buonagurio won first place for them in a competition to determine the neighborhood’s best meatball, held at the Fisherman’s Feast festival. What could be more North End than that? Also order the better-than-bar-food mozzarella sticks with marinara for dipping; pasta dishes such as rigatoni alla vodka and orecchiette with sausage and broccoli rabe; and the hulking chicken Parmesan, enough for several meals.
What to Drink: There’s an all-Italian wine list, Italian craft beer, and a good selection of amari — plus house-made limoncello.
The Takeaway: Tony & Elaine’s is a nostalgic salute to some of this country’s best-loved food.
111 North Washington St., North End, Boston, 617-580-0321, www.tonyandelaines.comDevra First can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @devrafirst.