Jay Paris and Carmi Zona for Traveler's Journal

Boston's North End has a remarkable concentration of Italian eateries. Most are very good, a few are excellent, and among the best is Dolce Vita at the head of Hanover Street, near the Southeast Expressway.

Although Dolce Vita's roomy dining room is accented with Italianate mirrored walls, high ceilings, and white linen tablecloths, its fine dining atmosphere doesn't require a coat and tie.

Dolce Vita features extremely fresh seafood, cooked and served with originality. Our favorite dish, the Seafood Plate Alexander, isn't on the menu. Says owner and chef, Franco Graceffa, "My Seafood Plate Alexander consists of combinations of whatever I can buy that is the best -- mussels, shrimp, scallops, lobster, and very tender calamari. And I always serve it over linguine with Fradiavolo sauce of Italian spices, scampi, garlic and wine, which is something I brought over from Sicily. Because the proportions vary, we don't like to print it on the menu, but it's always available.

At $27.95, it may be Dolce Vita's highest-priced entrČe, but it is one of Boston's best, especially when savored with a glass or bottle of the house wine, a chablis with the brand name of Casa Burgundy, which is dry and full and will perfectly complement the feast.

If you wish to add an appetizer, we recommend Franco's Antipasto Salad -- a delightful mix of sliced eggplant doused in salt water, gently fried in extra-virgin olive oil, marinara sauce, garlic, pepper, cheese and fresh basil, all mixed with calamari. We like to end the meal with a dessert called Tiramisu (meaning "pull me up" in Italian), a layered sponge cake soaked in espresso and rum.

Like any great Italian meal, this one may arouse your olfactory sense before it reaches your mouth, but that is one of the pleasures of the North End -- and particularly of Dolce Vita.


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