Not too long ago, East Boston was seen as an alternative to the city's North End neighborhood for dining out, as it had a number of old-school Italian restaurants and food shops, and while some of them remain, Eastie has changed quite a bit of late and is now a diverse and increasingly hot place with lots of development happening along the waterfront and elsewhere. But the neighborhood still has some of the last remnants of old Boston, with its crowded and narrow streets, bustling squares, and yes, its old-time shops and restaurants, including the landmark Santarpio's Pizza on Chelsea Street and Jeveli's Restaurant in Day Square, which is considered the oldest continuously-operating Italian spot in all of Boston. And there is also a restaurant called Rino's Place that used to be a true hidden gem, though it's not so hidden anymore (more on that in a bit), but it is still not all that well-known outside of Eastie, with the lines out the door tending to be mainly locals and those in the know.
Rino's is set in a congested and mostly residential neighborhood between Day Square and Central Square, with the dining spot being surrounded by three-deckers and row houses. It may seem like an odd place for a restaurant, but this really is part of Rino's charm. When you enter the small storefront, you feel like you have stepped back in time, perhaps into someone's kitchen inside a house. The workers there seem to know many of the patrons who walk through the door, and tables are mostly full of locals discussing the events of the day, though it isn't the purely local place that it had been, say, 10 years ago. Why is this? Well, as many may know, Guy Fieri featured Rino's on the Food Network show "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" back in 2011, and what had been a very quiet neighborhood place suddenly had long lines (and waits) on both weekends and weekdays. And while the lines don't seem quite as long or as frequent, it can still be tough to get in, especially due to the fact that there are relatively few tables in the restaurant.
Guy Fieri finds some truly great dining and drinking spots across the country, and you can tell that he did his homework when it came to visiting Rino's, as the food here is easily some of the best Italian fare in the entire Boston area. The handmade pasta is a huge draw and will make diners forget all about the boxed stuff, while the red sauce is simply outstanding and makes it tough to not choose a dish that includes it. Some of the highlights at Rino's include an antipasto with cheese, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, eggplant, olives, and a variety of Italian meats such as prosciutto, mortadella, and soppressata; pasta al forno, which consists of baked pasta, mini meatballs, mozzarella, ricotta, and tomato sauce; a chicken and eggplant parmigiana that is big enough to allow for not just one, but two or even three leftover meals; linguine vongole, which comes with a huge amount of clams and can be ordered with either red or white sauce; a classic veal marsala with ham, mushrooms, and a white wine lemon butter sauce; a tender ribeye with blue cheese sauce that is seriously one of the best things ever tried for this site, and is unfortunately only available as a special; and their famous lobster ravioli in a tomato cream sauce which costs a bit more than you might be used to, but is a truly unforgettable dish. A few beers are offered at Rino's, but this is really more of a place for a glass of wine or perhaps some red sangria, the latter of which has a perfect balance of sweetness, spiciness, and fruitiness.
Rino's might not be an under-the-radar restaurant anymore, but it remains a special place that every Bostonian (and visitor, for that matter) should go to at least once. East Boston happens to be one of the best neighborhoods in the city for dining out these days, and this little eatery is a big reason why this is the case.
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