Credit: Courtesy of Zurich Airport

The North End, formerly spaghetti central, has become a source for authentic Italian cuisine in Beantown. Count on the 2004 completion of the "Big Dig" to reattach the colonial neighborhood to downtown, speed the pace of culinary change—and lengthen the wait for a table.

top restaurants Terramia 98 Salem St.; 617/523-3112. Serving sophisticated northern Italian dishes in a trattoria setting. Prezza 24 Fleet St.; 617/227-1577. A buzzworthy bistro with a 540-bottle wine list. Carmen 33 North Square; 617/742-6421. The tapas-focused menu is by Bill Bradley, formerly of Bricco. Antico Forno 93 Salem St.; 617/723-6733. Wood-oven pizza with offbeat toppings—like truffle oil. Sage 69 Prince St.; 617/248-8814. Anthony Susi grew up here; now he's one of the North End's most innovative chefs. Taranta 210 Hanover St.; 617/720-0052. The sea-swept flavors of southern Italy, inspired by 16th-century family recipes.

essential shops Modern Pastry 257 Hanover St.; 617/523-3783. The tastiest cannoli in town, stuffed to order. Polcari's Coffee 105 Salem St.; 617/227-0786. Since 1932, the place for pistachios, hard candies, and coffee beans. —Matt Lee