When you come to our Trattoria on Prince Street, you’ll see pictures of our family and an American flag on the walls. Even though it’s Italian cuisine, as you’d expect in the North End, it stands for what’s most important to us: love of friends, family, and this country. Monica’s is the American Dream come to life for us, and when you come from a background like ours, it means that much more.
I came to America when I was three years old with my mom and four siblings. Most of the pictures on the walls of us and our parents and grandparents were taken before we got to America. We are from Argentina – although my mother, Monica, is of Italian descent. We came here with nothing. My mom had heard the North End was the safest neighborhood, so that’s where we went. It’s a close-knit Italian neighborhood and even though my mom made the most delicious Italian dishes for us, we still didn’t speak any English when we first got here and had a hard time fitting in. My mom busted her ass to support all of us, working long hours for little pay as we made this country and neighborhood our home.
When I was 15, my brother Pat came to me with an opportunity. He’d been given the chance to buy the space that was one half of what’s now our location on Prince Street. It was tiny. He said to me, “do you want to buy a restaurant?” So we did. That was 27 years ago and it’s been our life’s work ever since. All the dishes are our mom’s original recipes. The chicken parm, the antipasto, the tiramisu – she inspired all of it. Before she passed away, she was at the restaurant all the time and people still talk about her. You can see her picture on our walls. Whether we are entertaining the Boston Bruins, or neighborhood customers and friends who have become family, we love cooking for everyone who comes in. We don’t discriminate – everyone is always welcome at Monica’s.
Since we opened Monica’s Trattoria at its original location, we expanded with the Mercato, which has Italian subs and a pizzeria on the basement level. A few years ago, we had the opportunity to double the size of the Trattoria, so we renovated the whole thing and re-opened with the concept we have now – exposed brick, and the bar that has seasonal cocktails that are beautiful and delicious. At first, we didn’t even know the exposed brick was there – we found it by accident one day before the expansion when we were just seeing what was behind the sheet rock for the hell of it. Once we started chiseling away at it, we spent all night doing the whole place. Our staff had no idea what had happened when they got to work the next day. Needless to say, we had to close for the day. The exposed brick and candlelit tables are classic North End, just like our food, and people love the atmosphere. During the holidays, the place is always decorated with flowers and something special in the front windows.
To be first-generation immigrants, come to this country with nothing, and put decades of blood, sweat and tears into our family business and turn it into a thriving enterprise – to me, that is the American Dream. The pandemic and all the restrictions have turned it into a nightmare. Not just for us, we see it everywhere in our neighborhood and the rest of the city as people have been less comfortable going out and now people are choosing to go outside the city to host parties at restaurants. The Massachusetts Restaurant Association says local restaurants are losing $10,000-$15,000 a week. We are proud to stand up for and support our local businesses now more than ever.
We are open Wednesdays through Saturdays starting at 5pm. The bar is usually where you can find our regulars, and always a great place to watch a game with different drink specials every night.
We will always stand for family, friends, freedom, the American Dream, and good food. As we say at Monica’s, “If you are what you eat, only eat delicious!”
Alexandra Salmon contributed to this piece.