Walking through Boston’s North End will bring you to some of the most famous Italian restaurants and bakeries on the Eastern seaboard, from Mike’s Pastry to Regina Pizza. However, as you munch on cannoli from the peerless Bova’s Bakery and shuffle down Salem Street, you may notice something odd on the sidewalk.
Stuck in the cement outside of Monica’s Mercato and Salumeria—an Italian grocery and cured meat shop renowned for its sandwiches—are none other than a butcher’s knife, a large kitchen knife, and a grill fork. You might even walk right over them and not notice, but the sidewalk utensils are a beloved North End sight. Another set can also be seen outside Pagliuca’s, a neighborhood restaurant specializing in Southern Italian fare.
One theory about the origins of these embedded utensils is that they were once used to subtly communicate an establishment’s purpose without language. According to the owner of Monica’s, the tradition originates in Italy, where salumerie would sometimes identify themselves with cutlery. The silverware outside Monica’s hints at the salumi—including prosciutto, mortadella, and salami—within.
So head on through the labyrinthine streets of the North End, grab an Italian sub at Monica’s, and find the street forks and knives for yourself.