Bostonians Prepare to Celebrate Valentine’s Day

By Lindsey Kennett
BU News Service

Heart-shaped balloons, oversized teddy bears, and red boxes of chocolates fill the aisles of CVS and Shaw’s Supermarket. Newbury Street shop windows feature advertisements with cardboard cut-out hearts and roses. While Valentine’s Day can bring mixed feelings to residents, Boston is preparing to celebrate this holiday with dinner specials, concerts and comedy shows that will keep couples and singles alike having a good time.

For Joe Mcevoy, a project manager at Cambridge Education, planning for Valentine’s Day can be a little tricky.

“I might get my wife some flowers or something,” he said. But the problem is she can see everything that I do in my bank account, so I can’t even surprise her with anything.”

McEvoy said going out to dinner, “something quiet and romantic,” would be nice surprise for her. 

The North End is one of many popular dining destinations due to the number and variety of restaurants in the area. One such restaurant, Mamma Maria, is offering a Valentine’s Day special on Feb. 14 and 15. Reservation info can be found on their website:

Another dining option can be found at Rowes Wharf, where brunch and dinner cruises offer food, live entertainment and dancing with a vivid view of the Boston skyline. Prices start at $109.90 per person and further information can be found at

Besides dining out, other locals expressed interest in music events offered in the city.

 “I’d like to hear some music,” Matt Montalto, who works in admissions at a school he preferred not to specify, said. “I haven’t been to a jazz club in some time. I was unfortunate enough to miss a show this past week, so I think that might be the next thing on the list.”

A few Boston locations are advertising classical concerts, including a free performance put on by the North End Music and Performing Arts Center (NEMPAC) in collaboration with the Old North Church. Their opera concert, “Amore,” is free and open to the public and will take place on Friday, Feb. 14 at 7 p.m. The hour-long concert will include a small reception after the show and they suggest a donation of $15-$20.

The Chamber Orchestra of Boston is also offering a show this Valentine’s Day at 7:30 p.m. Baritone Paul Soper presents a variety of romantic songs and internationally-acclaimed tango dancers Nuria Martinez and Armando Orzuza will take the stage. Post-show tapas and wine will be offered as well. Visit for more information.

Going stag this holiday doesn’t seem to be a reason to fret for some locals, including one junior at Boston University.

“I think if you’re with good friends or your significant other, that you just have to do something you both like,” Emily Kraft said. “If you’re together and doing something that you both enjoy, then I think it would be a good Valentine’s Day.”

There are plenty of singles-only parties, comedy shows and even fitness boot camps happening in the area for those seeking a not-so-typical V-day.

KitchenWares on Newbury Street is offering a mixology class, where anyone over 21 is welcome to sign up. The cocktails class is a new edition to the store’s classes’ list, manager Benjamin Stroud said.

“This is the first installment and it’s going to be focused around classic cocktails: Manhattan, Old-fashioned, Negroni, Aviation, and Margarita,” Stroud said.

Stroud said they thought a cocktails class would be a fun event for Valentine’s Day.

“Just a fun little social event,” Stroud said. “You can either come with a friend or with a date and just have a good time, learn a little bit and enjoy yourselves.”

For information about classes call (857) 366-4237.

Danny Sayson, a bartender at Abby Lane Food & Spirits, described what to expect at the restaurant’s first-ever “Broken Heart Bash” hosted by chef-owner Jason Santos.

“We expect it to be a little busy,” Sayson said. “We’re not requiring you to dress up. Sweats are actually encouraged.”

Sayson said this is the restaurant’s first time doing the bash, so if it goes off without a hitch, then they will continue hosting it for future Valentine’s Days.

The 9 p.m. party will feature a DJ, dancing and a menu that includes fried Snickers with whipped cream, chili/cheese fries, and mini Big Macs. Details can be located at

Other parties include “The Big Valentine’s Day Singles Party” held at The Harborside Inn Café and Lounge. The event begins at 8 p.m. with prices starting at $20.

For those who just want to show their bodies some love, Barry’s Bootcamp is offering a “Love Yourself” class this Valentine’s Day, with class times varying from 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

“We are allowing first time customers to come for free,” co-owner Dustin Martin said. “We spend half of the class, so 30 minutes, doing cardio training and the other half on the floor lifting weights.”

Martin said they are encouraging members to bring a friend, girlfriend, boyfriend, significant other and work out because it’s normally a big food and drink day, where fat and calories can quickly accumulate.

“So people not in a relationship don’t have to feel the pressure of doing something on Valentine’s Day, and they can just come here and sweat,” he said. “And if you are in a relationship, it gives you the chance to come here and sweat with a significant other.”

Other alternative activities include a “Naked at the Art Museum Scavenger Hunt” held at The Museum of Fine Arts. But no worries, visitors do not have to take off any clothing to participate. This scavenger hunt is designed to uncover the various forms of nudity featured in works of art at the MFA. According to the host, Watson Adventures, “No knowledge of art, or nudity, is required.” The event starts at 6:30 p.m.

If Bostonians want to spend this holiday reminiscing and laughing about past V-day horror stories, the Oberon Theater is presenting “Mortified Boston: Doomed Valentine’s Show” on Feb. 13 and 14 at 8 pm. Anyone can come to hear the most awkward and cringe-worthy tales of love gone horribly wrong.

No matter how your Valentine’s Day goes, on Feb. 15, singles and couples can grab friends and strip down for Cupid’s Undie Run. This is Boston’s debut of this run in support of The Children’s Tumor Foundation. Runners can join an existing team, form their own, or run solo. The party begins at noon with the run starting at 2:30 p.m. from the grounds of Fenway. Register at

John Zimmerman and Muriel Herrman, a couple visiting Boston from San Francisco, explained how they make Valentine’s Day special, no matter where they are in the world.

“We travel a lot with his business,” Herrman said of Zimmerman’s work as a software management consultant. “So wherever we are, that’s where we go [to celebrate],” Herrman said. “We travel all over the planet.”

But as for their favorite place to spend Valentine’s Day, the couple agreed on Italy.

“In Tuscany and Florence,” Zimmerman said. “The food, the people, it’s a beautiful area.”

Isamary Onde, a graduate student at Northeastern University, described her holiday plans.

“Nothing really, besides renting a couple of movies and hanging out,” she said.

Onde said there is only one thing, however, that can make the perfect Valentine’s Day.

 “Chocolate,” she said. 

North End’s Eliot School Skates Toward a Better Education

By Lindsey Kennett
BU News Service

Frank Sinatra blared from the speakers of Steriti Memorial Rink as parents held the hands of their elementary school-aged children skating around the ice. The chatter and laughter from dozens of teenagers, parents and helmet-wearing younger children filled the indoor rink, located on Commercial Street in Boston’s North End. The Eliot K-8 Innovation School’s first-ever free skate and 50-50 raffle, held on Feb. 1, offered family-friendly fun for students, parents and teachers.

“This is not a fundraiser as much as it is an opportunity for students, families and teachers to come together,” said Principal Traci Griffith of the Eliot School. “We’re doing a small raffle, but it’s really just to build and strengthen our Eliot community.”

Organized mainly as a get-together for the Eliot School community, the event also served as a fundraiser for the North End’s public school. Members of the Eliot School’s Family Council, similar to a Parent-Teacher Association, sold 50-50 raffle tickets and Fred White, owner of the North End Skate Shop and Snack Bar and also an alumni parent of the Eliot School, agreed to donate proceeds to the school.

The principal said the funds would help support school enrichment resources. “Currently we’ve been funding a literacy room, a book room so that teachers have leveled literacy-guided reading books to provide students with instruction,” Griffith said.

Stephanie Schapino Berksom, a mother of Eliot School students, described a few programs that could benefit from more funding. “PE, art, theater, and music all need to be paid for,” she said. “I feel like oftentimes, they are the first programs to be cut.’”

Van Pezzelllo, an Eliot School mother and member of the Family Council, said she was optimistic about support from City Hall.

“We have a new mayor and it’s exciting,” said Pezzello, “We’ll see where he stands, but it sounds like he is progressive and he is on the families of Boston’s side. So, I’m trying to be positive.”

Pezzello continued, “The Eliot is a great school and I think that in the past the former mayor has supported the Eliot School tremendously, so we’re hoping that this new mayor will do the same.”

Other parents expressed concerns regarding the funding of areas such as food equity and access.

“I know that there are links shown between academic achievement and nutrition,” said Schapino Berksom, who is also a professor of public health at the University of Illinois in Chicago. Although there are national dietary guidelines for food that public schools serve, that does not always guarantee the highest amount of nutrition, she explained.

She said 78 of Boston’s 128 public schools lack kitchens and get their food frozen from a facility on Long Island. “And although it meets the dietary guidelines, when food has been frozen and sitting around for that long, it loses its nutrients,” she explained.

Maximizing their children’s academic achievements was another common concern. One important way to spend public school funding is by “putting as many resources towards narrowing the academic achievement gap, in whatever way that needs to be done,” said Schapino Berksom. “I think that early education is a very important way to do that.”

Iova Dineva, another Eliot school mother and a designer at Wilson Architects, said teacher development can also benefit from increased funding. “Things like student-teacher development are paid for by the public council and by private funding,” Dineva said. Teacher development can improve the chances that her daughter will get a good education, Dineva said.

Funding for things as a simple as school supplies can also make a difference, Dineva said. “Even things like Kleenex for kids during the flu season or Clorox wipes are needed,” she said. “And then there is also extending the school day. It would be great to have targeted after-school activities that supplement the formal education that [the children] receive in the district.”

Tisha Armbruster, an Eliot School mother and a third-grade teacher at the George F. Kelly Elementary School in nearby Chelsea, cited the Eliot School’s foreign language lessons as an example of funding well used.

 “The Eliot School is constantly doing fundraisers because they need the money for programs,” Armbruster. “They have an Italian program which my daughter is in. They meet two days a week and it’s great because they actually get to learn the language.” 

New Kid on the Block in Boston’s North End

By Megan Turchi
BU News Service

Next to IL Villaggio and across the road from Café Paradiso on Hanover Street in Boston’s Italian North End, there’s a new kid on the block.

The Thinking Cup, which serves a Portland, Oregon brew called Stumptown Coffee, also sells sandwiches and pastries. Its tables are covered in historic Boston newspaper headlines and the smell of espresso radiates through the wood paneled walls and the handwritten menu.  But, it’s not Italian.

Despite packed tables and a line out the door any night of the week at their original location in the Boston Common on Tremont Street, the new Hanover Street location in the North End was nearly empty on a Thursday night in October.

“On the weekends we are busier than Tremont,” said Griffin Case, a Thinking Cup employee, as he cleaned the espresso machine behind the counter. “On the week, it’s like this. They are trying to figure out what to do.”

Visually the North End remains similar to if you walked down its cobblestone streets 30 years ago. The Mike’s Pastry sign is still illuminated, and feverish cannoli lovers still line up out the door even on blustery winter nights. Paul Revere’s house, with its original façade, attracts tourists daily with its historic charm. Grey-haired men in black suits smoke big cigars around tables outside of their favorite café.

Despite these outward consistencies, the North End’s demographics and openness to non-Italians seems to have changed, even if just slightly.

Population in the North End, according to the 2010 United States census data, still remains the smallest of all of Boston’s neighborhoods, but has increased across racial and ethnic groups. Hispanic/Latino, Black/African American, and Asian populations all increased by more than 50 percent, according to the 2010 census.

Can non-Italian businesses succeed in the North End?

“I would guess yes,” said Joseph, who works at Mike’s Pastry. “Not everyone in the North End is Italian. We are a more multicultural community now than we were 30 years ago.”

The Thinking Cup is attempting to break into this once exclusive world.

“I think the North End needed something a little different,” said Anna Daraz, The Thinking Cup owner’s fiancée and store manager. Not entirely different. “We have a lot of Italian pastries, like tiramisu and cannolis,” Daraz said.

Though it seems like the North End is slowly welcoming non-Italian coffee shops, restaurants, pastries and people, customers still have their Italian favorites.

“I’d probably still go to Mike’s,” said Jack Byrne, a regular Thinking Cup customer who was sipping a latte before his choir practice at the Old North Church on Thursday, when asked if he would rather get a pastry from The Thinking Cup or Mike’s.

Though the new Hanover Street location serves the same Stumptown coffee and sandwiches as the Tremont Street shop, it has had to make some adjustments to their menu.

“There are totally different crowds from the Common,” Daraz said. “It is hard to compare. On Tremont we don’t have cannolis or ricotta pie.”

Daraz explained that the North End location already has a strong fan base and regular customers – including many Italians.

“The North End needs some changes,” Daraz said. “They have existed for many years and they have a history, but the North End needs to move on and go farther.”