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Polcari’s Coffee – North End

There are several things you immediately notice upon entering Polcari’s Coffee in Boston’s North End: the strong scent of coffee beans and the potent aroma of a variety of different spices. This adorable shop is like a time-capsule with its old-world charm preserved from a bygone era—from its creaky wooden floors to glass jars filled with specialty coffee beans or colorful spices to the antique brass scale to measure the coffee beans. There are also large overflowing with an assortment of ingredients used in Italian cuisine creating a path from one end of the store to the other. Polcari’s Coffee’s old-fashioned ambiance and convenient location on the corner of Salem St. and Parmenter makes it one of my favorite shops to photograph in the North End. Click here to book PhotoWalks North End tour. 

Here’s the backstory:

Anthony Polcari arrived in Boston from Italy when he was 20 years old with a dream: to open his own coffee shop. He saved the money he earned working as a pocket-maker at a local tailor shop for years. In 1932, Polcari’s Coffee opened on a busy corner of Salem St. surrounded by vendors selling all kinds of food and household goods from pushcarts.

Mr. Polcari and his wife Rose had three children, Ralph, Anthony and Marie. They all worked at the store and helped make it a successful family business. Ralph, the oldest son, eventually took over the store from his father. Ralph became a mentor to a young man named Bobby Eustace who was 17 years old when he started working at the store. Ralph and his wife Phyllis did not have any children. Ralph and Bobby developed a close father-son bond. In 2005, they discussed Bobby taking over the business in the future. After Ralph’s passing in 2010, Bobby assumed sole proprietorship of Polcari’s Coffee.

Bobby considers himself a “museum keeper”, committed to running Polcari’s Coffee in a way that would make Ralph Polcari very proud.

a vintage photo of a busy city street a store front at day a close up of a bottle




a man standing in front of a store