All Star Pizza Bar
1238 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA (map); 617-547-0836; allstarpizzabar.com
Pizza Style: New York
Pizza Oven: Marcel gas oven
The Skinny: Friendly neighborhood vibe, good beer, and decent pies.
Price: 16-inch cheese pie, $13.95; single toppings, $1–2/each; Specialty pies, $18.95–20.95
All Star Pizza Bar, the newest Inman Square outpost from Kosta and Johnny Diamantopoulos, sits diagonally across the street from the brothers’ All Star Sandwich Bar. Like its well-regarded, older sibling, the All Star Pizza Bar serves inventive food in a friendly and welcoming environment. (In contrast to the Sandwich Bar, which offers salads and dessert, this is a focused affair: aside from beer, sangria and soft drinks, it serves pizza and only pizza.)
The cheese pie at ASPB is a respectable and not unsatisfying version of the kind of pies you find all over the place in New York City, and only very rarely here in Boston. It had a nice thin, crisp crust as a solid base with plenty of flop at the tip, a crisp but not overly dry cornicione, and plenty of chew under the tooth throughout. The sauce, a blend of fresh and canned tomatoes, is tart and very slightly sweet, a fine foil for the oozy blend of 5 cheeses—mozzarella, cheddar, provolone, asiago, and pecorino—that top it.
My one complaint about the pie is that the crust, while nicely browned and crisp, was flat-tasting, especially on the interior. Maybe all it needed was a bit more salt, but my hunch is that they don’t proof their dough at ASPB long enough to develop the depth of flavor that I look for in a crust.
The sausage we had on the second pie was tender, appropriately fatty, and hinted strongly of fennel; along with many of the other meat-based toppings on offer, it is made in house. The “charred” broccoli rabe we combined it with sounded promising, but was a dud. Char, in this case, meant desiccated and papery, since the greens were applied raw, leaving its leafy fronds to scorch in the heat of the oven. I get the point, but I’d have preferred the rabe to be placed beneath the cheese, or be blanched beforehand, to lend it enough moisture to withstand the oven’s onslaught.
I’m generally not keen on the sort of “chef’s specials” pies ASPB offers—buffalo duck confit with Maytag farm blue cheese, or a “Dukes of Hazzard” pie, with ricotta grits, baked eggs and breakfast sausage—so we steered clear of that side of the menu. But from what I saw of these pies, they don’t appear to overload them with toppings, and from my experiences at All Star Sandwich Bar, I’d expect the quality of the toppings to be quite good. If that’s your thing, you’ll probably be quite happy.
The space at ASPB is colorful and inviting, and the staff very friendly. The pizza is, for the most part, solid stuff, and along with with a pitcher of PBR or Berkshire Brewing Company beer, makes for a satisfying meal. It’s occasional flaws mean that ASPB doesn’t quite rise to the level of a destination joint, but it’s definitely the sort of place that I’d be grateful to have as my corner slice outlet, and a welcome upgrade to the neighborhood.