P As In Pizza, That Is
BOSTON RECON Slice Roving Reporter E-Rock swooped in on Boston (above) for his latest Slice To Go report. His adventures are detailed below. [This image from USGS satellite via Microsoft TerraServer website.]
WORDS BY E-ROCK | PHOTOGRAPHS BY CHRIS NAU
How does one prepare for the coming shitstorm next month called the Republican National Convention? The one that will snarl our streets, shut down our trains, and fill the streets with folks who don't like our city anyway? [Oh but they will love New York, E-Rock, once they get a taste of our delicious pizza. See G.O.Pizza for details.Ed.] Go to Boston a few days before the Democratic National Convention, where essentially the same thing is happening, except that the drunk guys in suits are having a lovefest fueled by parties in Cambridge with mounds of cocaine the size of Pamela Anderson's implants.
E-Rock had a long weekend a few days ago, and it takes more than a throng of juiced-up politicians and their boot-licking servants to spoil that. I go to Boston a couple times every summer to visit my twisted abstract-painter friend Chris. In the past we would wander around the streets of South Boston with open containers and watch huge artist-loft buildings get demolished by wrecking balls to make way for high-end condos. But now he and his girlfriend Lesley have a place in quaint Somerville, Massachusetts, just north of the city, so we decided to settle for a Saturday spent wandering around the more well-traveled areas of the city, capped by a pizza freakout.
First of all, though, E-Rock had to get there. I usually take the Fung Wah Bus, which runs between New York and Boston's Chinatowns for $10 each way. Some people are fond of making fun of these buses, but the rich, racist pricks who love to criticize it have obviously never taken the Greyhound to Boston. E-Rock, short on time Friday and near the Port Authority Bus Terminal, opted for the $35 Greyhound ticket instead. I waited in an enormous line in the bowels of the terminal for the 7 p.m. bus. At 7:30, we were informed that they "didn't have a driver" because of "traffic," and we'd have to wait until Greyhound located one. Is Friday-night traffic on northbound I-95 something new? They don't know about these things? E-Rock's bus didn't leave the city until 8:30. I drained my flask of Famous Grouse into a half-empty Pepsi bottle and endured the smell of an overflowing toilet and the sound of cell-phone ringers turned up to the volume of a Who concert for five hours. When I got to Boston's South Station, one of the first things I saw was a young, suit-wearing delegate yelling at a homeless person. At times like these I wonder why I ever bother leaving New York.
When I got to Somerville, I found out that Lesley was going to volunteer for the proceedings at the convention on Sunday as a "city guide." Her required attire? A white golf shirt with the logos of corporate sponsors like Gillette (it said nothing about the convention on it) and khaki pants. Did the fashion people setting this up have the right convention?
We started Saturday with a stroll near Boston Common and into the city's South End. Chris, on a Francis Bacon binge, wanted to go to an art-book store in the neighborhood. We then went to J. J. Foley's and watched the beginnings of what proved to be a completely insane Yankees-Red Sox game. We saw the A-Rod vs. Varitek bloodbath, and it made E-Rock glad he's a Mets fan. The last thing I needed was to cheer for an opposing team deep in the heart of rabid Boston sports mania.
We then walked northwest through the city toward the Charles Rivercruising by plenty of people in white golf shirts and khakisand ended up at another bar, the Crossroads, at the foot of the bridge connecting the two cities. Thinking we would just settle for a pre-pizza shot of Jameson, it was supposed to be a quick stop. But things changed when Mariano Rivera blew the Yanks' lead and Chris started talking to a guy who had spent months as a contractor in Iraq. That part of our journey was punctuated by the guy showing us newly-minted money from Iraq, freaky pictures of what's happening in the country and telling us about the general insanity going on over there. (I guess it's legal to walk around with an automatic weapon in clear view.) Red Sox third baseman Bill Meuller slammed a two-run shot off Rivera, and the bar erupted. We decided it was time to leave and walk across the Mass. Ave. bridge to Cambridge before people started lighting cars on fire.
What's the deal with Boston and why don't they just call the whole place Boston? Whenever E-Rock's there, he thinks he's in Boston and later finds out he was in Somerville, Jamaica Plain, or Roxburythe place is so damn confusing.
Anyway, the pizza siren called, and we walked to this place called Cambridge and through the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. We witnessed some MIT weirdnessballroom dancing in some student union type of building. Ballroom dancing classes on a Saturday night in the summer? Is this what Noam Chomsky does for fun?
Our destination was Emma's. Chris loves the place and assured me its pies had thin crusts and great toppings. Having been to Cambridge a few times and having seen some of its glassy-eyed residents, I feared one thinghippie pizza.
Emma's does have a bit of a hippie vibe to it, but the restaurant is more upscale than most places one would find in a college town. The joint was packed, but we waited only ten minutes for our table.
We ordered a small, 12-inch pie with basil, garlic, traditional sauce, and mozzarella ($11.75, below left) and, at Chris and Lesley's suggestion, we got a large, 16-inch smorgasbordhalf of it topped with thyme-roasted mushroom, baby spinach, garlic, traditional sauce, and mozzarella and half with feta, scallion, garlic, gorgonzola, traditional sauce, and mozzarella on the other half ($16.25, below right). (See, E-Rock told you there was some hippie-ness going on here.)
Emma's crust is indeed thin, but it's more like a soft Carr's cracker than the crisp-chewy perfection one finds in Gotham. Plus, those combos of toppings are so far afield from what E-Rock orders in NYC that it was like a whole different experience. This is what I've always imagined California-style pizza to be. The menu also offers pagnotelle sandwiches and salads.
But the topping combos were tasty, and even the plain pie had a nice flavor. The ingredients were fresh, and, hey, at least it wasn't deep dish. There is the possibility that E-Rock was just drunk, too, [That's a very good possibility.Ed.] and anything would have been good at that point.
I'll recommend Emma's, though, if you're ever in Cambridge, for a good pizza-based meal, but not if you're looking for a New Yorkstyle pie. That is something E-Rock will try to find on his next trek up north. Any suggestions from the peanut gallery?
The next day, Chris and I ventured to Chinatown to get Fung Wah tickets and had lunch at a great Vietnamese restaurant called Pho Pasteur. The food was flawless if you could get over the fact that the floor tiles seemed to be covered in some kind of oil. E-Rock nearly broke his hip.
I left amid the beautiful chaos that is the line for the Fung Wah, something E-Rock would take any day of the week over the pain that is Greyhound. And, no, I didn't see Bill, Hillary, T-Kenn, Kerry, or Edwards drunk on power and whooping it up. I didn't see them at all, in fact. But in the parking lot of a rest stop somewhere in Connecticut, E-Rock saw a busload of Falun Gong devotees, the same ones who were protesting the day before on Boston Common.
When the Falun Gong gets going, that's usually a good sign that it's the right time to leave.