Cambridge, Massachusetts: Armando's Pizza Isn't the New York-Style Pie You've Been Looking For
Armando's Pizza on Huron Avenue, just a short walk outside of Harvard Square in Cambridge, is quite popular among Boston pizza enthusiasts. It is so well-loved that people rave about it while in line to order their pies (during our visit, I overheard two different customers tell the guy behind the counter that it was the best pizza in Boston).
To find out if Armando's was worth all the hype, I assembled a small team of reliable experts, including 8-year-old Harper and 6-year-old Henry, to give it the taste test. We ordered ourselves a large cheese pie, a large half anchovy/half sausage pie, and a few Sicilian-style slices.
There's no question Armando's makes a very pretty New York-style pie. The cheese is nicely browned and bubbly, the crust well-browned, both on the edges and on its undersides, and the cheese-to-sauce ratio is spot-on. The thickness of the crust tapers perfectly from edge to point. If we were judging on looks and mechanics alone, Armando's pies would rate highly. Problems arise, however, when we get to taste and texture.
Not everything merits complaint: the sauce, while mild-mannered, is tasty. It's not as sweet as some New York–style pizza sauces, but it has a nice herbiness, along with a bright, tangy uncooked-tomato flavor. The cheese (a mixture of grated mozzarella and provolone) is gooey and flavorful, though it would have benefited from a little more saltiness (or a touch more salt in the sauce). And the toppings are entirely acceptable for a corner pizza joint: nothing special, but of decent quality and quantity. (Yes, the sausage was sliced, not crumbled, and on the dry side.)
It's in the crust that Armando's pizza is lacking: while it is crisp where it should be (i.e., on the very exterior), the interior is insubstantial and not at all chewy. Whether due to the lack of protein in their choice of flour, or inadequate gluten development during mixing, the crumb is dry and fluffy, especially in the cornicione, where it is at its thickest.
The Sicilian-style slices fare even worse in this regard. Armando's uses the same dough for both styles of pizza, and since the square slices are so much thicker than the NY-style pies, there is a lot more of this unpleasant inner crumb to consume.
As far as Boston-area pizzerias go, Armando's is one of the better thin-crust New York–style places I know of. Unfortunately, that's more of a reflection of the lack of quality New York–style pizza available around here and not because the pizza at Armando's is particularly great. For this reviewer at least, the search for a superlative New York–style pie here in Boston carries on.
For full disclosure, I should say that Harper and Henry did give Armando's three thumbs up: