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United States of Pizza: Massachusetts
Massachusetts' shores welcomed the Mayflower and fostered the pioneering spirit of many who would venture into uncharted land to the west. She was the cradle of the Revolutionary War, the heart of the anti-slavery movement, the spearhead of the Industrial Revolution, and some say the birthplace of pizza in America!
Despite the Commonwealth's role in the genesis of American pie, many think that Massachusetts has been reduced to a pizza wasteland able to support nothing nobler than the Obligatory (Your Town Name Here) House of Pizza. But while Greek-style pizzas certainly dominate the parlor landscape, there is, in fact, a rich diversity in the state's pizza taxonomy, which is why there is no such thing as a "Massachusetts (or Boston) Style Pizza." The truth is that the Commonwealth is a demographic melting pot from which a myriad of pizza micro-cultures have sprung. Just driving twenty minutes can land you in bar pie, sweet sauce, beach pizza, or sauce-on-top territory. Many of the best pizzerias in the state, without the "house of" moniker, are well-established, longstanding neighborhood places that have been sustained over generations by the same family. Find those spots, and you've found what Massachusetts pizza is all about.
Where to Eat Pizza in Boston
For decades one of the best parts of flying into or out of Logan airport has been incorporating a side trip to Santarpio's. In fact, "Tarps," as it is known by locals, pre-dates the airport's existence in East Boston. The pizzeria is a fourth-generation family operation that opened as a bakery in 1903 and started serving pizza in 1933. Santarpio's operated exclusively out of their original location until 2010 when they opened a second location in Peabody, MA. Many Bostonians staunchly maintain that it is the best pizza in Boston. Food + Wine named it among the best in the United States.
The architecture of a Santarpio's pie is unique in that the toppings line the bottom of the dough and are anchored by "Italian cheese" with the sauce on top. In a Globe interview the Santarpio family breaks it down:
'Most places do the exact opposite, but we think the toppings cook better on the bottom,' says [Santarpio's family member] Carla. The sauce is just crushed tomatoes—'They're the good ones, the same tomatoes that we put in the gravy at our Sunday night dinners at home,' says Carla—and dried herbs reduced together for a few hours over a low flame. [Bartender and cousin] Timpone says that people are always asking him for the sauce's secret ingredient. 'When I tell them how simple it is, they think I'm lying,' he says.
To finish, the pies get a drizzle of olive oil from an old Smirnoff Vodka bottle, then about 10 minutes in the 550-degree oven. Santarpio's had a brick pizza oven but got rid of it about 50 years ago. They're now on their second gas-powered Reed revolving tray oven from Kansas City. It has five shelves and can hold 40 pizzas at a time. 'It's as hot as we need it to be, and I cook pizza just the way I like them—nice and crunchy,' says [another Santarpio family member] Joia.
Here's our own Ed Levine's report:
Not bad. Cooked all the way through. And nice bubbles. It's too much cheese for me, but you will never go broke putting a lot of cheese on Americans' pizza.
111 Chelsea Street, East Boston, MA; 617-567-9871 and 1 Newbury St (Route 1), Peabody, MA; 978-535-1811; santarpiospizza.com
While many stand behind Santarpio's, others hold that its longstanding North End rival, Regina Pizzeria, reigns supreme. In October of 2010 The Food Network's Food Feuds pitted Regina against Santarpio's and declared Regina Boston's pizza champ. The Polcari family has helmed the restaurant for over three generations and expanded their empire to include 22 locations. The original Thacher Street address opened its doors in 1926 and many claim that the best pizzas in the Regina franchise come from the 1888 brick oven that resides there.
Slice correspondent Dan S. reports:
The Margherita was, in my opinion, about perfect...the thickness of a typical slice joint, but it's sublimely crisp on the outside and chewy within. The pizza heel gets a nice char from the wood-burning brick oven, though in a regular cooked pie, the bottom of the slice is disappointingly char free (I imagine ordering a pie well done would correct this sad particular).The sauce is wonderful: full of flavor and not too sweet (I believe California tomatoes are used), while the cheese is a straight shredded mozz but spiked with a dusting of pecorino Romano.
Slice'r olsonmatt recommends the regular cheese:
At Regina's, the thing to get is a regular cheese pizza, maybe with sausage, not a Margherita. They offer a lot of "gourmet pizzas" on their menu, but I only see tourists ordering those. I guess you can tell that I love the place and feel the need to stick up for it.
Ed Levine concurs:
The crust had bubbled up beautifully. It was indeed crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. The mozzarella was, as advertised, decent-quality aged mozzarella, but what made the pie . . . was the Romano cheese generously sprinkled on the top.
11 1/2 Thacher St., Boston, MA; 617-227-0765; reginapizzeria.com
In 2010, Rachel Ray footed the bill for Slice's Adam Kuban and Ed Levine to determine the country's best pizzas. Picco and Santarpio's were selected as the Boston contenders. Picco made it as far as the "Sweet Sixteen," making it the leading Boston rep in the East Coast division. This South End pizza and ice cream parlor (the name PICCO stands for pizza and ice cream company) produces a neo-Neapolitan pie with a California approach to ingredients: local, organic, homemade, (dare I say) yuppie. Their crust undergoes a two day cold fermentation which allows it to develop a yeasty complexity and pleasantly sour notes. Serious Eats editor Carey Jones is a fan, reporting that owner and pie maker Rick Katz "creates a crust that's bready in the best of ways—high-edged and aggressively crunchy, with an insanely flavorful yeasty, slightly sour chew."
Boston Herald critic Mat Schaffer praises the Picco kitchen:
The centerpiece of the bright, open kitchen is a $30,000 Wood Stone oven, the Rolls Royce of hearths. With its ceramic floor and leaping flames, the oven produces superb pizzas with thin, puffy, browned crusts that tear apart to reveal a soft, wispy crumb
513 Tremont Street, Boston, MA; 617-927-0066; piccorestaurant.com
Galleria Umberto Rosticceria
The best way to find Galleria Umberto in Boston's North End is to look for the line out the door. Super cheap Italian street food has made the no-frills operation a lunch landmark. Lines for Boston's favorite Sicilian slice can start forming as soon as the doors open at 11am. And when the dough runs out, Umberto closes up shop for the day, so get there early.
Serious Eats editor Carey Jones reports:
These slices are smothered in blood-red sauce, with a crust that threatens to spill over the pan's edges, with cheese that actually does. Pools of oil quiver in the grooves between slices. If you get a slice to go—tied up in a neat white box—the grease will soak right through the cardboard. If that box is in a paper bag, it'll soak through that, too. If this troubles you, this is not your kind of pizza.
Yet as imposing as it looks, each slice is surprisingly light. Sicilian pizza often suffers from a dense, dry breadiness that makes getting through a single cut a burden. But Umberto's crust is fluffy, like an airier focaccia—not heavy in the slightest. It's moistened further by a fresh, herb-laden sauce. The cheese bubbles and browns, charred on the edges, melty and crispy all at once. Getting cheese to this stage often means a dried-out crust, but not here.
289 Hanover Street, Boston MA; 617-227-5709
Trattoria Gran Gusto
A relative newcomer, Gran Gusto opened its doors in North Cambridge in 2007 and became metro Boston's answer to finding a good thin-crusted Neapolitan style pizza. Chef and part-owner Giuseppe Castellano, originally from Naples, claims that 80% of his pizza's ingredients are imported from Italy. And he has a reputation of preserving the integrity of his wood-fired pizzas by vetoing requests for excessive toppings. But Carey felt she was in good hands during her visit and was especially into the crust, which she labeled "textbook Neapolitan."
Gran Gusto's Margherita pizza ($12) is a paragon of the style: a very thin crust lightly charred in a wood-fired oven, a bit of olive oil, a thin sauce of San Marzano tomatoes with a fine balance of sweetness and acidity, copious chunks of fresh mozzarella di bufala, and a sprinkling of fresh basil leaves. There are a half dozen more heavily laden pizza options, but it's hard to imagine improving on this marvel of clean, well-composed flavors, especially atop this superb, alternately creamy and crispy crust.
90 Sherman Street, Cambridge, MA; 617-441-0400; grangustocambridge.com
More Recommended Pies in the Boston Area
For more Sicilian slices, try Harvard late night favorite, Pinnochio's (74 Winthrop Street, Cambridge, MA; 617-876-4897; pinocchiospizza.net) or nycpunk1 recommended Leone's (292 Broadway, Somerville, MA; 617-776-2511; leonessubandpizza.com).
If you're hard up for a NY style slice and can't afford the Fung Wah bus, try Stella's (605 Mount Auburn St., Watertown, MA; 617-924-5692; stellaspizza.com) or Armando's, which is recommended with reservations by Boston Slice'r Andrew Janjigian (163 Huron Avenue, Cambridge, MA ; 617-354-8275). Slices don't come any bigger or in more varieties than at Ernesto's in the North End (69 Salem St., Boston, MA; 617-523-1373; ernestosnorthend.com).
Where to Eat Pizza on the North Shore
Angela's Coal Fired PIzza
To our knowledge, there are only four coal ovens in the state of Massachusetts and Angela's lays claim to two of them. The first Angela's pizza premiered in Saugus in 2007. They have since opened a second location in Tyngsboro, near the New Hampshire border. Each outpost houses two custom-built coal-burning ovens from Abruzzi, Italy (one for pizza and one for their other obsession—wings.) Reaching up to 1000 degrees, the Angela's crust is guaranteed to sport some desirable char.
Serious Eater Jon first brought Angela's to our attention and had this to say:
The element of Angela's which stands out the most is its amazingly springy light crust with abundant charring. It's hard to recall ever experiencing a pizza with such a springy crust.
Hakansson of the Nashua Telegraph filed another positive review:
Indeed, the pizzas are well-done, with a crust that's a bit on the dark side. Don't let your first impression fool you. One bite into the pie reveals an inner dough that's cooked to perfection. One might get the sense that, if anything, the dough might be undercooked, as it is so fluffy and easy to bite through. Pizzas are topped with a delicious homemade tomato sauce that Sideri says his cooks are able to put on the pizza raw, and thanks to the extreme temperatures of the ovens the sauce cooks along with the pizza in 3-4 minutes.
880 Broadway, Rt 1, Saugus, MA; 781-941-2625 and 361 Middlesex Rd., Tyngsboro, MA; 978-649-8312; angelascfp.com
If you've always leaned towards a sweeter sauce, then Beverly, Massachusetts is your place for pizza. Since 1984, when Mama Tina and Luigi Francavilla opened their first pizzeria, the North Shore has developed a love (or hate) for pies laden with sugary sweet tomato sauce. Two shops in Beverly battle it out for sweet sauce supremacy, but Slice gives a slight edge to Luigi's. Here's the take away after a recent foray into the heart of sweet sauce country:
Luigi's crust is superior: it has fuller flavor and better and more consistent structure, maintaining its elasticity while still being crispy. Little Italy's crust reminded us of matzoh, a comparison which might bother the owners. Luigi's sauce was herb-laced and noticeably sweeter; it was impossible not to suspect some corn syrup—it had a bottled-barbecue-sauce sort of sweetness. Little Italy's sauce was less sweet tasting on the pizza, but it simultaneously tasted somehow more artificial, as if one sauce ingredient were tomato-flavored Jolly Ranchers. Luigi's was much more generous with their thicker sauce; Little Italy's pie had a loose, thin sauce, which may have cut the perceived sweetness somewhat.
Little Italy: 294 Cabot Street, Beverly, MA 01915; 978-922-4704; littleitalybeverly.com
Luigi's: 38 Rantoul, Beverly, MA; 978-922-2828
A place that has been making pizza since 1947, and only raised the price twice, is as old-fashioned as they come. In the entire history of the restaurant, only two men have ever known the secrets behind Riverview pizza-making. Slice contributor Andrew Janjigian could only extract the admission of sliced cheddar cheese in a recent visit. Riverview's pizzas are the of the bar pie variety, more commonly found to the south of Boston than on its North Shore, and locals will order pies the "old way", with the cheese under the sauce. This Ipswich institution's dedication to tradition has earned it accolades from national magazines like Saveur, as well as approval from Mr. Janjigian on Slice:
The mild-flavored, lean crust was thin from edge to edge, with almost no puff to speak of, and soft in the interior. Entirely lacking in char, it was delicately crisp on the very bottom, and around its decidedly less-than-circular perimeter. The chunky, canned-tomato based sauce was tart and a touch on the sweet side, but pleasantly so, and ladled on in just the right amount, serving as a nice foil for the slightly sharp tang of the cheese that topped it.
20 Estes Street, Ipswich, MA; 978-356-0500
Tripoli bakery has been lining sheet pans with bakery style pizzas since WWII. The original location is in the Italian section of Lawrence, but fans of their Salisbury Beach location (only a year its junior) have dubbed Tripoli slices "beach pizza." The square-cut slices resemble Sicilian-style pizza, but a thinner, light and crisp version. The sauce is sweet and the grated cheese is applied sparingly. Topping options are slices of provolone, slices of American, and pepperoni.
106 Common Street, Lawrence, MA; 978-682-7754 and 15 Broadway Ave, Salisbury Beach, MA; 978-465-3846; tripolibakery.com
The guys behind Flatbread Company started out making pizzas on the weekends in a Vermont barn converted into a natural foods store. True to their roots, the Flatbread founders are all about the natural, organic, and local ingredients that go in to their pies. The first restaurant opened in Amesbury, but they have added nine more locations, including one in Hawaii and one in British Columbia. Domed earthen ovens made from clay, hay, ash, and sand are prominently positioned in each of the outlets. Their unique wood fired ovens and the franchise's emphasis on all-natural, organic, environmentally conscious ingredients set Flatbread apart.
Chowhounder 1crispydude raves that Flatbread is the "most outstanding find since I discovered ketchup at age three. Very earthy/crunchy (crunchy being just this side of crispy) and very Californicated environment and very outstanding Pizza." In a Yelp review, Paul C. adds:
As for the pizza, it was simplicity itself, a basic thin-crust cheese pizza. Normally, I'm the type that likes my pie thick and loaded, but I have to admit, just plain cheese was good. Thin crust that was slightly crunchy around the edges and bottom, but with a hearty chewiness that has you coming back for more. Topping all of that was a light sprinkling of fresh mozz, and just enough tomato sauce—not too sweet, and not too acidic.
5 Market Square, Amesbury, MA; 978-834-9800; flatbreadcompany.com
More Recommended Pies on the North Shore
Serious Eater UnaVia recommends Bianchi's (322 Revere Beach Blvd., Revere, MA; 781-284-9472) which is known for their "beach pizza." And another community member, nycpunk1, calls our attention to the bar pie at New Brown Jug (1014 Revere Beach Pkwy, Chelsea, MA; 617-884-9579; BrownJugChelsea.com).
Where to Eat Pizza on the South Shore
There's bar pizza all over the Bay State, but the South Shore is the heartland of the matzoh-thin, nearly crustless pies. And stepping on a few toes is unavoidable when labeling the best of the bunch. That said, the Lynwood Cafe sets the bar. Old school to the core, the Lynwood displays all the defining characteristics of bar pie heaven: looks like an old man watering hole, serves cheap pitchers of beer, outfitted with wood paneling and booths, original 1949 decor, lots of server 'tude. Yelper Eric L. praises their pies:
The baked bean special is so good. They take Boston baked beans, chopped onion and salami and cover your cheese pizza with it. The flavor combination is amazing with the sweetness of the baked beans matched by the saltiness of the salami and the slight bite from the onion. Toppings aside, their crust is oh so thin; I like crust to be as thin as possible and Lynwood definitely serves up some of the thinnest crusts I've ever had (I don't like those bread-y crusts that most pizza chains serve up). The ratio of crust to sauce to cheese is spot on; if you're up for mixing it up, try stacking two slices on top of each other for even more layers in your mouth at the same time!
HiddenBoston.com has declared Lynwood the best bar pizza in the Boston area: "Greasy, thin-crusted, slightly chewy, and almost mind-blowing in the taste department, the bar pizza at the Lynwood is a culinary piece of perfection." Chowhounders agree.
320 Center St., Randolph, MA; 781-963-9894
Regulars to Poopsies don't bat an eye when told they will have an hour and half long wait. They come back to soak up the 70's romper room vibe, sip frosted mugs of draft beer, and plow through individual sized bar pies—worth the wait every time.
Chowhound poster cannedmilkandfruitypebbles calls Poopsies a winner: "Terrible name, great pizza. Super crispy crust and cheddary cheese blend. Poopsie's has something about it that just sets it apart."
243 Church St, Pembroke, MA 02359; 781-826-5282
Brick Pizzeria Napoletana
Serious Eater Jgoogy pointed us in the direction of Brick in New Bedford. Their imported Italian wood burning oven and the use of a sourdough starter in lieu of commercial yeast sets Brick apart from other pizzerias in southeastern Mass. In an interview with New Bedford Guide's Mike Silva, owner John Goggin advises, "Eat the crust! It's the best part and we've put a lot of work into making it the best it can be!" Yelper Fred K. finds the focus on crust pays off, "The foundation of a good pizza is the dough, and they do not mess around at Brick. The wood-fired oven allows the crust to be cooked ultra fast, but the dough remains slightly springy and chewy on the inside."
163 Union St., New Bedford, MA; 508-999-4943; pizzeriabrick.com
More Recommended Pies to the South
When it comes to bar pies, there is little consensus as to which is the best. The names that come up over and over again among South Shore pizza devotees are Cape Cod (995 Broadway, Raynham, MA; 02767; 508-802-6598; capecodcafepizza.com), Alumni Cafe (708 Hancock Street, Quincy, MA; 617-472-0555), Marc Anthony's (190 Onset Ave., Onset, MA; 508-295-5956; marcanthonyspizza.com), and Christo's (782 Crescent Street, Brockton, MA; 508-588-4200).
Where to Eat Pizza in Central and Western Massachusetts
The Wonder Bar has been run by the same family in Worcester since 1922, making it the oldest continually operated restaurant in the city. Not only that, they were the first to bring pizza to Worcester. The Wonder Bar is a total time warp. A Wurlitzer jukebox is the most modern fixture in the joint.
The Phantom Gourmet Guide to Boston's Best Restaurants named Wonder Bar the Greatest Bar Pie in the area. But the pizza at Wonder Bar is really more New Haven-style than bar pie. It has a crisp undercrust that softens ever so slightly towards the center. Charred bubbles puff up out of a thin, but structured dough, so that the toasted exterior yields to a soft, airy interior. While the sauce has a prominent sun-dried tomato flavor, it is laced with the a punch of bright acidity.
Charles P. Pierce of the Boston Globe even called out Wonder Bar as a candidate for the 1,000 Great Places in Massachusetts list in his letter to the Massachusetts Commission:
I don't have any objection to the sites included, but, really folks, not a single saloon? No love for Wonder Bar's pizza? I mean, I like the Higgins Armory, especially when all the school groups go dashing off to see the Sharp Things That Can Kill You exhibits, but just try and get a cheese-and-pepperoni there at 9 p.m.
Side note: Martin Sexton immortalized this Worcester institution by making it the namesake of his 2000 record release.
121 Shrewsbury St, Worcester, MA; 508-752-9909; wonderbarrestaurant.com
Serious Eats reader sheckybish first piqued our interest in this central Mass pizzeria, identifying their pies as a tavern style unique to the area, and we're glad to have been clued in. The Red Rose is striking. Golden chandeliers loom overhead, concrete lions are prominently placed in the center of the dining room, as if standing guard, and a glassed wall to the kitchen gives diners a glimpse of soaring rounds of tossed pizza dough.
The Red Rose came into being when a wine merchant's daughter moved from a village of 5,000 outside of Naples to Springfield in 1963. She opened a small pizza place and eventually her husband, a tailor from the same Italian village, decided to join her in her restaurant endeavor. The added manpower led to the Red Rose. Their son, Tony, now runs the Rose. And the pizza there is it's own style. Call it Neo-Neapolitan if you will. It does come from Napoli, after all, but it is more of a medium-thick hybrid between a pan pie and a thinner traditional pizza Napoletana. Be advised that "plain" constitutes a pie with cheese, pepperoni, and red and green bell peppers. Red Rose pies have a cornmeal dusted bottom that reinforces the already sturdy crust, keeping the nicely browned slices crisp from edge to point. Salty and bright, the tomato sauce is the real standout of these diplomatic pizzas, which are capable of pleasing thick and thin crust lovers alike. Will Gordon sandwiched in a few slices between his alcoholic whipped cream and 40's research and had this to say about Springfield's finest:
I like that the basket bread and the pizza are the same. I love Red Rose's automatic opt-in policy on the pepperoni, but I wish they'd put some of the chandelier maintenance budget into cleaning the Budweiser tap. $4 for a musty Bud is pretty steep for Springfield.
1060 Main St., Springfield, Massachusetts; 413-739-8510
If drunk college kids could elect one amazing place to get slices in Massachusetts, it would be Antonio's, hands down. There are always a dizzying array of pizzas on display. Chicken ranch with bacon is a big seller, bringing together grease, fat, dressing, and bacon. At most places that would be a disaster, but the Antonio's crust is built for such heavy lifting. The sturdy bottom means getting all the decadence of drunk food without getting drunk food all over you. How can you score later if you have buffalo chicken trailing down your front?
Antonio's is in Serious Eats' booze expert Will Gordon's turf. Here's what he has to say about it:
I had vague memories of Antonio's being good drunk food, but it turns out it's even good enough to eat on the way to getting drunk. The plain slice doesn't taste like anything, but I don't think it's supposed to. The crust, tomato, and cheese are just there to provide structural integrity for all the great sloppy toppings.
Although a day's worth of "preparation" may have blurred Will's recollection, I distinctly remember him saying that the pizza dough tasted like biscuits. And it does. 31 North Pleasant Street, Amherst, MA; 413-253-0808; antoniosamherst.com
For the best Greek-style pizza in central Massachusetts head to Village Pizza. Since opening the store in the mid-seventies, owner John Balis has been behind the counter patting his pies into oiled pans between taking orders. Tiny air bubbles and striations texture the crackling oiled crust. The distinct flavor is characteristic of a well-seasoned pan—about 30 years worth of seasoning. Greek pies are typically cheese heavy, and Village Pizza is no exception. Toppings are buried underneath the abundant cheese, and the sauce has a ground tomato texture that is thick without being pulpy or chunky. 42 Bank Row St., Greenfield, MA; 413-772-6209
More Recommended Pies in Central and Western Massachusetts
If you see a sombrero illuminating the Northampton night sky in neon, then you are within spitting distance of Joe's Cafe Pizza and Spaghetti House (33 Market St., Northampton, MA; 413-584-3168; joescafenorthampton.com). Serious Eats contributor Will Gordon has had at least one successful date there and dug their cracker-thin crust and gaucho-themed decor.
Where to Eat Pizza in the Berkshires
East Side Cafe
Serious Eats community member John B alerted Slice to a coal oven in the Berkshires, informing us that "East Side Cafe in Pittsfield has been serving [coal-fired pies] since the early '50s. Nothing like it in the area. Always has a great char on the bottom and carboned edges once in a while." A repost of his letter on Chowhound pulled up this additional information from The Berksherite:
I haven't been in a while, but the general populace considers it to be among the best. They only offer it certain days of the week...thin crust and a friend of mine who worked there years ago told me they use mostly muenster cheese, with a little mozz. For a while they only made pizza on Thursdays, which was payday for GE back when there WAS a GE in Pittsfield.
378 Newell Street, Pittsfield, MA; 413-447-9405
Serious Eats community member Dneblank recommends Baba Louie's for all-natural sourdough pizzas in Great Barrington. This Berkshires favorite takes an egalitarian approach, catering to gluten-free and vegan customers as much as the omnivorous wheat fiends. Culinarily PC to the core, the pizzeria employs local artisan bakers from the Berkshire Mountain Bakery in Housatonic, MA, to make their renowned sourdough crusts.
Celina Ottaway sums it up in her Times Union review:
One piece of pizza, and I was ready to hug everyone in the room. The quality of the ingredients comes through again and again at Baba Louie's, even in the small details. The cheese on the pizza is made fresh for the restaurant.
The thin crust manages a crisp underside while still retaining a nice chew. In terms of schools of pizza, this isn't the air-pockets and charred bits that you might find in a New Haven pie or John's Pizzeria. The lip of the pizza stays thin right to the edge, more along the lines of The Cheeseboard in Berkeley, Calif. (But unlike a lot of Albany-area, thin-crust pizzas, there is nothing cracker-like about the crust, even at its crunchiest.) The sauce is as good as the crust, and again the ingredients shine here. The tomatoes warm your mouth like mid-summer sunshine.
286 Main Street, Great Barrington, MA; 413-528-8100 and 517 Warren Street,
Hudson, NY; 518-751-2155; and 34 Depot Street, Pittsfield; 413-499-2400; babalouiespizza.com
Where to Eat Pizza on the Cape and Islands
Ed Levine pretty much says it all in his Martha's Vineyard recommendation to the first family:
Dear Obama family,
When you get to Martha's Vineyard next week you'll notice that pizza is ubiquitous on the island. Even in towns with less than a handful of retail establishments like West Tisbury and Chilmark there will be at least one place selling pizza that someone will tell you is the best to be found on the Vineyard. Do not listen to these people. Garcia's Deli is the closest shop to your rental property making and selling pizza. Its pizza leaves a great deal to be desired. As does the pizza at the nearby Chilmark Store.
Mr. President, First Lady, Sasha, Malia, you can trust me on this one. The only seriously delicious slice of pizza to be found on the island of Martha's Vineyard is made by this man, Joe Santarpio, at Joey's Pizza in Oak Bluffs. Joe has a totally legit pizza pedigree and street cred. Santarpio's, his family's East Boston pizzeria, has been around since 1903. The Santarpio family is to Boston pizza what the Kennedy family is to Boston politics. They are a pizza dynasty. As our president and chief politician I trust the Kennedy family analogy is one you will understand.
I know Joey's doesn't look like much. It's just a shack. But the pizza, sold by the slice and small, not quite 14-inch pies, is most excellent.
The crust is thickish and breadlike, but it's got a crusty, crunchy exterior and a little cornmeal on its bottom. The slices are salty and tangy from the combination of aged mozzarella and Romano cheese Joe uses on his pizza. There is a righteous balance to a Joey's slice. The ratio of crust to sauce to cheese is just about perfect.
So, first family, now you know. Take it from the folks at Slice, if you get a hankering for pizza while you're on the Vineyard, head to Joey's. Slices are $3.25; the smallish whole pies are $14, so even if your pizza is on us, the taxpayers, it shouldn't blow a hole in the federal budget.
Joe will only be there until Labor Day, so your family vacation timing is perfect.
Your friends at Slice
PS: Tell your Secret Service detail about Joey's. They will appreciate the tip.
Seasonal. 12 Circuit Avenue, Oak Bluffs, MA; 508-696-0010
I wish I could remember my first trip to Spiritus. (John Buffalo Mailer: if you're reading this it is 100% your fault that I don't remember it.) But part of the point of this Provincetown institution is to pad those rambunctious, brain cell-eroding evenings of levity with a little alcohol-absorbing nourishment. Founders John Y. and Paul S. brought pizza to pizzaless P'town in 1971. And while pick-up spots and pizza parlors come and go, Spiritus has held its place as the main slice on the Commercial Street scene for 40 years.
Slice contributor Andrew Janjigian breaks it down for us:
Provincetown's Spiritus Pizza is one of those establishments that is known as much for the scene that surrounds it as it is for the pizza. This landmark restaurant remains the go-to destination for late night cruising after the P-town bars and clubs have shuttered for the evening. But Spiritus has plenty to offer even the hetero crowd. Their thin crust, NY-style pizzas—with a touch of whole wheat flour in the crust—are tasty indeed, especially when washed down with one of their signature two-espresso-shot coffee ice cream shakes.
190 Commercial St., Provincetown, MA; 508-487-2808; spirituspizza.com
Opened in 2006, Pi Pizzeria is a labor of love for pizza obsessive Evan Marley. Marley's focus is on quality. In an interview with Nantucket Today he reveals, "The real secret to good pizza is using the best ingredients. Good-quality flour (Pi uses organic flour with restored wheat germ), salt, yeast and water. The thing about Italian cooking is it really stresses the simplicity of the ingredients. There are very few—but they use the best." In addition to outfitting his pantry with DOP San Marzano tomatoes, organic pepperoni, and NYC imported Esposito's sausage, Marley also boasts the only wood-fired commercial oven on Nantucket. 11 West Creek Road, Nantucket, MA; 508-228-1130; pipizza.com
The Pizza Barbone is chef Jason O'Toole's mobile wood fired pizza operation. The roving pie maker is still in his first year of business, but spent the summer of 2010 baking off pizzas at farmers markets around the Cape. We can't wait to check out what his traveling oven can do.
Cape Cod, MA; 508-223-6030; pizzabarbone.com
Massachusetts Pizza Chains
In Pizza: A Slice of Heaven, Ed Levine concludes that Bertucci's sets the gold standard for pizza chains, stating that while not his dream pizza, it is exponentially better than the rest. Bertucci's was founded by restaurateur Joseph Crugnale in Somerville's Davis Square in 1981. The establishment of the first Bertucci's was more of a real estate investment than a step towards pizza chain supremacy. However, the vision of brick ovens populating America's countryside led to aggressive franchising and rapid expansion that finds the current Bertucci's holdings at about one hundred restaurants, over a third of which are in Massachusetts. At one time the restaurant could claim VPN certification. But the American delegation didn't take kindly to the company's direct approach, side-stepping American certification steps and instead going straight to the source in Naples, so they suspended Bertucci's membership. Nevertheless, it is the quality crust with its wood fired char that lets Massachusetts lay claim to the best in the way of standardized, cost effective, franchised dough.
Papa Gino's opened in 1961 as a family owned pizza shop called Piece O' Pizza in East Boston. Today there are nearly 170 locations throughout New England, which by some counts makes it the 15th largest pizza chain nationwide, and by all counts the largest based in Massachusetts. Despite Gino's broad New England success, their presence in Boston has always been more peripheral. Papa Gino's fan Jay Layman tells us that until the recent opening of their Brookline location, the closest places to grab one of their pies (other than during a game at Fenway) was in Brighton or Charlestown. When pressed for details on his affinity for Gino's he replied:
I've always considered Papa Gino's pizza to be the most well-rounded and delicious pizza I've ever eaten. I may sound like a homer, being as I grew up eating it, but for a New England chain they make an excellent pie. The crust has such a good balance of doughiness and crispness, and they never overdue it on sauce or cheese. In recent years they've added the Rustic pizza, which is the same size as an extra-large, but is cut into squares and the crust is sprinkled with crumbled Parmesan cheese. When I thought they could never do any better, Papa's goes and one-ups and totally renews my love for them.
Add Your Favorites!
As always, this guide is just a start, and Massachusetts has a lot of pizza to offer. Where's your favorite pizza in the Bay State? Please put your tips in the comments!
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