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Daily Slice: Pinocchio's, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Daily Slice gives a quick snapshot each weekday of a different slice or pie that the folks at the Serious Eats empire have enjoyed lately.
The go-to slice in Cambridge since 1966 has been the square Sicilian at Pinocchio's. For many, these slices serve primarily to curb late-night Harvard Square hunger. Experience has taught me that some pizza doesn't taste quite as delicious at noon as it does at midnight. The Sicilian slices at Pinocchio's, however, are equally good on either side of twelve.
The yeasted dough rises in a greased sheet pan and when finished, the square pies resemble an airier version of deep dish pizza. The slices ($2.55) at Pinocchio's are cut into roughly 5"x5" squares. You want to get an edge piece rather than a center piece. The crunchy rolled lip of the pie, similar in flavor and texture to an oil-brushed crostini, seems like it couldn't possibly be made from the same stuff as the soft, doughy body of the slice. The textural contrast is delightful. Like pan pizza, oil transforms the basement level of the yeasted dough into a toasted crumb. Over the next half inch, the crumb expands and softens, until it forms the pillowy, soft surface for sauce and cheese; the penthouse floor of pizza dough.
The pureed sauce settles in fine streams across the dough's surface and is neither too sharp or sweet. When regular mozzarella is involved, the sauce-to-cheese ratio is in good proportion to the dough, which is really what these slices are all about. On most of the ten or so varieties of slices available, the sauce is applied sparingly, but not too much so, and gets a sprinkle of dried herbs.
The pizza rossa (pictured at top) is the exception. It comes coated with a deeper layer of sauce, and gets a good dose of black pepper. A round of fresh mozzarella and a single basil leaf turns it into a Sicilian margherita.
The tomato and basil slices are sauceless, relying on the sliced rounds of tomato for sweetness and acidity.
It's easy to see how a Sicilian could turn into something more closely resembling a Greek pizza by over-saucing and applying cheese in excess. Proportionally increasing the sauce-to-cheese ratio to account for the depth of the crust seems like a reasonable adjustment, right? Not so for a good Sicilian. The characteristic that distinguishes Pinocchio's slices is their restraint. That, and the sorcery involved in making the crust.
74 Winthrop Street, Cambridge, MA (map)