Daily Slice: Russell House Tavern, 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.
Boston certainly has a bar pie culture, so it makes sense that Russell House Tavern, a place that focuses on "modern interpretations of American classics" and keeping it local, would have a fancied-up version. When I saw the pies billed as "Tavern Pizza" I assumed it was an eponymous listing. With toppings like figs, house made ricotta, and beef tongue—toppings I would never associate with a workingman's pie—I was totally thrown when the ultra-thin pies arrived.
A good pizza taxonomist would identify and classify the cracker-like crusts right away: bar pie. A little bamboozled, it wasn't until midway in that the lights went on. The Andria ($13), building from the crust up with a puree of garlic (mellowed out by a honey-like sweetness), buratta, sliced black mission figs, and sprinkled with crumbled fried sage, was such an intriguing marriage of flavors that a good study of the crust fell secondary to dissecting the components on top. The sweet garlic base maintained a slight pungency, but not so much that it overpowered the dried fruit notes of the heat-blasted figs or the milky mozzarella.
It wasn't until tasting the House Made Cotechino Sausage ($13) that the crust became easier to focus on. That's not to say that the flavor profile was any less attention grabbing, but the thin, spicy "tomato gravy" (a more interesting way of saying sauce), ricotta, and crumbled sausage are simply a more familiar combination. While nicely browned on bottom, the crusts didn't get dried out or overly cracker-y. Charred portions along the edges lent the dough a little more flavor, though it's primary purpose seems more geared towards transporting flavor. It wasn't the best crust in its class for want of pliancy, but it served its purpose as a good base for quality ingredients.