A Hamburger Today
Brighton, MA: The Proper Slice
The crackle of the under crust was the thing that got me on my first visit to The Proper Slice. It formed its own perfect, distinct layer in the pizza crust topography. By the second slice, after the pie had sat on its aluminum podium for a wilt-able amount of time yet remained crisp, I was ready to place the fledgling pizzeria in the upper echelon. Finally, a thin crust, whole pie with a subcrust texture that is only achieved in these parts on a reheat. Ironically, it was the allure of that crunchy bottom veneer that that exposed this pizzeria's inconsistencies.
Round one I got the Sopressata and Hot Cherry Pepper pizza. The sopressata comes thinly sliced, as do the pickled cherry peppers. Good sopressata makes me have to watch my manners. It's all I can do to stop myself from peeling the porky cured meat straight from the slice. It was that kind of sopressata. And the vinegary peppers cut through the pork, tomatoes, and cheese with a spicy punch. On this pie, the cheese was applied in moderation and each slice could be lifted from the whole and maintain a nice stiff line from crust to tip. The dough itself had just the right amount of salt and a faint wheat-y sweetness. Fresh tomato sauce contributed a bright acidity to balance out the other components, and my only complaint was that there wasn't a little more of it.
Plotting and planning for the return trip, I counted myself lucky and The Proper Slice menu makers geniuses. Torn between the plain cheese, Che-Chi's Italian Sausage (sweet Italian sausage, roasted red peppers, onions, and mozzarella), the Proper Hawaiian (mozzarella, prosciutto, Romano, and pineapple), and another Sopressata and Hot Cherry Pepper, I was relieved of making a choice by the Proper 4-Way Sampler. The extra $4 expense to have them create one whole pie 4 different ways seemed worth the agony and second-guessing.
During my first visit, I was so deep into the under crust romance that I was willing to overlook the irregular bits of cornmeal that littered the bottom of the pie. But once the first tip sagged, the coarse shards of meal came into sharp focus. About half of the crust cling-ons were black and acrid—gritty cast offs from a previous pie's trip to the gas deck ovens.
Of the varieties that made up this 4-way pie, the Sopressata remained the heavy favorite. However, cheese overkill really crippled this pie. It's too bad because the elements are all good, in the right proportion. In keeping with the first experience, this pie was also light on the sauce.
The use of prosciutto on the Hawaiian held a lot of promise, but the pineapple chunks should've been on par with the meat. Canned and poorly drained fruit made this version a victim of the typical Hawaiian pitfalls. And I was oh so hopeful for Che-Chi's Sausage, but it turns out there isn't an employee at The Proper Slice making his special family recipe. It's is procured locally from a Fenway stationed sausage cart, but the fennel-less ballpark links served whole on a bun don't maintain the same juicy interior when sliced and placed on a pie. A courser grind or crumble might salvage these sausages, though a fennel-packed version would add more to the overall flavor.
I would still tell you to go, but the recommendation comes with the caveats that often accompany a place that is still getting its feet on the ground. It might be worth specifying that they go easy on the cheese. Without the weight of all that dairy, you might just land yourself a pie with a bottom that can support it's own weight. There is evidence that The Proper Slice can live up to its name with a few tweaks.