A Hamburger Today
Monte's in Lynn, MA, or, Why Don't We See More Chopped Onion Slices?
Located under a black, riveted steel overpass with a sign that says "since 1946," Monte's looks like about as much of a working-man's pizza joint as you're ever going to find, and stepping inside the dim space with its faux-wood veneer upholstered booths tells the same story.
Even the waitresses—who look surly but act nice as can be—are lifers. Ours had worked there for over a decade and was still considered the new girl.
When you come across an old school pizzeria like this in New England, it's most likely one of two styles. If it has a name like Steve's or Joe's or Olympus, then most likely what you're gonna get is thick, crispy, greasy, cheese-laden Greek Pizza. If the name is anything else other than Santarpio's (which occupies its own New England pizza niche), then you're gonna thin, crispy, bar-style pies.
Monte's is the latter, and a fine example of it.
The style is distinguished by an exceedingly thin crust, very sparingly applied sauce, and cheese (in this case a mix of mozzarella and cheddar) that's spread all the way out the the edges of the pie where it melts off the ends and crisps up into dark, well-browned lattice.
That crispy cheese is the best part of the slice.
The pies at Monte's are ridiculously reasonably priced at $7.60 for a basic pie and about a buck (give or take) per topping on top of that. The crust comes out browned and properly cracker-like, while the sauce is slightly sweet, slightly tangy, and very fresh tasting.
For me, however, the most interesting thing was the onions, in a pie featuring some pretty unspectacular but perfectly serviceable pepperoni.
See, when I order onions on a pizza, I expect to see them in one of a few way. Caramelized, perhaps. Sliced and spread over the pie with a bit of sweet char. Maybe very lightly sauteed. What I've never seen before is finely chopped onions.
That's what they do at Monte's, and I Ilke it. A lot.
The onions are mixed in with the cheese and applied to this pie in an even layer so that they soften evenly as the pie cooks, releasing their juice and aroma to mingle with the cheese. Rather than overwhelming slices of whole onion or nutty-sweet charred or caramelized onions, you end up with a mild onion aroma that penetrates the pie but doesn't overwhelm it.
Where does this technique come from, and why aren't more people doing it?!
By the way, if mounds and mounds of melty cheese is your idea of a good parm sandwich, their's is about the meltiest, gooiest, most-cheese-for-the-buck I've seen anywhere.
I mean, check out this $6.25 Eggplant Parmigiana Sandwich!
It would take a man with a stronger stomach than I to finish such a thing.
About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.