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Chain Reaction: Bertucci's New Fall Flavors

While we think mom-and-pop shops make the best pizza in the nation, we'd be remiss if we didn't keep abreast of what the chains are up to. Suit up, it's time for another Chain Reaction, folks.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, Bertucci's makes the best chain pies I've had. But in all my years of loyalty to the New England-based brick oven pizzeria franchise, I've been pretty boring in my pie choice: Margherita all the way. Twist my arm and I'll go with the eponymous pepperoni-topped "Bertucci". But of the other mainstays, the Spokie's ricotta turned me off, the Pucillo was too loaded with the 'roni, sausage, mushrooms, peppers, and onions, and Silano's chicken, marinated broccoli, and lemon pepper cream sauce was just too unorthodox for my tastes. Then I learned that Bertucci's has revamped their specialty pie menu with the addition of new fall flavors on four pies! And these are some toppings that I can get on board with....I hoped.

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My favorite topping equation, and I am sure I have Slice'rs to thank for planting this seed way back, is salty, fatty pork, something tart, and something hot. To that end, the addition of salami and cherry peppers, and their union on the new Spicy Salami , made my Bertucci's lovin' heart sing. The pulpy, sweet sauce of their's makes a great backdrop for the vinegary heat of the peppers. The peppercorn studded slices of salami had a subtle heat of their own, but my one misgiving with this pie was that the salami stayed too soft bedded beneath the mozzarella and provolone (a cheese flavor that was lost on me) and could have benefited from more exposure to the heat of the oven. Overall, this is a pie that could easily dethrone the Queen Margherita.

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The current deal at Bertucci's is that you can get two of these new pies for $15. Not bad since the individual pies register at $10.99 each. Never one to miss a deal, I added the most fall of the flavors, the Butternut Squash and Blue Cheese pie. In addition to the crumbled blue cheese, an item that appears to only be available on the specialty pizza as it is not listed in the "craft your own" ingredient list, the butternut squash pie is also topped with candied walnuts. I imagined all the ways that the squash could be dreadful, but the perfectly cut cubes were well-seasoned and intact, but gave way to tender, soft centers. The flavors came together well enough, especially when one of the sweet, praline-esque nuts found their way into a bite. It was kind of like a cheese board pie. Big fans of blue cheese may be able to down a whole one, but a slice or two was all I could eat of the bold flavored special.

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The third of the new pies I tried was the Roasted Mushroom and Asiago. Many mushroom topped pizzas can fall victim to drying up into shriveled shrooms, but the the slices of roasted portobellos and white mushroom caps arrived plump and meaty. While the combo of asiago and sage is a fine one, the overall effect of this pie was just too salty. Unlike all the other newly introduced pies, this ones is made on a multigrain crust. It's claims of containing barley, rye flour, and flax seed were undetectable, but the crust was uncharacteristically dense with an intense crunch. Perhaps this crust appeals to the eating philosophies of some, but I can't say I recommend it for flavor or texture.

The one new pie I missed was the bacon and roasted potato. Any other Bertucci fans out there who have tried it? I suspect, that much like these other pies, it will translate to meet expectations, whatever they may be for a potato topped pie. Mine are admittedly low. The rest of the new additions make for a good update to the Bertucci's pie, and I would like to thank all the good people of Bertucci's that saw it fit to add the Spicy Salami. Good call!

About the author: Meredith Smith is the Slice editor. You can follow her on Twitter: @mertsmith.

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