Location: 11 1/2 Thacher St., Boston MA 02135 [map]
Cost: Margherita (plain), $9.69 for small and $15.99 for large
Payment: Cash only
Food, however, is also a problematic issue. Boston's population of tri-state exiles are usually thrilled with the quality of the lobster rolls and littleneck clams. If you want a burger or a steak, you're in luck, as Boston is home to plenty of fabulous pub-style burger joints (Bartley's and R. F. O'Sullivan) and two of the best steakhouses this side of Peter Luger (Abe & Louis' and Grill 23 & Bar). However, Lord help ya, and I mean Lord help ya if you are ever in the mood for one of those two New York classics; a fresh bagel or a good old-fashioned slice.
The bagel issue is for another blog (does someone want to start nybagel.com?); it will suffice for now to say that the bagel situation is grim, quite grim. But our concern for the moment is pizza. Simply put, the vast majority of pizza in the Boston area is awfulI mean, just lousy. The student areas of Allston and Brighton are chock full of slice joints that look like something you'd recognize from a Manhattan street corner, but, trust me, what they're serving up is nothing like what you or I would call pizza. The predominant style in the Boston slice joints is some abomination called "Greek style." I'm not even sure how to describe it, but it's somewhere between New York and Chicago style, with a thick, greasy crust that ususally tastes remarkably similar to cardboard or one of those bread sticks from Pizza Hut. Slices sit out in those heated carousel things behind glass, and god knows what kind of ovens the places use, because I almost never even get my slice reheated.
I came to Boston for graduate school after spending my whole life in New Jersey, and many were the nights during my first year when I would just about weep over some tasteless triangular something that was described as pizza while secretly I longed for a slice from Pizza Town in Elmwood Park, New Jersey, or PJ's in New Brunswickanything foldable, thin, and dripping with olive oil.
Thankfully, all is not lost! Unlike New York City or North Jersey, you are unlikely to get a decent slice just by wandering into any old slice joint, but good pizza can be found if you seek it out. There's Santarpio's in East Boston, Ernesto's in the North End, and even a little New Yorkstyle slice joint in the Back Bay called Newbury Pizza than can all do in a pinch and if you feel like riding the T. And, of course, there is the bisnonna of all Boston pizzerias: Pizzeria Regina.
I'm not too much of a histoy buff, but Pizzeria Regina has cred. It opened in 1926, making it, I think, the third- or fourth-oldest pizzeria in America (someome can check my facts on that). It is tucked into Boston's North End, one of America's great Italian-American neighborhoods, a charming network of narrow streets full of fantastic restaurants, pastry joints, cafes, and historical monuments (Paul Revere's house is in the neighborhood). A tirp to the North End is all but a guaranteed good time (try Taranta's for some fantastic gnocchi).
My girlfriend and I decided to meet up with some friends on Friday Night to give Regina's a try. I had been there a couple of times before and had always been impressed. On a trip back home over Easter weekend, I had taken my girlfriend to Patsy's in East Harlem, and I was curious to see how Regina's would hold up to a classic New York coal burner.
If you go to Regina on a weekend night, be prepared for a wait. There are no reservations at this cash-only joint, and folks are taken on a first-come, first-served basis. Our wait this time was mercifully brief, perhaps due to our somewhat late arrival (8:30 p.m.). Inside, Regina's is all atmosphere: crowded, noisy, and bustling, tables packed with hungry pizza seekers, surly waitresses crisscrossing the space dishing out pies and pitchers.
Regina only serves four things: pizza, beer, wine, and soda. The place has a storied reputation for curt servers (it's actually considered part of the charm), but our waitress was actually quite friendlyprobably because we ordered quickly. There's a great variety of pies (you can get the list on the website), and, like a steakhouse, you are given the option to order to your desired doneness: lightly done, regular, or well done (what kind of sick freak would order a pizza "lightly done"?). Our party of five decided to go with two large pies, both cooked regular (I really wanted to get one well done, but I didn't think the rest in my party would be as high on char as I am): one classic Margherita (right) and one Saint Anthony's, a white pizza topped with homemade sausage, roasted peppers, onions, mushrooms, fresh garlic, and mozz. Of course, we also ordered the Boston requisite: two pitchers of Sam Adams.
In short, Pizzeria Regina does the job when it comes to alleviating the pizza withdrawal that so often afflicts the displaced tri-stater who comes to Beantown. You can even stop at Mike's or Modern Pastry on your way back to the subway for an amazing cannoli. Buon appetito a tutti!
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