There’s never been a better time for pizza in Boston.
For generations, two iconic pizzerias dominated the competition in this city: Santarpio’s (111 Chelsea St., Boston, 617.567.9871), which has been in business in East Boston for over a century and Pizzeria Regina (11½ Thatcher St., Boston, 617.227.0765) in the North End, where they’ve been making pizzas since 1926. But in recent years, young pizzaioli (pizza makers) have been getting creative with the world’s favorite pie.
At Cambridge, 1. (27 Church St., Cambridge, 617.576.1111) in Harvard Square, pizzas aren’t baked; they’re grilled. The dough is rolled ultra-thin, cooked over hardwood charcoal, flipped, dolloped with your choice of toppings and briefly returned to the fire. You get a crisp, slightly charred pie of smoky subtlety, dappled with lobster or Black Forest ham or grilled steak. Just north of Boston proper on Route 1 in Saugus, at Angela’s Coal Fired Pizza (880 Broadway, Saugus, 781.941.2625), the pies are cooked in 900-degree, coal-fired ovens, resulting in crisp, bready crusts that are excellent foundations for inventive toppings like chicken Parmesan and sautéed shrimp.
It’s said that pizza is the perfect food; all the elements of a well-rounded diet—protein, fruit, vegetable, grain and dairy—assembled together in one delectable dish. At PICCO (513 Tremont St., Boston, 617.927.0066) in the South End, pastry chef-turned-pizzaiolo Rick Katz makes a pizza that boasts a thin, puffy crust, which he garnishes with ingredients like homemade ricotta, white anchovies and sautéed spinach. Try the Alsatian pie—inspired by the tarte flambee of Alsace, France—smothered with bacon, sautéed onions, shallots, garlic, crème fraîche and Gruyere.
Boston’s latest wave of pizzerias comes by way of Naples. These establishments hew to the rules and regulations of the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, the Italian-based organization that protects the veracity of Neapolitan pizza by dictating everything from the thickness of the crust (3 millimeters) to how much time the pie should stay in the oven (60-90 seconds).
Before he opened his Davis Square pizzeria, Posto (187 Elm St., Somerville, 617.625.0600) owner Joseph Cassinelli attended a three-day course sponsored by the American branch of the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana to become an AVPN certified pizzaiolo. His diploma is displayed by the front door. Posto’s wonderful pies are made from imported Molino Caputo Tipo 00 flour, San Marzano tomatoes and house-made mozzarella. They would make a Neapolitan happy.
According to the AVPN, true Neapolitan pizzas must bake in 900-plus degree, wood-fired, stone ovens. There are two such ovens at Crush Pizza (107 State St., Boston, 857.350.4222), in the Financial District. The New Hampshire-based chain is new to town and hoping to corner the market in design-your-own, quickly baked, all-fresh pizzas—including signature Pesto Blast and Bourbon BBQ Chicken pies.
A dome-shaped, red tiled, imported Neapolitan pizza oven occupies center stage in the open kitchen at Pastoral (345 Congress St., Boston, 617.345.0005), the recently opened Fort Point restaurant from Todd Winer, former executive chef at the Met Restaurant Group. Pastoral’s Margherita pizza—topped with tomatoes, mozzarella and fresh basil in the colors of the Italian flag—would surely have been appreciated by the 19th-century Italian Queen Consort for whom it was named. If only Her Majesty could try Pastoral’s Lemon pizza of mozzarella, jalapenos and lemon zest strewn with arugula and bonito flakes. Now that’s a pizza with pizzazz.
To make it easy for you, here's our handy RIYL guide:
Scratch-made down to the ricotta: PICCO
The longtime local favorite: Santarpio’s
Ultra-thin and grilled: Cambridge, 1.
Homemade sauce, cooked hot over coal: Angela’s Coal Fired Pizza
Authentic, imported ingredients: Posto
Brick-oven baked: Pizzeria Regina
Create your own: Crush Pizza
Chef-driven, fancy topping combos: Pastoral