Whether you want tender Neapolitan crusts or thick Sicilian slices, we know just where to find the perfect pie.
By Scott Kearnan·
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We don’t care what your friends in New York have to say: Boston is a great pizza town now. Besides its handful of old-timers that are still tossing delicious dough around, the city has also spawned a new wave of artisan pie makers who are playing with tradition, developing their own pizza-style permutations, and loading us up with gourmet toppings. From Sicilian to Neapolitan, South Shore-born bar pizzas to Detroit-style pies, here are some of the best.
The Maine Wood Heat oven at Area Four Boston. / Photo by Melissa Ostrow
Thanks, Obama. When #44 lunched at chef-partner Jeff Pond’s Kendall Square restaurant back in 2015, the place hardly needed the publicity. After all, its existing reputation for amazing wood-fired pies is what lured the then-commander-in-chief to start. (If you’re curious, he ate the mushroom and fontina pizza, and also took a sausage-, soppressata-, and bacon-topped “carnivore” pie to go.) But we appreciate anything that draws deserved attention to the spot, since it was such an important, early entry in the Boston area’s Better Pizza movement. It still gets our vote as one of the best.
500 Technology Square, Cambridge, 617-758-4444, areafour.com.
Pepperoni pizza at Armando’s Pizza. / Photo by Ruby Wallace-Ewing
Every small town once had a place like Armando’s, which is tucked in a residential-feeling corner of Cambridge: the burnt-orange booths and faux-wood paneled walls, adorned with photos of local little league teams, are straight out of your ’80s-childhood memories (and/or an episode of Stranger Things). Nostalgia aside, though, few of those pizza parlors were actually this incredibly good.Armando’s, on the other hand, is a decades-spanning, no-frills spot that kills it when it comes to New York-style slices, to be sure. The wonderfully spongy dough of the Sicilian-style squares, meanwhile, is even better than you remember.
163 Huron Ave., Cambridge, 617-354-8275.
The interior of Avenue Kitchen + Bar / Photo provided
Avenue Kitchen + Bar
When it comes to pizza, people can get very hung up on “style.” New York! Neapolitan! Chicago! Sicilian! Everyone has a favorite. Until recently, though, Detroit-style pizza didn’t really have a presence in the Boston area. That’s starting to change, and Avenue is among the rare restaurants to offer it. Here, pies topped with sliced meatballs, chipotle BBQ pulled chicken, or braised short rib capture the crisped-edges excellence that is characteristic of Motor City-rooted ‘za, which is traditionally built cheese-first, sauce-second in deep and square steel pans.
158 Boston Ave., Somerville, 617-764-0879, avenuesomerville.com.
When you want something to snack on during a stroll by the water, you might think first of fried seafood—and for that, we’ve got you covered here. A slice of pizza also makes for the perfect boardwalk bite, though, and this Quincy spot, right next to a waterfront park in Marina Bay, is worth the jaunt. You’ll find massive, quarter-pie slices from the Frattaroli family, the clan behind a number of longtime North End restaurants, all nicely crisped so they don’t flop on your walk. There are also a few nods to the oceanside setting: Sea salt, for instance, gives the dough a little something extra, plus you’ll find toppings like Cape Cod clams and local lobster.
332 Victory Road, Marina Bay, Quincy, 617-315-4099, boardwalkpizzamb.com.
Photo courtesy of Christine Maus.
Okay, so, speaking of slavish devotion to pizza “styles”—in Boston, we’re not really about that life. There are purists, of course, but the prevailing wisdom around here tends to be: take what you like from different approaches, leave the rest, and concentrate mainly on just making really goddamn-yummy pizza. (This seems like a solid maxim.) Brewer’s Fork, for instance, has been a local favorite since its 2015 opening thanks to wood-fired pies that don’t approximate any one style—though their rustic, craftsmanlike qualities do match up with the restaurant’s brick-and-granite environs. They’re simply fantastic, topped with foraged mushrooms, roasted Honeynut squash and more, and washed down with a stellar local beer selection.
7 Moulton St., Charlestown, 617-337-5703, brewersfork.com.
Ciao Pizza and Pasta
Hello, Ciao! When you arrived on the scene about five years ago, we didn’t know that one of the Boston area’s best pizza spots would be found in Chelsea—a city that has not generally had a ton of restaurants that bait those of us on the other side of the Tobin Bridge. (Shout-out to the oldie-but-goodie NewBridge Cafe, though.) And yet, here we are, beckoned by the promise of awesome wood-fired, Neapolitan-style pizzas like the salsiccia, laden with homemade fennel sausage and cherry peppers, as well as a standout prosciutto-topped round enhanced with a port and fig jam.
59 Williams St., Chelsea, 617-286-9346, ciaopizzaandpasta.com.
Photo courtesy of Coppa
The wood-fired pizzas (and the cute street-corner patio) have long been legendary at this South End enoteca, where perfectly browned, wood-fired crusts are further enhanced by star chef Jamie Bissonnette’s charcuterie skills—think toppings like lamb sausage and spicy, dry-aged salami.
253 Shawmut Ave., Boston, 617-391-0902, coppaboston.com.
Neapolitan-style pizza at Double Zero. / Photo courtesy
Boston finally has a long-awaited location of Michelin-rated, vegan pizzeria Double Zero. It comes from chef Matthew Kenney, a major name in the plant-based food movement with restaurants across the country. Double Zero, named for the gold-standard Italian flour and born out of NYC’s East Village, offers gourmet pies alongside bottles of biodynamic wines, and all the wood-fired, Neapolitan-style selections are made meat- and dairy-free. Check out the Bianca pizza, loaded with nut cheeses such as macadamia ricotta, cashew mozzarella, and almond Parmesan, plus pepperoncini and rapin.
163 Newbury St., Boston, 857-256-1370, matthewkenneycuisine.com/double-zero-boston.
Dragon Pizza. / Photo by Nina Gallant
Back in our 2019 Best of Boston issue, we undertook a lengthy, carbohydrate-jammed odyssey to find the number-one slice spot in the city—and it ultimately led us to this Davis Square joint. Still a relative newcomer to the scene, Dragon Pizza slays the game by upgrading the neighborhood-pizza-parlor sensibility using the deft touch of established chefs: it was launched by Charlie Redd of the late Redd’s in Rozzie, Redd’s alum Antonio Reyes, and Keenan Langlois, whose resume has included the Sinclair and Publico. Peruse the decorative collection of retro audio cassettes while waiting for your slice to heat up; we’re partial to the bacon-topped pie with chili-spiked maple syrup, and the ricotta pizza with house-made red-wine-and-garlic sausage.
233 Elm St., Somerville, 617-764-5026, dragonpizzasomerville.com.
Ernesto’s is a North End icon that actually lives up to its storied rep. It’s also a solid bet for Tony Soprano-level appetites: individual slices are a whopping one-fourth of a pie—and those rounds only come in an 18-inch, “extra-large” size, by the way. There’s also a pretty broad array of options, with the two-dozen varieties covering Buffalo chicken, eggplant Parmesan, and Hawaiian-inspired toppings. Ernesto’s has grown as a business too, recently adding a spiffy new location at Somerville’s Assembly Row. Mangia, mangia!
69 Salem St., Boston, 617-523-1373; 641 Assembly Row, Somerville, 617-764-4194, ernestosnorthend.com.
Galleria Umberto’s Sicilian slices (center). / Photo by Nina Gallant
You might think that Boston’s Italian-restaurant-packed North End would be the epicenter of the city’s pizza scene. You would be—well, correct. There’s probably more pies per capita here than anywhere else around, but that also makes it harder to find the truly great slices among the sad, soggy imposters. Umberto’s offerings belong firmly in the former category. The spare, cash-only eatery has a humble, cafeteria-like vibe, and its limited menu specializes in Sicilian-style squares. Whether tossed on paper plates or tied up with string in take-home boxes, they are, in a word, astounding—and even earned the institution a special America’s Classics award from the James Beard Foundation.
289 Hanover St., Boston, 617-227-5709, facebook.com.
A crispy-edged bar pizza and roast beef sandwiches from Hot Box, now open at Bow Market. / Photo by Joey Calcavecchia
Fast fact: the “drool” emoji was actually invented for the sole purpose of texting your friends about Hot Box, a takeout-only vendor at Bow Market, a dining-and-retail courtyard in Somerville. Hot Box has a playful concept, serving just two regional food staples of the North Shore (roast beef sandwiches) and South Shore (bar pizzas). Bar pizzas, in case you’ve been missing out, are super crispy, cracker-thin pies covered in char-spotted cheese that oozes all the way to the edge. And Hot Box has a handful of gobble-worthy options, including our favorite: the Roni, topped with premium pepperoni and feta.
1 Bow Market Way, Somerville, 617-284-9600, eathotbox.com.
Lincoln Tavern & Restaurant
If we could make a suggestion that would manifestly improve your life: Slice out some time to re-up your tan at Southie’s M Street or Carson Beach, and bring a pizza box from Lincoln. The neighborhood haunt offers its beloved wood-fired pies, a dinner-menu staple, among its weekday and weekend brunch options, so they’re sure to stay warm in the midday heat. Our favorites? The round topped with sweet fennel sausage and pickled cherry peppers always brightens our day, as well as the butternut squash pizza with bacon, caramelized onions, and rosemary oil.
425 West Broadway, South Boston, 617-765-8636, lincolnsouthboston.com.
Detroit-style pizzas at Night Shift. / Photo courtesy
Night Shift Brewing
Hear that? It’s the sound of every monocle dropping in the North End, a.k.a. Boston’s “Little Italy,” now that we’ve given a popular brewery in the neighboring West End our latest Best of Boston award for pizza. Don’t preach, papas—we’re simply super impressed by Night Shift’s new addition of Detroit-style pizzas (including, unusually, some tomato sauce-less white pies). The dough recipe was developed with vets from Kenmore Square’s legendary, now-closed Eastern Standard restaurant, and it’s a true exemplar of the regional variety. Plus, there’s no need to stop elsewhere to pick up the perfect beer to go with it.
The pizza oven at Pastoral. / Photo provided
If Neapolitan pizza has your heart, be warmed by the imported, wood-fired oven—made from the stone and sand of Mt. Vesuvius—at this Fort Point hangout. When he opened Pastoral in 2014, chef-owner Todd Winer was only the second person in Massachusetts to be certified as an official pizzaioloby the American branch of the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, a trade organization that controls the designation of Neapolitan pizzas based on specific ingredients and cooking style. It definitely takes a certain skillfulness to properly pull off these soft and thin crusts, made for folding—and Winer has it in spades. Don’t sleep on his also-excellent Roman-style slices, which are thick, airy, and focaccia-like. And Winer is also in charge of the New York-style pies at Venice Pizza in Dorchester, a decades-spanning, briefly shuttered neighborhood landmark that he just reopened with his brother, Joshua.
345 Congress St., Boston, 617-345-0005, pastoralfortpoint.com.
Photo courtesy of Prairie Fire
Since its 2017 opening, technique-driven takes on rustic, wood-fired American cookery has been the hallmark of Prairie Fire’s menu. Naturally, that includes a quartet of excellent pizzas, including the standout Fennel & Sausage, which comes out of the oven with just the right char to its ricotta-, fennel- and red onion-covered crust. The Brookline spot has quite an impressive chef behind it all: Executive chef Andrew Iacono is an alum of Chicago’s legendary Alinea.
242 Harvard St., Brookline, 617-396-8199, prairiefirebrookline.com.
You will never convince us that every outpost of this regional pizza chain lives up to the standard set by the first, 1926-founded North End location. You will also never convince us to hold that against said original, which still has a surplus of charms: an old-school interior lined with framed photos of slice-scarfing celebs, pliant brick-oven pizzas that never fail to scratch the itch—and those signature, triangle-shaped boxes, sized for taking home individual slices, that are just so darn cute.Regina, you’re still our queen.
11 1/2 Thacher St., Boston, 617-227-0765, reginapizzeria.com.
Another longstanding local legend, Santarpio’s is famous for a few reasons. Number one, of course, is the pizza itself: the pies are well-charred, and built by first placing down the toppings (which, well, no longer makes them toppings), followed by the cheese, then the sauce. Sound a little backwards? Of course, but leave it to Santarpio’s to be contrary—after all, the oft-salty service is another signature element of the original (and cash-only) East Boston location.
111 Chelsea St., East Boston, 617-567-9871; 71 Newbury St., Peabody, 978-535-1811, santarpiospizza.com.
Stoked Pizza Co. is coming to Cambridge. / Photo by Scott Goodwin
Stoked Wood Fired Pizza Co.
It takes a lot of gumption to launch a wood-fired pizza enterprise out of a food truck. Luckily, Scott Riebling, Stoked’s pizza-slinging cofounder, comes from a rock-and-roll background: he’s the original bassist for Boston-born band Letters to Cleo, as well as a music producer. Hence the moxie required to drive a 3,800-pound, wood-fired oven all over town, churning out delectable, crispy crusts topped with nouveau fixings such as spicy-chili-infused honey and Impossible Burger. Though the truck is currently in hibernation, Stoked opened a full-service restaurant in Brookline in 2016, as well as a Cambridge.
1632 Beacon St., Brookline, 617-879-0707; 1161 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-945-0989, stokedpizzaco.com.
A spread at T&B Pizza / Photo by Nina Gallant
What do you get when a chef with a fine-dining background decides to pour his passion—and talent—into pizza? Hungry. You gethungry.Because Tim Wiechmann brings serious finesse to his just-opened, full-service Union Square restaurant, where the wood-fired oven turns out personal-sized pies with kinda-fancy fixings, such as pistachio mortadella and rum-soaked pineapple. Wiechmann doesn’t rush his process: The dough for both his Neapolitan- and Roman-style pizzas benefit from a protracted fermentation period. Plus, T&B scores bonus points for its strong cocktail program.
251 Washington St., Somerville, 617-764-4054, tbpizza.com.
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