WHO: Globe staff member Milva DiDomizio and her daughter
WHAT: A tour of great pizza places
WHERE: Boston’s North End
North End resident Martin Elliott had the bright idea that people would enjoy being led around his neighborhood by a guide knowledgable in both history and pizza. Thus Boston Pizza Tours was born. On a recent Sunday in November, our cozy group of seven gave the approximately two-hour “Slice of Little Italy” tour the thumbs up.
The affable Elliott, casually dressed in jeans, sneakers, and a Red Sox jersey, met us at the corner of Cross and Hanover Streets. When asked where we’d be getting the three slices included in the ticket price, Elliott said he wasn’t sure yet, noting that he runs each tour “by the seat of my pants.” Since he’s developed working relationships with several pizzerias, he can dial in orders on a moment’s notice. The spontaneity and flexibility make every outing different.
Our first stop, he decided, would be Pizzeria Regina on Thacher Street, the oldest (and perhaps best known) pizzeria in the city. On our way there, we discussed the positive effects of competition on Boston pizza (no canned ingredients, premium on freshness), and stopped to take in a great view of the Zakim Bridge and the Bunker Hill Monument.
Since the day was so fine, we got our pizza to go and enjoyed it at the nearby park known as The Gassy. The pizza was fine, too, with homemade sauce and an airy, Old World crust that tasted like good artisan bread.
Our tourmate from New Hampshire asked Elliott whether most people fold their pizza when they eat it. “Depends on where they’re from,” said Elliott, adding that people from New York and New Jersey always fold pizza, and that he, himself, is a folder. “I don’t like to lose anything,” he said.
The tour includes a good deal of overlap with the Freedom Trail, for example Copp’s Hill Burying Ground. As we strolled through the historic cemetery, Elliott pointed out the graves of several notable people, including the Mathers, Prince Hall, and Robert Newman.
On the way to our next slice, we walked by the skinniest house in Boston, stopped to enjoy good views of the Charlestown Navy Yard, and saw the Old North Church. We continued on through the Peace Garden and the Paul Revere Mall (the Prado to locals), to Antico Forno.
There, we sat at the bar and devoured slices of not-too-cheesy, thin crust pizza baked in a wood-fired brick oven and sprinkled with chopped basil. The wait for the pizza was longer than expected, so rather than head back to see if the Old North Church was open yet, Elliott led us through back alleys and winding cobblestone streets to our last pizzeria.
On the way, we saw filming locations for the Ben Affleck movie “The Town,” walked by the birthplace of Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, and viewed the 1680 Paul Revere House.
There were two tables available at our last stop, the tiny, hole-in-the-wall Ernesto’s. The award-winning pizza was delicious, but didn’t win top honors in our small group. Based on an informal survey conducted by Elliott, Pizzeria Regina and Antico Forno tied for first place.
When questioned about where to get post-tour cannolis, Elliott pointed to Hanover Street and said the locals go to Modern Pastry and the tourists go to Mike’s Pastry. “But which is better?” someone asked.
Elliott, with a magnanimous grin, replied, “Try em’ both.” Good advice. So we did.