20 Estes St., Ipswich
Open Tuesday through Sunday, 4 to 11:30 p.m.
Accessible to the handicapped
I took an out-of-town family to The Riverview one busy Friday, and when we got inside, I asked a passing waitress if I had to put my name in for a booth.
“You didn’t make a reservation?” she asked with a horrified look.
“No, I didn’t, but — ”
“Ha! I’m just kiddin’ ya, hon,” she said with a grin. “Sit wherever you want.”
It’s that kind of place.
The Riverview has been here since 1947, by most accounts, and is a townie institution.
Customers and staff all seem to know one another. The prices are cheap, it’s cash-only, and they don’t take reservations. But it’s the pizza that makes this restaurant’s reputation.
Which is good, because pizza is all they serve. No wings, no salads, no burgers, no desserts. Just pizza, one size only, about a foot across, enough for one hungry person, with maybe a couple of slices left to take home.
These are thin-crust pies that look and taste like no others I’ve found on the North Shore. The crusts aren’t perfectly round, but they are perfect — neither doughy like your typical pizza-house slice, nor cracker-crisp like your foodie flatbread du jour, but somewhere in between. The sauce is a little sweet. The cheese covering the toppings seems to be at least partly mild cheddar.
This is a meat-lover’s pizza place. Spicy pepperoni. Tasty salami in big, thin slices. My wife’s kielbasa pie came heaped with thick little rounds of the Polish sausage. The peppers and onions are cooked old-school, soft and sweet.
I’ve recently heard that if you ask for your pizza “the old way,” it comes with the sauce on top of the cheese. I’ll try that next time.
What you don’t ask for at The Riverview: free-range chicken. Organic vegetables. Artisanal goat cheese. I love the Flatbread Company in Amesbury, too, but this is not that.
The one thing at The Riverview that is a little bit upscale is the beer. The offerings on tap recently included Bass, Magic Hat #9, and Shock Top. The wine is anonymous jug stuff — you just order cabernet or merlot or chardonnay — but comes in a generous pour. There’s also a full bar.
Other things you should know: Your plate is a square of deli paper, and the knives are plastic. The wine comes in a water glass.
The Riverview is on a residential block near the Ipswich train station and has a neighborhood social-club vibe. There’s a small parking lot out back, and free street parking. The décor inside harks back to the 1960s, with knotty rec-room paneling and red vinyl booths. Some of the beer lights on the walls are newer than that (but some are maybe not).
This is very much a family crowd, with kids running around early, when it can be noisy, and groups of teenagers later. It’s common to see three generations of a family eating together.
At peak times, there’s often a wait for a booth. You’ll be handed not some high-tech beeper but a big washer with a number on it. The tiny bar area gets crowded. Seems like every time I sit (or stand) there to wait, I end up listening to two guys who’ve just run into each other for the first time in years and start reminiscing about high school. It’s that kind of place.
Don’t get in the way of the young woman sitting there folding pizza boxes. The Riverview does a ton of takeout business, with a constant stream of boxes coming out of the kitchen to be handed to people waiting eagerly in the bar.
Prices for basic pies and combinations run from $5.70 all the way up to — brace yourself — $6.90. There are a couple of special pies higher than that, and the “everything” pizza is $11. Beers are $3 and $3.50. Wine is $4.50.
Just remember, cash only. And don’t ask about goat cheese or arugula. Just don’t.