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Hearth Pizzeria owner Ivan Millan-Pulecio.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

We have obviously arrived at the witching hour. There's a boy who looks to be about 2 who is giving his parents, the waitress, and the entire restaurant a run for its money. Not sure what this fellow wants but he's not getting it and howling. After his parents ignore it for too long, one of them takes him outside, to the relief of the entire dining room. There are many tables here filled with families whose kids are enjoying themselves.

Family restaurants aim to offer something for every possible diner, and Hearth Pizzeria in Needham subscribes to that theory. You can build your own pizzas, salads, and pastas, so everything on the plate is exactly what you like. There's beer and wine for the adults, patient servers, and a good formula in the works.


But our Margherita pizza ($7.75-$16.50) is flappy, undercooked dough around the rim. Owner Ivan Millan-Pulecio, 37, a native of Cali, Colombia, who worked for the owners of the former establishment, Stone Hearth Pizza, for nine years before he bought this location of the small chain in March, has a reason for this. Some people see a charred crust and they won't eat it.

I want my crust charred, and when I return for another visit and request a well done fig, prosciutto, and blue cheese pizza ($8.95-$19.95), it is crisp and just right. So is veggie calzone ($8.75), which arrives very dark with a good crust. Four-cheese pizza ($8.50-$19.25), which comes with mushrooms, has way too much topping.

Veggie calzone.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

A bowl of minestrone ($4.50-$6.25) is thick and nicely flavored, and white-bean soup with chicken sausage ($4.50-$6.25) is everything a nourishing homemade bowl should be.

Two menu stars are meatball poppers stuffed with mozzarella (3 for $5.95, 5 for $8.95), which have loads of flavor, and macaroni and cheese ($10.75), which is creamy and delicious.


Also on the baked pasta menu is eggplant Parm ($11.50) with a nice tomato sauce, but the eggplant isn't cooked through and the dish needs salt.

You get the feeling that the kitchen shopping list has 25 items, and the components made from those ingredients are moved around as modules in all the various dishes. So you find a tomato sauce in several places, meatballs in several more. Nothing wrong with this as a time-saving device, but for the diner it gets repetitive.

A chicken panini ($8.50) with mozzarella, aioli, and arugula, which sounds delicious, isn't hot and pressed, but rather like a good sandwich. It's served with thin Parmesan crisps, which resemble crackers. Ancient grain salad ($4.95-$8.95) is mostly spinach, and not much millet, quinoa, or brown rice.

On the dessert menu, tiramisu ($6) isn't too sweet or too heavy, and a lovely ending to the meal. By now, having caught on to going late, the dining room is quiet, all the children are in bed, and even the servers seem less frazzled.

Margherita pizza.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff


974 Great Plain Ave., Needham, 781-433-0600, www.hearthpizzeria.com. All major credit cards. Wheelchair accessible.

Hours Sun-Thu 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m., Fri-Sat 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.

Prices Appetizers, soups, salads $4.50-$8.95. Panini, wraps, calzone $7.50-$8.95. Pizza $6.75-$19.25. Desserts $.85-$6.

Liquor Beer and wine

What to order

Fig, prosciutto, and blue cheese pizza; macaroni and cheese; veggie calzone; meatball poppers; tiramisu.

Sheryl Julian can be reached at julian@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @sheryljulian.