Magazine

Boston’s 12 best pizza joints

A dozen restaurants in the city and beyond that make a perfect pie.

A4 PIZZA

Pies at the 34-seat A4 Pizza in Somerville take three minutes to bake in a wood-fired oven. That is, unless chef Michele (“Mike”) Andolina decides one needs 20 seconds more. One dreamy pizza on a lightly charred, chewy crust — from a starter Area Four head chef Jeff Pond created 14 years ago — comes with shiitakes, fontina, gremolata, and eggs. Andolina cooks the pizza till it’s almost done, then drops two eggs on top and pops it in the oven again until the whites are just set and you can break the golden yolks so they spill onto the cheesy topping. It’s a favorite of the chef, too.

Somerville, MA -- 08/21/13 -- A pizza is placed inside the pizza oven in the open view kitchen at A4 Pizza in Somerville, Massachusetts on August 21, 2013. (Kayana Szymczak for the Boston Globe)
Kayana Szymczak for the Boston Globe

445 Somerville Avenue, Somerville, 617-764-4190, areafour.com

ARMANDO’S PIZZA

This shop is such a Huron Village institution that a nearby corner is named Armando Paolo Square. It’s a tribute to the pizzeria’s gregarious Italian founder, whose family sponsors neighborhood kids’ sports teams — note the trophies that adorn the wood-paneled walls — and has been known to dole out cookies to lingering customers. Armando’s also happens to make superb pizza. Get hefty charred rectangles of deep-dish Sicilian or a thin-crust version by the slice or pie. Toppings are traditional, and specials are scrawled on paper plates taped to the walls. The only sad faces are on newbies at the register realizing it’s cash only.

163 Huron Avenue, Cambridge, 617-354-8275 

COPPA

At Jamie Bissonnette and Ken Oringer’s South End enoteca, friends crowd into close quarters for salumi, pasta, and excellent pizza. Crisp-edged pies from a wood-burning oven come in a handful of variations, from the simple margherita to a white pie adorned with wobbly bits of bone marrow, beef heart, and fresh horseradish. (Tipplers will appreciate the Hang Over ‘Za served at brunch, with bacon, sausage, prosciutto, home fries, and two eggs over easy.) Once warm nights return, share slices and a pitcher of Aperol spritz at an outdoor table and watch the neighborhood go by.

253 Shawmut Avenue, Boston, 617-391-0902, coppaboston.com

EMMA’S

Advertisement

Emma’s has been around under various owners since 1962, hopping from Revere to West Cambridge to Kendall Square, with fans following all the while. It’s easy to see why. Cracker-thin crusts are creatively topped and locally named, from The Cantab (bacon, potato, cilantro, dried cranberries, sauce, and mozzarella) to The Click and Clack (artichoke hearts, Kalamata olives, roasted red peppers, sauce, and smoked mozzarella). The cozy, laid-back restaurant is the perfect pre- or post-movie stop. But beware: There’s often a wait for a table.

40 Hampshire Street, Cambridge, 617-864-8534, emmaspizza.com

ERNESTO’S PIZZA

Get Today's Headlines in your inbox:
The day's top stories delivered every morning.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

An old-school pizza parlor with few frills, the original Ernesto’s operates out of a tiny storefront on one of the North End’s best eating streets. Part of the appeal is the crust, chewy, springy, and addictive. Then there are the toppings, from regular cheese to eggplant ricotta to chicken ranch. But the biggest draw — literally — is the size of the slices, each a quarter of an 18-inch pie. A new location, at Assembly Row in Somerville, also offers gluten-free pizza and smaller cheese slices for the kids.

69 Salem Street, Boston, 617-523-1373, and 641 Assembly Row, Somerville, 617-764-4194; ernestosnorthend.com

FLATBREAD COMPANY @ SACCO’S BOWL HAVEN

“Organic” and “pizza” don’t often go together, but pies at Flatbread Company are tasty enough to enthrall pizza aficionados yet healthy enough to satisfy picky parents. The dough is made from organic white flour with wheat germ restored, then given just the right kiss of smoke and fire in a wood-fired beehive oven. Kids’ birthday parties are huge on the weekends, perhaps because a 1939 candlepin bowling alley is part of the operation.

Somerville, MA 5/7/14 Cathleen Henneberry, Lexington, enjoys a piece of pizza during candlepin bowling at Sacco's Bowl Haven. For a roundup of restaurants that have fun things to do, Sacco's Bowl Haven, a Somerville bowling alley with a restaurant called the Flatbread Company.
Michele McDonald/Globe file
Flatbread Company pizza with a side of candlepin bowling.

45 Day Street, Somerville, 617-776-0552, flatbreadcompany.com/FlatbreadSacco2010.html

Lane Turner/Globe staff
The wait in the invariably long line at Galleria Umberto is always worth it.

GALLERIA UMBERTO

You never know whom you’ll meet in line at Umberto, from construction workers with drooping tool belts to neatly attired suburban matrons visiting the old neighborhood. They are the North End cognoscenti who know how to find the easily overlooked entrance. And they know that the wait in the invariably long lines will be worth it for inexpensive squares of thick, gooey Sicilian-style pan pizza to consume at a Formica-topped table, ideally with a bottle of beer or a plastic cup of wine. Diners can also order panzarotti, calzones, or baseball-sized arancini. But the pizza is the point, and it’s been known to sell out before the time Umberto closes the doors at 2:30 p.m. Cash only.

Boston, MA - 01/22/15 - Square cheese slices are the only pizza you can get at Galleria Umberto on Hanover Street in the North End. Lane Turner/Globe Staff Section: MAG Reporter: francis storrs Slug: 020815BestPizza
Lane Turner/Globe staff

289 Hanover Street, Boston, 617-227-5709

MAX AND LEO’S ARTISAN PIZZA

The pies at Newton Corner’s tiny Max and Leo’s, owned by identical twins Maximilian “Max’’ Candidus and Pantaleon “Leo’’ Candidus, are cooked in a coal oven that reaches 900 degrees. The thin dough, served blistered and charred, shines best in its simplest form: a margarita pizza, covered with sauce made from tomatoes, mozzarella, and Parmesan.

325 Washington Street, Newton, 617-244-7200, maxandleos.com

Lane Turner/Globe staff
Picco has become a popular South End hangout.

PICCO

Advertisement

There are many reasons to love this South End hangout: warm service, big craft beer selection, and ice cream on the menu. But the best draw? The pizza, of course. It comes with a charred, airy crust, chunky sauce that’s just sweet enough, and unusual toppings like chorizo with pickled chilies, red potatoes, and goat cheese. Strike up a conversation with your friendly server, hoist a slice (and a glass), and top it all off with a bananas Foster sundae or other dessert special.

Boston, MA - 01/20/15 - An order goes out at Picco on Tremont Street in the South End. Lane Turner/Globe Staff Section: MAG Reporter: francis storrs Slug: 020815BestPizza
Lane Turner/Globe staff

513 Tremont Street, Boston, 617-927-0066, piccorestaurant.com

POSTO

Posto in Davis Square was the first restaurant in these parts to be certified by Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana as making real Neapolitan-style pizza. The wood-fired oven (which must be no cooler than 900 degrees) guarantees the perfect crust (baked no longer than 90 seconds): thin, slightly chewy, crisp on the bottom, yet flexible enough to fold and eat a libretto. The subtlety of the flavor and texture is best appreciated in the simplest versions, like the marinara with red sauce, sliced garlic, and Parmesan.

187 Elm Street, Somerville, 617-625-0600, postoboston.com

Lane Turner/Globe staff
A view inside the original Regina Pizzeria in the North End.

REGINA PIZZERIA

There are Regina Pizzerias popping up all over the place, but the North End original remains the queen of the empire. The 1926 pizzeria works kind of like a lambic brewery — nearly 90 years of yeast development seems to give the dough a slightly sour, complex wheat flavor. Regina allows diners to adulterate that beautiful dough and sweet-spicy sauce with all manner of toppings, but stick to classics like sausage, pepperoni, or anchovies.

Boston, MA - 01/15/15 - The three-pound Giambotta pizza with everything at Regina Pizzeria in the North End. Lane Turner/Globe Staff Section: MAG Reporter: altoff Slug: 020815BestPizza
Lane Turner/Globe staff
The 3-pound Giambotta with everything at Regina Pizzeria.

11½ Thacher Street, Boston, 617-227-0765, reginapizzeria.com

Lane Turner/Globe staff
Homemade sausage and garlic pizza at Santarpio’s in East Boston.

SANTARPIO’S PIZZA

Boxing memorabilia cover the walls, and the sausage and garlic pizza is about as subtle as a roundhouse punch. Tucked under the Route 1A overpass in Eastie, Santarpio’s dates to 1903 as a bakery (the pizza came later), and the neighborhood guys who wait on you have all been there for decades. Old-school pizza comes out crunchy on the edges, painted with tomato sauce, and topped with just enough melted cheese. For a knockout punch of flavor, ask for extra garlic.

East Boston, MA - 01/20/15 - Gary Clemons (left) and Tom Amoroso grew up together down the street, and still meet to share a pie at Santarpio's in East Boston. Lane Turner/Globe Staff Section: MAG Reporter: francis storrs Slug: 020815BestPizza
Lane Turner/Globe staff
Decidedly old-school pizza is on the menu at Santarpio’s.

111 Chelsea Street, East Boston, 617-567-9871, santarpiospizza.com

TOP TOPPINGS

The folks behind the Foodler delivery app recently analyzed Boston-area orders to reveal our favorite tastes.

Advertisement

1) Pepperoni

2) Mushrooms

3) Onions

4) Bacon

5) Sausage

6) Extra cheese

7) Green peppers

8) Pineapple

9) Black olives

10) Spinach

Related coverage:

- South End tapas wars: Barcelona Wine Bar vs. Toro vs. Estragon

- Boston’s 10 best BBQ joints

- The Boston restaurant awards

- More from Food

- More from the Magazine

By Kara Baskin, Devra First, Patricia Harris, Sheryl Julian, and David Lyon. Send comments to magazine@globe.com