Archive for the ‘Pizza’ Category

Coppa – Where Cured Pork Neck Meets Fennel Pollen

Friday, January 24th, 2014

Location: Boston, MA

The Foodie: Strongly Recommends

According to the authoritative source on cured Italian meat, Prosciuttopedia (no joke), coppa is derived from a hock of pork neck and is dried according to a secret blend of tradition and spices.

The Coppa I’m talking about here is brought to you by Chefs Ken Oringer & Jamie Bissonette and is carefully formulated to be:

  • One part neighborhood wine bar
  • One part salumeria
  • One part wood-fired pizzeria
  • One part fine Italian dining

Indeed, this intimate enoteca and more is tucked away in the South End and keeps a relatively low profile despite churning out some eye-poppingly well-curated culinary delights, like what we ordered:

Fennel Pollen



Castagna Campanelle con Coniglio  $18/$27

Little bell chestnut pasta, rabbit, kabocha squash, cranberries, bianco sardo


Salsiccia   $16

Tomato, pork sausage, ricotta, roasted onion and fennel pollen



When scanning menus, my eyes immediately shoot laser beams at descriptors that hint at things like rabbit, oxtail, wild boar, beef short rib, pork belly, game birds, mutton – all the stuff your average medieval kitchen would have served.

So true to my form, I zeroed-in on the fancy-sounding Castagna Campanelle con Coniglio which was utterly fantastic. The chestnut pasta was unique and earthy, the rabbit succulent (probably braised), the squash finely diced into little cubes, and the cranberries creatively sliced paper-thin as if through a mandolin slicer (meaning the raw berries were not too overwhelming). All was adorned with an extremely flavorful sheep’s milk cheese from Sardegna. A fitting winter menu item. Take a bow, Coppa.

The sausage pizza was another dish dressed to impress. Delicious perfectly-fired pizza dough served as a fitting platter for a delicate mix of ground sausage, ricotta, good tomato sauce, and…fennel pollen? That was a new one for me – I zoned out thinking about the poor schmuck collecting pollen floating through the fennel fields to deliver for hungry hungry hipsters dining at South End restaurants. But it added a little complexity for the Foodie which was appreciated.

As a bonus, I can sound like a real douchebag when I tell people I ate fennel pollen.

In summary, Coppa is a solid establishment that has altered my worldview of Italian dining in Boston (which has had it’s rougher moments). Foodie-approved.

A4 – High 5

Friday, September 20th, 2013

Location: Somerville, MA

The Foodie: Recommends

Seems I blinked and Area Four multiplied several times over.

The popular coffee shop-cum-pizza spot-cum-antipasto bar-cum-gastropub that ambitiously took on so much has given birth to triplets with more singular interests. The Area Four “family” now brings chow right to your jowl via food truck, hot dog cart, and a neighborhood restaurant that serves *GASP* primarily pizza!

The newest member of the family is A4, an operation serving a similar menu of pies to papa Four along with a nice selection of salads and options marked “NOT PIZZA.”

A smattering of mouthwatering menu items to whet your palate:

  • Margherita pizza simply but beautifully adorned with tomato, mozz, pecorino and basil
  • Pizza of fennel sausage and pickled banana peppers with mozz, pecorino, and parley
  • Wellfleet cherrystone and bacon pizza with clam sauce, pecorino, hot pepper and parsley
  • Heirloom tomato and watermelon Greek salad (seasonal option)
  • Seasonal veggies, mixed greens, almonds, pecorino and lemon vinaigrette

It appears that the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree in terms of the quality of the pizza here. A4 sports a pimpin’ new oven that churns out some lovely circles of heaven that definitely rival dad.

I particularly enjoyed the margherita actually – so simple yet mouthwateringly juicy and flavorful with everything coming together just right. Huzzah!

Beyond the solids, A4 offers a neat and tidy little beer and wine menu with decent options.

Here’s a few poorly conceived pics to give you a sense for the place. Unfortunately I think restaurants are getting savvy on the whole iPhone phenom and have started deliberately dimming lights to discourage flash photography.


Somervillains are gettin’ it all these days: low-key pizza joints from Area Four, upscale German fare from the team behind T.W. Food, a hotly-anticipated follow-up from Tony Maws – sky’s the limit.

So head on over to the cute youngest sibling in the Four Family to get mostly pizza cooked up with the same gastronomic genes.

Santarpio’s – Yah Dude, the Pizza is Really that Dahn Good

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

The Santarpio's Pie

Location: East Boston, MA

The Foodie: Strongly Recommends

I’m actually pretty ashamed that I claim to run a Boston-themed food blog and have never tried Santarpio’s….until now, dear readers – until now.

Indeed, Santarpio’s has to rank up there among the most Bostonian things about Boston…such as:

  • The Sawx/Fenway Pahk
  • Mayah Menino
  • The “T”
  • Fanieul Hall
  • The Chah-les
  • Aerosmith
  • The Marathawn

It took me well over 100 years to get my ass over to Eastie and order a few slices since these guys opened in 1903.

I think the main reason that kept me away was the fear of long, winding hoards of people and the maddening maze of Red, Green, and Blue subway switches to get over to a station appropriately named “Maverick” given the fact that it is so seemingly removed from the rest of the city.

Turns out that by car, it ain’t that big a deal. Parking was plentiful, and there was no line at all at 6pm on a summer Saturday eve.

Stepping inside, the place looks like the kind of spot where they would have found Whitey Bulger holed up – basically just simple wooden booths, a bar, dim lighting, and an intimidating large guy manning the door.

But I don’t want to spend too much time setting the stage for what was without question the best traditional, “pizza-parlor-style” slices to be found in Boston.

Upon reflection, I was having difficulty classifying the style of pie that Santarpio’s serves…but stumbled upon a great article on “Slice” – a cyber-column hosted by the Serious Eats family of websites.

Amongst a long list pizza styles found across the US of A, “pizza-parlor” was defined by Serious Eats writer Adam Kuban as:

“any place that has been opened since the ’50s, still has the same family running it, and hasn’t really changed much since then”

Well, given the fact that Santarpio’s has been open since the ‘00s and is family-owned, I’d say they basically fit this description.


Yup. We ordered a “half ‘n half” pie that was split between plain cheese and homemade sausage and garlic. Here is a slice centerfold:

Uhhhhhhh, Nah Nah Nah Na

  • The first thing you notice is that this has gotta be one of the juiciest slices of pizza ever created. The first bite you take literally catapults wave after wave of oozy, cheezy, tomatoe-y goodness forcibly upon every single taste follicle within one’s mouth.
  • The next thing you notice is that the ingredients are pretty damn good quality – the cheese, tomatoes, dough, and oil employed in the creation of this pizza have gotta be of a certain caliber to pack such flavor.
  • Speaking of the dough…the crust is this delightful chewy-crunchy texture and has to be some of the best I’ve ever had.
  • The sausage slice has the same ability to launch flavor missiles at close range onto your taste buds.
  • Those from the New York/New Jersey area – easily the snobbiest bunch when it comes to pizza – will give Santarpio’s the props they deserve. To prove it, I took a Jersey girl here for verification. It was so good, she gained 5 pounds in one sitting, folks. Definitely her favorite slice in Boston.
  • As mentioned previously, the type of pizza is traditional in that they are not touting gourmet flatbread or Neapolitan-style with thin slices of mozz. This is a family-owned, local spot that is Italian-American in technique and could best be described as ‘pizza-parlor’ in design.

When you encounter moments in life that can change your entire worldview, you need to pay attention. I’ve been talking some smack lately about the pizza scene in Boston, and a trip to Santarpio’s was exactly what I needed to shatter my preconceived notions and conditioned responses.

Thank you, Santarpios – you’ve made me a better man, and a better Bostonian.

Eataly – Nick Communicates from the Pasta Rings of Hell

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

Location: New York, NY

The Foodie: Recommends

Kids – In one of our previous installments from the foodie, we talked about visions of a glorious afterlife lush with lobster rolls. But if I go down below dear friends, I’m going for gluttony.

…and if there’s one place that may have just put me over the edge from a severe epicure to an outright glutton, it was probably Eataly. I’ll now proceed to tell you why this devilish enterprise created by celebrity chefs with last names like Batali and Bastianich pushed me into the fiery depths (of a brick oven).


  • WARNING: Ingenious Store Layout Meant to Trap Foodies. Enter at your own risk and prepare for the prospect of never leaving. Be assaulted by a diverse range of fresh fruits and veggies, some of which you may have never seen before (can you say witch finger grapes?). Hit a huge circular room where you’ll be encircled by bread, antipasti and wine. Just try to resist at this point. Explore a little further and you’ll see Il Pesce restaurant serving amazing fruit of the sea, a selection of rare Italian and imported bottled beers for purchase,  a butcher shop, pizza and pasta eateries, and a breath-taking selection of dried pastas, jarred goods, and, yes, more wines.
  • DANGER: Rooftop Biergarterrini Called Birreria Will Be Your Last Glimpse of Heaven. If you ever leave the first floor, make it to level 15 to sample the excellent beer and wine selection and hearty fare on the rooftop restaurant Birreria. Prepare to eat Italian-style sausages you may not have heard of before in German fashion complete with fresh bread and ‘kraute. Sip on amazing local beers like Captain Lawrence Liquid Gold. Holy shit that brew was good. But wait, there are also cask beers brewed in-house by a collab-o of brewers including meisters from Dogfish Head.  Sample from an impressive selection of salumi, formaggi and more. Your head will be spinning.
  • ATTENTION: They Have Every Meal Covered So Don’t Think You Can Weasel Out After Dinner. As if all that wasn’t enough people, there’s also a coffee bar and gelateria back down on floor uno that will keep you caffeinated enough to stick around and continue your gluttonous ways. You may be enticed to combine these two elements into the ultimate Italian treat: Affogato.

That concludes my final communication from my (donut) ring of hell…my “phone call” so to speak…with the rest of the gluttons down here. I see Yelpers, Homer Simpson, and Julia Child down here people. Don’t think you’re safe too.

Enter Eataly if you’re the kind of person who thinks that limbo isn’t living dangerously enough.

Area Four – Shhhh….

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

Location: Cambridge, MA

The Foodie: Recommends








Finally, a place that Cambridge eat-a-holics can have all to themselves. That spot that requires a culinary code name or pass phrase softly murmured between sips of Saison.

Every foodie worth their high-end sea salt would of course be talking about Area 4 – a place for food nerds on the turf of science nerds.

As the former, I must admit I’ve frequented this spot since it hit my food-dar and enjoyed every moment of each experience.

Walk with me for a moment here….

Delightful mussels in fragrant broth…










Oddly phallic but delicious house-made meat on milk bun…








Pizza, pizza, pizza. Rock the Clam and Bacon and sample from puttanesca, fennel sausage, and mushroom/fontina-stacked pies with a light, fluffy crust.










All of that and more washed down with stellar beers like Jack D’Or, Harpoon 100 Barrel Series, and a bias towards other locally-brewed beauties.

Though I’ve only sampled the fare here on Friday nights with groups of friends, the adjoining café supposedly serves-up some bomb lattes – making Area Four theoretically possible to live in from opening to closing while satisfying every taste bud across all your daily meals.

The best part is – nobody knows it yet. That’s right, you and your fellow food geeks or science jocks could be enjoying Area Four this Friday without long lines and love every minute of it.

So what are you waiting for – the password is…shhhh…

Micucci Grocery Store – New England’s Best Slice

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011

Location: Portland, ME

The Foodie: Strongly Recommends


Bold statement, I know. Read on to find out why I worked up the balls to make it.

















Pizza. The lifeblood of American families, one of Italy’s best gifts to this part of the world, countless variations, etc etc. Let’s just say this planet would not be the same without it.

Personally – I love this stuff in all its forms, deriving the same pleasure from a gourmet slice as a greasy triangle from a Greek-owned sub shop. Just God’s gift to man is all.

I’ve come to appreciate spots like Upper Crust, Cambridge One, Pinocchio’s, and Leone’s in my local ‘hood, but never did I expect to find the best of the best hidden on a quiet side street in Portland, Maine.

At the repeated suggestion of a dear friend, we decided to hit Micucci on a recent visit. Here’s how ordering a slice at this place works:

  • Enter, then navigate through shelves and freezers housing premium Italian goods
  • Pass the wine section, bang a left up the stairs into an area with industrial-sized packaging of tomatoes, anchovies, pasta, and more.
  • Hit another left into the back room and look for the “rack.” They place slices on paper plates just sitting there for the taking. You wonder: “Do I pay now or later?” or “Can I just take a slice without some angry woman coming at me with a rolling pin?” Forget your worries and grab as many pieces as you like to enjoy. Figure out the rest later.
  • Reference the delectable image above to see what you’ll be in for.

I could devote another 1000+ words to the flavor packed into this morsel of goodness. I do not know exactly how they do it, but here’s my take on how this ended up being New England’s best piece of pizza after just one slice:

  • The first element you notice is that the dough/bread is this amazingly bubbly, soft, chewy, heavenly creation somewhere between focaccia and an orgasm.
  • Second, you feel this perfectly-balanced sauce that is on the sweeter side pop inside your mouth and burst with tomato-y flavor accented with oregano and spices.
  • Third – the final element in the trifecta of greatness in pizza – the blend of cheese stretches through  your palate and ties everything together with a loving touch.

Beyond that – the secrets of why this slice makes the top of the list are hidden in the salty mists blowing off the Atlantic into Portland and over the Maine-iacs who call this place home.

Believe you me – Micucci in itself is worth a 2 hr. drive up to Portland from Boston.  Don’t think it will be worth it? Take another look at the pic above.