Pizza: it's what's for dinner. And lunch. And dessert. And late night. And the morning after you passed out and left it on the counter all night but no one else is home, so you're just going to go for it. But where do you get Boston's BEST pizza? We sussed out 15 of the greatest pie-slinging spots around town and then broke them down by precinct. As Poison might say: open up and say 'za.
Pastoral (address and info)
The newest Neapolitan kid on the block (NNKOTB?) has already won a devoted fandom with wood-fired pies topped with Chef Todd Winer’s homemade cheeses, duck sausage, and clams. The chic, industrial-farmhouse vibe and European wine list mean you can have your date night and eat pizza, too.
Santarpio’s (address and info)
This is when you forego both niceties and toppings and silently snarf the best cheese pizza in town. The gas and toll money is more than worth the effort to reach this centenarian mainstay, which started as an Eastie bakery in 1903. Bonus points go to the inimitable people-watching. Just remember: cash only.
Runner-up: Hand’s down winner
A4 Pizza (address and info)
We’re more than happy to become gastronomous guinea pigs in the name of pizza testing. The casual cousin of Kendall’s Area Four tries out new topping combos ahead of formal launches; well-known favorites like the clam and bacon varietal anchor the menu. After 11pm, nab a half-priced slice based on what’s left in the kitchen. Oh, and if you skip the Hoodie Cup dessert, you’re not a true American.
Runner-up: Union Square Pizza
Galleria Umberto (address and info)
The pizza's only there until the dough runs out (usually by 2pm), so best to get there before noon. Decisions are easy: you're getting two slices of Sicilian deliciousness, and maybe some arancini if you really feel like getting after it. It was named one of the best in the country by leading authorities for a reason.
Runner up: Regina Pizzeria
Posto (address and info)
Authentic Neapolitan pies are few and far between, which makes these flash-baked beauts all the more desirable. Imported pizzeria flour and Italian tomatoes combined with locally sourced toppings and house-made mozzarella make for a grand sit-down meal. Oh, and we have a tailgating tip for you: book their mobile wood-burning oven for your next Sunday spread and you’ll forever be a hero to your friends and family.
Runner up: Flatbread
Picco (address and info)
Before you whine "my crust is charred!" -- it’s on purpose, and it’s fabulous. The wood-fired gourmet pies come out incredibly hot (what’s the heat index level above "piping"?) and include chichi toppings like short rib and Gruyère cheese. Since there will be approximately no leftovers, depart with a pint of the homemade ice cream.
Armando’s (address and info)
Transplanted New Yorkers missing the mothership, this is where to head. It’s a classic, old-school Sicilian joint, complete with Formica booths, tossed pizza dough, and Fanta in the fridge. The, ahem, blunt counter service doesn’t hurt either.
Runner-up: No competition
Emma’s (address and info)
It’s easy to forget about this stalwart, what with all the new and newly heralded Kendall arrivals, but we’re talking grilled pizza at its finest. Toppings are mix-and-match, which means you can order an anchovy-Canadian bacon-Buffalo chicken 16-incher without incident.
Runner-up: Area Four
All Star Pizza Bar (address and info)
The dudes behind Inman’s All Star Sandwich Bar have cemented their MVP status. Want tomatillo salsa and chorizo on your pizza? There’s a pie for that (the Chile Relleno). Shaved steak and horseradish cream? There’s a pie for that too (the Red Head). Slaying a monstrous hangover just got easier, too, with the Dukes of Hazzard breakfast pizza (hominy-ricotta grits, maple breakfast sausage, soft-baked eggs, cheese, pickled chiles).
Runner-up: Pizza Pie-er
Cambridge, 1. (address and info)
Quality pizza in Harvard Square is a surprisingly tall order, so we just keep returning to this longtime gem serving charcoal-fired, thin-crust pies, with simple-but-perfecto topping combos (steak and fresh lobster are the two splurges). The half-pie orders also make for great takeout fare.
Scampo (address and info)
So, you need to make a first-date impression but are seriously jonesing for some ‘za. Or your parents are in town to foot the dinner bill but you’re seriously jonesing for some ‘za. Or you have 27 bucks burning a hole in your pocket and want to blow it all on some ‘za. Solution to all that ails: Scampo’s lobster pizza. Lydia Shire’s signature dish is set at max decadence, with heavy cream, caramelized shallots, and the meat of a two-pound lobster.
Dirty Water Dough (address and info)
We’ll forgive the unappetizing name, because -- grab hold of something here -- they have a pizza crowned with cola-marinated shaved steak. Other seen-nowhere-else topping options: Sriracha-Buffalo sauce and taco-style ground beef (they’ve moved away from their over-the-top opening salvos of Cheez-Its and Fenway Franks). The dough secret is in the eponymous water, which is actually an IPA brewed up by Cape Ann Brewing Co.; it’s also served on draft.
Runner-up: Crazy Dough’s
Wherever you may roam
Stoked Wood Fire Pizza (address and info)
If you were wondering whatever happened to Letters to Cleo bassist Scott Riebling, we’ve got news for you: he turned a longtime pizza obsession into a right-turn career change and recently launched his own food truck (digest that for a second). Stoke’s individual pies are already the stuff of takeaway legend, a tri-hybrid of New York-, New Haven-, and Neapolitan-style, coal-cooked for three minutes in a 6000lb oven. Meat eaters might go to the veggie dark side after sampling the buffalo Brussels sprout varietal; vegan substitutions also abound.
Runner-up: Sweet Tomatoes
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1. Pastoral345 Congress St, Boston
2. Santarpio's Pizza111 Chelsea St, Boston
3. Area Four Somerville445 Somerville Ave, Somerville
4. Galleria Umberto289 Hanover St, Boston
5. Pizzeria Posto187 Elm St, Somerville
6. Picco513 Tremont St, Boston
7. Armando's Pizza & Subs163 Huron Ave, Cambridge
8. Emma's Pizza40 Hampshire St, Cambridge
9. All Star Pizza Bar1238 Cambridge St, Cambridge
10. Pino's Pizza1920 Beacon St, Boston
11. Cambridge, 1.27 Church St, Cambridge
12. Scampo215 Charles St, Boston
13. Dirty Water Dough Co.222 Newbury St, Boston
14. Tavolo1918 Dorchester Ave , Dorchester
Pastoral's got rustic pizzas, like duck sausage and clam topped with house-made mozzarella, as well as the option for you to grab their pastas, sauces, and cheeses to make your own treats at home.
Santarpio's Pizza has been around since 1903, so when we say “old-school,” we mean it. Much to the dismay of certain Bostonians, Santarpio’s is known for its New York-style pies, whose chewy crusts are thick and crispy enough to bear the weight of the generously distributed Italian cheese and sauce. Keep it simple with a cheese pizza, or get the sausage & garlic pie for a kick of meat. Santarpio's is far from a one-hit wonder though: its skewers of lamb and steak tips make up a solid barbecue option, as does the house-made sausage on its own. The East Boston location is cash-only, so spare yourself a scolding from one of the notoriously cranky serves and head to the ATM beforehand.
This cafe/bar serves up sick wood-fired pizzas made from simple, quality ingredients -- alongside great coffee and baked goods.
Galleria Umberto is worth the trek to the North End. The pizza cash-only spot has been a neighborhood staple for awhile, serving Sicilian-style pizza and other Italian eats. The Sicilian pizza, in particular, is great for three reasons: it's cheesy, the crust is thick, and it has the perfect amount of chew for those of you who are tired of thin crust. However, we suggest going earlier rather than later because the shop shuts down once all the pies are sold.
From a chef-turned-first-time owner eager to break the location's curse (four spots in five years), PP's a modern take on the "classic Italian wood-fire pizzeria and enoteca" plating a mélange of small bites, pastas, and pizzas in an airy high-ceiling'd "woodsy-meets-industrial" themed space replete with exposed brick/stone accents, floor-to-ceiling windows, a black/dark grey slate bar, an exposed wood fire oven, and a private dining room behind dual sliding doors.
Picco's is a casual Italian-fusion spot that slings tasty appetizers and mains -- from tomato bruschetta to fish tacos with creme fraiche -- but the real star here is the charred pizzas. The crust finds a happy medium between not too thick and not too thin, slightly bubbly, airy, and crispy. It also offers craft beer and homemade ice cream which go perfectly with any meal.
Hidden in Cambridge's Huron Village, Armando's is an old-school Sicilian joint complete with Formica booths, tossed pizza dough, and Fanta in the fridge. It's one of the few shops in the area serving deep-dish Sicilian pizza by the tray and half tray. The thick and crispy pies are as authentic as it gets (the owner, Armando, emigrated to America from Italy in the ‘50s), and the low price point attracts Cambridge's hoards of college students.
You won't find your average thin-crust Neapolitan pizza at Emma's. Instead, you'll find a cracker-meets-flatbread-like crust that's more crunchy than chewy, and nontraditional pies like The Kendall (roasted red peppers and caramelized onions), The People's Republic (bacon and scallions), and the Greek-inspired Middle East (kalamata and feta). The cozy Kendall Square spot has been around since the '60s, and though there's often a wait on weekend nights, you can easily kill time with a walk around the block and a glass of red wine.
The brothers behind All Star Sandwich Bar are behind this colorful, bare-bones pizza shop that's a favorite among vegans and vegetarians for its alternative, non-meat toppings. The 20-seat spot serves four varieties each day, one with cheese, one with pepperoni, one "funky" option such as barbecue duck, and one vegetarian option. You'll find Daiya mozzarella on the vegan pizzas, along with toppings like almond milk bechamel sauce, meat substitutes, and plenty of veggies. No matter what you choose, you're in for a massive, high-quality thin-crust slice.
These Cleveland Circle pizza-slingers have been churning out simple, classic slices and whole pies since 1962. Nothing fancy, just basic pizza goodness.
Thin-crust pizza might not sound like a big deal, but this Harvard Square gem charcoal-grills its pies and tops them with self-proclaimed "adult-like" combinations that transform pizza from casual to upscale. Toppings include refined pairings like fresh lobster and corn, and more traditional Italian ingredients like ‘nduja (a spicy pork salumi spread), broccoli rabe, and taleggio. Housed inside a former fire station, the stylish space has wood and brick accents, and serves craft beer and Italian wines.
Located in the Liberty Hotel, Scampo is an upscale Italian restaurant with Mediterranean influences.
With a booster shot of custom-made Cape Ann IPA in every bit of dough (a refreshing alternative to actual dirty water, Boston patriotism aside), Dirty Water Dough Co. is serving up both classic pies and pizzas with exciting new toppings (Steak 'n Cola, mac 'n cheese pizza).
From the Icarus/Ashmont Grill guy, Tavolo serves up Old World Pan-Italian in a sleek, high-ceiling'd, 120-seat space featuring two dining rooms, a 40-seat fire-slate bar, stained-blue concrete floors, Campari soda light fixtures, and a "crated" wall made by a local artist relying on nothing but empty wine bottles and substance abuse issues.