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Emma's Pizza, Kendall Sq., Cambridge

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This was quite a well-mannered crust, displaying many signs of restraint, seemingly brought out of the oven right at the point when the rawness was just dispelled from the dough, but before the dark crisp scorches had set in. There were shadows of brown cast on the marble white dough by the oven and very fine "bubbles" in the thin crust, leading to an almost crunchy texture with very little chewiness. An interesting crust, holding the middle path between the extremes of dense breadiness or fragile crispness. I liked its unique brittle quality, different from most of my past pizza experiences.

On one half of the pizza, we had a more conservative composition: basil (lots of it -- a good thing), cherry tomatoes halves (juicy and still nearly spurty, a pleasure when hot) and merely decent mozzerella (my personal preference for pizza: the ivory buffalo versions that look almost like a pool of milk as it pizza emerges from the oven; that's rare in this country). Lots of garlic in the tomato sauce.

The other half was more daring. A deep charcoal-like smokiness in spicy smoked sausages and rich fluffs of goat cheese dominated, a very satisfying pairing. The other ingredients were less visible on the palate, the tomato sauce and tomato, a mere distant tang and sweetness behind the meat and cheese.

Certainly a worthwhile dinner, although the modern combinations come at a premium and cost more than the hearty versions at Regina (half a 20-inch pizza and an ice tea at Emma's came to $13 including tax and tip). While I have no strong preference, I do prefer the cheese at Regina and I think the latter offers more down-to-earth bang for the buck. I'll hit Emma's when I feel the need for a more elegant crust and toppings that are ... what's the word ..... Californian.

I'd run back if they were gutsy enough to offer a white pizza with only mozzarella, parsley and very very very thinly sliced lemon (I'm pretty sure I'm the only one that liked lemon slices as a main topping when Arizmendi offered it on their pizza in SF).

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  1. Recently tried Regina's and think I blew it. Have a feeling this is a less is more kind of a place and should have looked around and opted for what everyone else was ordering: basic cheese pizza. Chose the ricotta, proscuitto and tomato with basil pie, and although it was good, and the thin crust excellent, the pizza was a little, well, wet. (In fact, so was Mr. Coyote, who somehow managed to tip a full glass of ice water onto himself while serving a second slice.) The pizza was better the next day when I dried out the remaining slices in the oven. Took Mr. Coyote rather longer to recover.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Coyote

      I hope that you were at the North End Regina's. You were right, less is best. Regina's is not the place to go for designer pizza. Stick with cheese or anchovy or pepperoni or a mushroom-onion etc.

    2. I've have asked many times on this board if anyone could give input as to Emma's "before and after", in other words, comparing the present Emma's to before when Emma and her husband ran the shop on Huron Avenue because back then it was my absolute favorite pizza but I have never been to the new, upscale version of Emma's. Anyone been to both??

      1 Reply
      1. re: paul

        mmmmm. old Emma's. Actually, old new Emma's. The original Emma's pizza was ok. The crust was good (thin and crispy), however, the sauce and toppings were canned. Literally. If you ordered a mushroom pizza, you got canned mushrooms. Plus, Emma was just mean and nasty. She would often yell at people that it was takeout only, no sitting at the counter, even to wait for your pizza. I've even seen her yell at neighborhood kids! After awhile, I just stopped eating there because they were so unpleasant. And I know a lot of neighborhood people who did the same. I mean, who wants to go get yelled at when you are placing your takeout order or picking up your pie? I have better places to spend my money.

        Then Dave and Wendy moved in. And, they were so pleasant and just a breath of fresh air. The owners were friendly and welcoming. Sitting at the counter was encouraged. And, they were always open during the big snowstorms. The ingredients were fresh, crisp and at the time, inventive. The sauce was homemade. And, they managed to improve on the crust, which became lighter and crispier. The best was that tuscan rosemary tomato sauce where the rosemary flavor just sang with the tomatoes and there was just that touch of spice to zip up the sauce. Each pizza was made by one person, usually Dave, in the window. The ingredients would be carefully placed on each pie, with the perfect ration of cheese (cow or goat) and whatever other topping you requested. And the waits would be long but well worth it.

        Then, they lost their lease and opened up in Kendall Square. The pizza is still good, but not as good. I'm not saying this out of bitterness because they left my neighborhood, but I just think they have too many people making the pies. The quality would be uneven and the ingredients would be thrown on in a slap dashy way. The rosemary sauce is not as zippy or flavorful, and the crust seems to have too much flour on it so a film would be left on your hands as you were eating the pie. Old new Emma's was the best. The current pizza place, Il Buonogusto is mediocre. Real Pizza is excellent but expensive for small pies.

        Mind you, I am not a pizza fan. I've had pizza, maybe 5x since October. It is a food, that I won't eat on my own, that I won't suggest for a group, but if I have to eat it, it better be good.