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9 Slices: a compendium of pizza tasting notes from around Davis Square (long)

finlero May 29, 2007 09:23 AM

It was a tough job, but someone had to do it.

Over the long weekend, I believe I visited every Somerville pizzeria within walking distance of Davis Square, and in the interest of the betterment of humanity, ordered the same thing at each: one slice of cheese pizza.

The following is a summary of my findings, roughly in order from worst to best. The numbers in parentheses are the cost, pre-tax, of one slice of cheese pizza. Disclaimers: I realize that slices may not be these eateries' strong suits, but the point here is an apples-to-apples comparison. Also, I excluded Sagra and Amelia's very good Neapolitan-style pies, as they aren't available by the slice. Finally, I want to emphasize that this is just one person's thoughts, nothing more -- the point here it to start a dialog, so please, reply to this thread and weigh in with your own opinions!

9. Alex ($1.50) - an unfortunate example of bad Greek-style. The crust tasted old, both the sauce and cheese were boring and processed-tasting, and they didn't bother to reheat before serving. This was easily my least favorite slice in the area.

8. Davis Square ($1.40) - the people running this place seem pretty friendly, but alas, a nice demeanor does not a good pie make. The relatively thin crust was adequate, if a little tough. Before reheating, they sprinkled some extra mozzarella on top, as if to "Lysol" the oldness of the pizza. Unfortunately both the cheese and sauce were bland and processed-tasting.

7. Mike's ($1.99) - the crust was tough, the cheese tasted vaguely freezer burned. The sauce would have been totally unremarkable, but was somewhat improved by the inclusion of a heavy dose of spices, notably oregano. A penny south of the most expensive slice on the list, this place is coasting on its location and liquor license (I should note that it is the only establishment on the list to serve alcohol).

6. Christo's 7-Star ($1.75) - hmm, 7 out of how many…? As Greek-style crusts go, it really wasn't too bad, sporting a nice buttery crunch. I can't really comment on the sauce, because there was so much cheese piled on this slice that I couldn't taste anything else. The cheese was also notably sour. The whole slice felt out of balance.

5. City Slicker ($1.50 I think -- part of a large order, forgot to check the itemized price) - I love City Slicker in general (thanks again for your posts gini!), but slices are just not the forte here. As has been discussed in other threads on the board, the pizza here is really more of a tart, and it works particularly well with more tart-appropriate combinations (try the "city girl": portobellas, gorgonzola, caramelized onions). But their slice of cheese tastes dangerously similar to bad Greek-style pizza, very rich and greasy, with the crust distracting from the good cheese and fresh sauce. Get anything here but a slice -- everything else I've tried has been stellar.

4. Theo's ($1.10) - the best of the Greek-style, and the cheapest slice in the area, this pie was surprisingly inoffensive. Yes, it was a pan pizza, but it had a nice airiness to it. It was very light on sauce, but this felt deliberate in context, and it actually worked pretty well, even if it wasn't really my style. This place blipped my chowdar as a place to return to for other items; not unlike City Slicker, it's nicely decorated for a pizza/sandwich shop, and there are a number of interesting items on the menu, including a fun-sounding list of "gourmet pizzas" with interesting topping combinations, and strikingly good-looking salads. During my visit, the very nice proprietor demonstrated some impressive skill at managing a rush of customers.

3. Caffé Rossini ($2.00) - "Winner: best pizza in Somerville!" bragged the sans-citation sign on the door, no mention of whether or not this was arbitrarily decided by the pizza chef's mother. But despite the warning bells in my head, this was a pretty good straight-ahead slice. Very thin crust, tangy sauce, nicely salty (although also very greasy) cheese. The most expensive slice in the area, it didn't exactly set the city on fire, but it was pretty good all the same. I should also mention that for breakfast, their baked goods are some of the best in Somerville.

2. La Ronga ($1.50) - as one might expect from bakery-made pizza, the big selling point here was the excellent, bready (but still fairly thin) crust. The cheese was acceptable, and the hearty sauce was fresh-tasting, if perhaps a little "dark" and heavy for my own preference. Unfortunately, La Ronga's hours can make it tricky to pick up a pie for dinner; they close at 6 or 7 p.m. depending on the night.

…and the winner is...

1. Angelina's ($1.25) - WOW!!! This was the big, happy surprise of the tour. Quite frankly, Angelina's left its eight competitors in the dust, the only all-Boston-caliber slice in the area. The basic, very thin crust was crispy and chewy in all the right places. The perky, light application of sauce perfectly complimented the cheese, which had just the right bite and salt. As fate would have it, Angelina's was the first place I tried; I was so taken aback by the slice here that I made it a point to return again at the very end of my pizza tour, and I was still every bit as impressed. Not sure how the rest of their menu measures up, but for the Davis Square area, this slice is in a class by itself.

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  1. yumyum RE: finlero May 29, 2007 09:30 AM

    This is an awesome run-down. Thanks so much for taking 9 for the team.

    I've not had La Ronga (keep meaning to) but I love Theo's for Greek style and Angelina's for a good traditional slice. The folks at Caffe Rossini are so nice (and the coffee is great there too), but I wouldn't doubt the home made signage was indeed done by Lola, the artsy owner.

    Widening the testing area just a bit reveals that Pini's in Magoun Square does an awesome slice ($1.50) while their whole pies aren't very good, IMO. The reheating actually aids the slice.

    Fabulous report!

    3 Replies
    1. re: yumyum
      maillard RE: yumyum May 29, 2007 11:15 AM

      I consider Pini's to be walking distance from Davis Sq., though maybe just barely. I live right by Angelina's and am looking forward to trying their slice to compare it to Pini's. Thanks for the report, finlero!

      1. re: yumyum
        bobot RE: yumyum May 29, 2007 02:07 PM

        That conveyor-belt oven at Pini's just doesn't bake the pies long enough- my trick is to order a pie, pre-heat my oven to as hot as it will get, then when the pie is delivered throw it right in the oven for five minutes.

        1. re: bobot
          Aromatherapy RE: bobot May 29, 2007 06:40 PM

          Do you order well done?

      2. gini RE: finlero May 29, 2007 10:11 AM

        You are officially my hero. What an excellent, excellent way to spend the long weekend.

        1. Bob MacAdoo RE: finlero May 29, 2007 10:27 AM

          Bravo and a tip of the fork to you. We Chowhounds are fortunate to have people like you who are willing to do such great work. Thanks for the superlative effort. (And reminding me about La Ronga's pizza. Will definitely have to try Angelina's). If you every expand upon this into Medford, be sure to try Bocelli's (formerly DePasquale Brothers.) They make a heckuva a pie.

          1. g
            GaryLovesFood RE: finlero May 29, 2007 10:28 AM

            Awesome report, very informative and entertaining. Do I hear a burger rundown?

            1. jsjs09812 RE: finlero May 29, 2007 10:31 AM

              When you're ready to do a nacho run down, call me.

              1 Reply
              1. re: jsjs09812
                dustycolby2 RE: jsjs09812 May 29, 2007 12:58 PM

                I LOVE NACHOS!! i would Gladly partake in a nacho feast ANYDAY!

              2. MaineRed RE: finlero May 29, 2007 10:50 AM

                Three cheers--i've been wanting to do this for ages...but thankfully havent!

                I agree, Angelina's is the best...but Bocelli's (not walking distance to Davis per se) is very good and only $6 for a cheese pie M-Th! Also the Boston Ave sad-sack pizzerias def. don't compete w/ Angelina's...it's a basic Boston sub/pizza shop -- good eggplant parm too.

                1. Bob Dobalina RE: finlero May 29, 2007 11:38 AM

                  Thank you for going to some pizza joints where I have feared to tread - now I know why!

                  I am so pleased that La Ronga had such a strong showing, and I will definitely check out Angelina's. Is that in Teele Square?

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Bob Dobalina
                    maillard RE: Bob Dobalina May 29, 2007 11:46 AM

                    Yup. It's just down Holland from Teele Square.

                  2. enhF94 RE: finlero May 29, 2007 04:05 PM

                    Fantastic! You get a big cookie for including City Slicker, knowing it's a fair walk from Davis - but also knowing that it's the step-brother of Urban Gourmet, with the same recipe (though the execution suffered pre-fire a bit).

                    1. b
                      BostonBarGuy RE: finlero May 29, 2007 06:11 PM

                      If there was an All Star team, I would nominate you. I'm curious to know how many places you hit per day. Did you ever go breakfast, lunch, dinner and late-night snack?

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: BostonBarGuy
                        finlero RE: BostonBarGuy May 30, 2007 02:50 PM

                        Interesting question. I actually compressed everything into Saturday and Sunday, wanting to have as little time separating my visits as my stomach and palette would allow. I visited in twos: on Saturday, it was two slices for early lunch, two in the late-afternoon, two for a late dinner. Sunday was two slices for lunch and two slices (with the Angelina's return visit) for dinner. There were also a few slices I chose not to finish, as it quickly became apparent what was and wasn't worth consuming.

                      2. c
                        cambridgejen RE: finlero May 29, 2007 08:14 PM

                        This is excellent - thank you!
                        I noticed you didn't mention Marco's on Mass Ave. Have you tried their pizza? I wonder how it stacks up to the competition?

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: cambridgejen
                          finlero RE: cambridgejen May 30, 2007 02:52 PM

                          In light of time and gluttony constraints, as well as maintaining a narrow focus for the thread, I decided to stay within the Somerville city limits, which excluded a bunch of potential choices including Marco's, Cambridge House of Pizza, di Mio, all the Boston Ave Medford places, etc. Maybe next Memorial Day….

                          1. re: finlero
                            yumyum RE: finlero May 31, 2007 07:58 AM

                            I hope that by then we'll all have met up at a chow-event (I'm planning a Paddock Round II or "Son of Paddock") and we can add some more stomach capacity to your research.

                        2. DavisSquare RE: finlero May 30, 2007 10:57 PM

                          Just in case you were wondering, this report rocks. Thanks much and I'll try Angelina's again. I haven't been in maybe 4 years and thought it was just average at the time.

                          It is a real shame about Mike's, though, since the location is so central and pizza is definately the best thing on their menu.

                          1. Gin and It RE: finlero May 31, 2007 02:06 PM

                            I stopped at Angelina's today per your rec, and got 3 slices plain to go. Reheated them at my mom's house, who demurred about pizza being too fattening, then proceeded to woof down her slice. I like it a lot- thin crust with a nice chewiness, and the sauce and cheese in a good ratio sort of melt together to form a homogeneous goo.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Gin and It
                              yumyum RE: Gin and It May 31, 2007 02:19 PM

                              I tried an Angelina's slice today too. It was good, with the perfect ratio of crust, sauce, cheese. It was VERY greasy, though (and I like my grease) so your mom is right. Pizza is no diet food. I need to try La Ronga to compare properly.

                              My favorite slice of this type is still Armando's in Huron Village. Outside of the scientific area of inquiry, I know, but a little bit better IMO.

                              1. re: yumyum
                                finlero RE: yumyum May 31, 2007 03:12 PM

                                Totally with you on Armando's -- probably my very favorite slice (maybe even favorite pizza) in Boston.

                                I love the blend of cheese they use (I believe someone posted on CH that they add pecorino romano), and the spicy sauce is just wonderful.

                                Armando's is also one of those places where the second heating actually makes it even better than fresh-baked, with the added crispness to the exterior of the crust.

                            2. b
                              BJK RE: finlero May 31, 2007 03:09 PM

                              I worked as a delivery guy for Angelina's back in my college days and can vouch for your recommendation. Sure, our standards weren't then what they are now, but my roommates and I were always VERY happy with their pizzas. They do a pretty good chicken parm, too, made fresh from scratch.


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