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Galleria Umberto - Almost heaven

Went with a friend today for lunch. Line? Long. Around 12:30.
Stood, and moved along slowly. Approaching the order counter... Almost there.
Ordered 2 slices and a panini. No drink. Great behind the counter boss.
We are so lucky to have this place around.

Who knows what film hollywood was taping at Galleria about a month and a half ago?

With no apologies, this has to be the best spot in the North End for lunch.
Bar none.



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  1. I'll enthusiastically second Galleria Umberto. Excellent South Italian comfort food standards at Leave-it-to-Beaver era prices. And the line's long because the secret's out about this spot. I think it's one of the best Boston lunches around, never mind in the North End. Getting there early is a good idea, though, because when they run out of food, they close. Got there once a little after 1:00 PM and all they had left were panzarottis and pizza, and the latter was going fast.

    1. That's Ralph and Paul. Ralph is the stocky guy and Paul has the beard. They are the best. They are determined not to make things super-efficient and soulless.

      My schedule has changed and I can't get there often but when I was going a lot I'd just hand them money without them even telling me the cost. They are trustworthy. The one time I actually looked at my change, I think Ralph undercharged me.

      The arancini are fantastic, with a crisp exterior. Though it's a cafeteria, they genuinely care about their food. The spinach calzone is also very good and I love their panzarotti.

      1 Reply
      1. re: lergnom

        I'll agree that it's not soulless, but Ralph is the absolute model of efficiency! I've never seen a food service worker so fast, friendly, and accurate. He even adds up the total in his head and tells you before he gets to the cash register. He is amazing, quite a show.
        "Comin' through!!!"

      2. I was there for lunch on Weds too..no line at 11..out the door by 11:20.

        Agreed, 1 of Boston's greats

        1. A panini? Do they serve panini's? I just remember pizza, panzarottis and arancini.....?

          4 Replies
          1. re: twentyoystahs

            I believe that the small filled bread thingies that look like a crescent roll, about the size of the panzarotti, are called panini.

            (And don't forget the outstanding calzones!)

              1. re: lergnom

                I thought they were calzones; but I'll take your word for it.

                I rarely order them..pizza, arancini and panzarottis are my usual order.

                1. re: 9lives

                  Nope - the big ones are calzones, the little ones (with sesame seeds on them?) are panini. I rarely order them either, but I've seen them there.

          2. If you ever find yourself in Medford around lunchtime, check out La Cascia's. Their Sicilian slice is different from Galleria Umberto (of particular note is the sauce, which is a little bit sweet), but it may be my favorite around town. At very least, it gives Umberto a run for its money.

            1. I have to get into this place. Anyone know what time they open?

              BTW, the filming was for Bachelor No. 2 w/ Dane Cook and Kate Hudson.
              They got kicked out of St Leonard's Church's hall, which the production was using as a commisary, because they changed the name of the place to "Cheesus Crust."

              Didn't sit well with the Father.

              3 Replies
              1. re: joestrummer

                They open at 11 AM and that (or a little earlier, like 10:45 AM) is a good time to get there.

                1. re: bachslunch

                  When I lived in the N. End I would not even bother hitting GU any time after 11:20 as the line was always too long.

                  1. re: StriperGuy

                    Thanks, that's why i'm asking. Figure I'll try to beat the rush.

              2. Wow, I've got to give this place another chance. I went there around 10 years ago and thought the pizza tasted like high school cafeteria pizza. Flabby crust and odd (as in government issue) tasting cheese. Maybe I was on crack that day.

                16 Replies
                1. re: Alcachofa

                  I love Galleria Umberto, but the pizza sort of is a bit school cafeteria (in a very good way for me).

                  I love their Arancini, best I have ever had. Panini, Panzarotti, Pizzete (bagely-looking) and particularly their calzone. I will literally happily eat anything they make and think the guys who work there and own the place have amazing karma.

                  1. re: StriperGuy

                    yeah, that probably explains my experience there. i thought the pizza was also "school cafeteria" style, and while i liked the guys and the vibe of the place, waiting in line for 20 minutes or so to find out they were sold out of everything except a few slices of school cafeteria pizza was a real let down. looks like i'll have to try to get there a bit earlier next time to try the arancini, calzones, etc..

                    1. re: autopi

                      If you are worried about the line and/or them selling out, you can call and use the take out line option. However, there are a few caveats, there are times (particularly weekends) when the takout line can be longer than the normal line. Plus its very faux-pas to order from the takeout line and then eat-in (sometimes people do try to call from the line). If you get friendly with the staff at other North End establishments, sometimes they'll let you take-in... as long as you pick up their orders from Umberto too. :-)

                    2. re: StriperGuy

                      Ditto on the arancini -- this is probably one of the best things I've ever eaten in my life. Of course, if MY school cafeteria had pizza like that I would never have graduated...

                      1. re: StriperGuy

                        I finally made it over there today for lunch. I'm stuffed! We arrived right before noon, line was almost to the door. We probably waited 25 minutes or so. I got a slice of pizza that perfectly matches StriperGuy's description of school cafeteria in a good way. I also had one of the arancini. These things are big and it was stuffed with ground meat, peas, cheese and it was delicious! Those two things plus a can of soda were $4.95, a bargain in my book. My co-worker who went with me let me try his panini which was also really good. I hope we have more nice days for a lunchtime stroll over there.

                        1. re: lissy

                          Just missed you..I was there at 10:45..waited 10 mins for them to start serving and was out by 11:15.

                          Biked by and saw the lines around noon...

                          Good stuff!

                          1. re: 9lives

                            So funny! I was thinking I might run into someone I know over there.

                            1. re: 9lives

                              Ok -- so my question for those who get there at 10:45 for lunch, is how does the food hold? I've walked into GU a few times (on walking tours with hounds on this board) but have never ordered because it's always so early or late.

                              1. re: yumyum

                                They cook the dishes throughout the day..so there's no difference between the food at 10:45 and 2 ish.

                                At 10:45, there are generally a few..5 or 6 sitting and waiting...and the food starts coming around 11+-. We form a short orderly line and get served within a few mins..but no loss in quality if you show up later.

                                Everything is cooked and sold within a few minutes.

                                1. re: 9lives

                                  I know you. Short orderly line? Ha! But thanks for the information about the food ... sounds like I must get the GU merit badge on my chowhound sash at some point.

                                  1. re: yumyum

                                    I got my badge today :)

                                    We got worried that they were out of arancini but then they brought out a new tray!

                                    1. re: lissy

                                      went back today for an arancini for lunch and a panzarotti for tonight. If you get to the front of the line and they're out of something, just pay for it..and come back in a few minutes. The panzarottis weren't ready when I first went in; walked over to Sulmona and grabbed it on my way back.

                                      BTW, for the food historians, the GU on Hanover is the "new" location. They were in a downstairs shop on Parmenter..down a few steps..a few doors from Sulmona. They moved to the larger quarters in late 70's or so.

                                      1. re: 9lives

                                        Ahhhh, if you want to get technical, they had both shops for quite a while.

                                        From at least 88' to 94 or so both were open. The Parmenter location during that time baked (excellent) Scalia bread and some other breads as well as pizza, but nothing else.

                                        The Parmenter location was called "Galleria Umberto" and the Hanover location "Rosticceria."

                                        When (I think) their mom retired, or maybe went to the big pizzeria in the sky they closed the Parmenter location and just had the Hanover location and merged the names: Rosticceria Galleria Umberto. The Hanover location has not changed one iota since 1988 except for the fact that they guys behind the counter move maybe a tiny bit slower and the food tastes just a little better... they have finally perfected the recipes ;-).

                                        P.S. Observe as the muscular guy (very ashamed to say I forget his name) rotary cutter in hand, as he slices the pizza out of the big aluminum pans. Notice the precise yet forceful arm action as he bashes the corners to fully cut the crust. And finally notice the subtle flick of the wrist as he frees the corners from the pan. A Japanese tea ceremony is perhaps a more ritualized, but not much. How many pies has he gracefully dismembered? And finally, also notice, noone else is allowed to slice pizza...

                                        1. re: StriperGuy

                                          "When (I think) their mom retired, or maybe went to the big pizzeria in the sky they closed the Parmenter location and just had the Hanover location and merged the names: Rosticceria Galleria Umberto. The Hanover location has not changed one iota since 1988 except for the fact that they guys behind the counter move maybe a tiny bit slower"

                                          The mom was the cashier..:) The guys move a little slower; but so do I..:)

                                          That's Ralph, who cuts the pizza. Master of his trade.

                                          1. re: 9lives

                                            Ralph, exactly! Man that guy can cut a pizza!

                        2. re: Alcachofa

                          Ha, it does kinda bring up that sort of nostalgia and maybe that's why I gravitate there ( But is is probably better then you remember from 10 years ago)

                        3. For the record, after they closed their Parmenter St. location, Ralph's mom worked at Galleria Umberto.

                          My dad used to take me to the Parmenter location back in the 60's. Eventually, I moved around the corner from there in the 70's. Slices were 25 cents. My friends had a nickname for Ralph. We called him Hercules because of his muscles and we called the place, the pizza shop down under, because you had to walk down a few steps to get into the store.

                          If anyone is familiar with the Chowhound's New York Outer Borough Board, you are probably familiar with the Egyptian restaurant called Kebab Cafe in Astoria. I was there this summer and I was talking to the famed owner, Ali, and he was telling me about his visit to Boston a few weeks prior. Guess where he loved? Galleria Umberto. I saved his card and I'm waiting to tell the story to Ralph the next time I see him.

                          Small world.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: bearzie

                            Thanks for the whole story. I hope that Ralph's, er Hercules' mom is still around :-).