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Emma's, dry pizza. And, do I need to be a regular?

sukisooo Jun 8, 2010 11:47 PM

finally made it to emma's for the much anticipated cracker thin crust pizza tonight.
15 min wait, i'm hungry, but ok. it ended up more like 7 min. great!
our waiter said, "you need more time?" before we answered (we knew our salad and drink choices) he tried to ditch us. my husband quickly requested our shared salad choice and his drink - then gone. the waiter didn't ask me for my drink order.
spinach salad w/ artichoke, rstd red pprs, kalamatas, feta (if you wish) we wished for gorgonzola...our request was quickly approved.
salad: spinach was young, tender, abundant and fresh, fine cheese, house roasted peppers? i think so as i saw char and plain, simple canned baby artichoke hearts. the dressing was intense. not for everyone. garlic oil and maybe nothing more. very raw, strong, hot garlic intensity. i like that it's fresh and i see the garlic oil presence all over the menu. the salad we ordered was supposed to have a pommery mustard vinaigrette. i am still tasting the raw garlic.
pizza: we like meat. we ordered the 16" (large) #25. both kinds bacon, both kinds sausage, pepperoni, chicken, traditional sauce, mozzarella.
it was dry. i suspect that with the thin crust they have to remove the moisture from the toppings so it doesn't get soggy. the "american" bacon was obviously of great quality, thick, super flavorful - but hard on the tooth. the spicy sausage was aggressive and spicy (yes!) and overall the flavor was full and complex. but, the meats had been cooked too far i suspect to remove the excess oil. we missed that mouth feel. we don't mind orange oil dripping off our elbows.
so, i wanted another glass of house white (nice, dry, old fashioned like a good house chablis) it was a major effort to find and then flag down our waiter to beg for another one. like, "sorry to bug you but i'd like some wine with the pizza now...my salad wine is gone".
he came, he gave me a glass of house white, he left...for what felt like for good. we are not regulars but have lived in boston/cambridge for 20+ for my man and 7+ for me. and anyways why should locals get the best service? on their website they thank their regulars, so ok. we went, we ate, we left, my husband left pissed cause the waiter couldn't be bothered. we will go back, we will not tell them how to cook their toppings. we will order extra sauce, we will hope for a waiter who is having a better night.
i will ask for more tomato sauce.

Emma's Pizza
40 Hampshire St, Cambridge, MA 02139

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  1. c
    Curious Chef RE: sukisooo Jun 9, 2010 04:44 AM

    I truly hate poor customer service; a definite deal breaker on a return visit!

    1. g
      Gabatta RE: sukisooo Jun 9, 2010 05:28 AM

      This is pretty much how their pizza is. Given that you don't like it (I don't really care for it either), coupled with the service, I wouldn't go back.

      1. erwocky RE: sukisooo Jun 9, 2010 06:38 AM

        While I haven't had the all-meaty pizza at Emma's, I have had pepperoni, and while I wouldn't say it's dry, it definitely not greasy. So sounds like their style of pizza just ain't your thing, as Gabatta says. Add the poor service and I certainly don't blame you for not going back. Sorry you had a bad experience. (I quite like their pizza, myself.)

        I've been there 4 times over 4 years, all at lunch, and I've had fine service. They're usually busy so it's not terribly fast, but good enough. So I don't think they dote on regulars.

        1. Bob Dobalina RE: sukisooo Jun 9, 2010 08:16 AM

          As luck would have it, was there last night. Definitely not a place with oil pooled in the pepperoni slices - you actually like that? ICK! :) We split a small #24 - Thoroughly enjoyed. I think Emma's base sauces set it apart from other pizza places - really dig the house-roasted tomatoes in the 24, or the rosemary-infused sauce.

          Honestly have never thought of "mouth-feel" when eating pizza, other than to think how another slice would feel ;)

          Also had that salad last night - and it was VERY strongly garlic. After pizza, ice cream, brushing teeth twice, was still on the breath....Have only ever gotten the Fling salad before. Would stick with that. If you had that dressing recently, maybe just an overly strong batch? It was too strong - definitely agreed - way too strong.

          As for service, I get there maybe once a season so not what I would consider a regular and I am always made to feel like a regular....I honestly think you are completely off base on that criticism. Emma's to me seems like one of the least clubby places around, which is why I do go back over time.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Bob Dobalina
            CookieLee RE: Bob Dobalina Jun 12, 2010 12:45 PM

            Bob, just because you don't like a little vitamin G with your pizza, don't feel the need to judge how others prefer it. Obviously, enough people like Emma's pizza, and keep them in business. I'm heading to Armando's myself!

          2. c
            celeriac RE: sukisooo Jun 9, 2010 08:56 AM

            I agree with your assessment of their pizza - dry, dry, dry every time I've had it. In my mind, however, the problem is not with the toppings but with the crust, which is crackery and dehydrated. Some folks love that kind of "thin crust," but not I...

            1. b
              bear RE: sukisooo Jun 9, 2010 09:10 AM

              We have been to Emma's monthly for the past year or so and have always enjoyed it. I guess that means we're regulars now, but haven't noticed any differences in service from when we first started going. That said, I don't think the style of pizza is for everyone, and hesitate to recommend it without explaining the cracker crust and scant sauce so people realize that it's not a conventional New York-style pie. (We always ask for extra tomato sauce, by the way, so if you go back definitely go that route.) We usually split a large and forego the salad, so I can't speak to the dressing problem.

              As far as the service goes, we like the generally laid-back vibe of the place and the people who work there, and feel pretty comfortable speaking up when we want something if our server has been busy and hasn't been over to check on us. If you do go back, ask for extra sauce and speak up about what you need.

              1. b
                bplions RE: sukisooo Jun 9, 2010 05:16 PM

                Notorious for lousy service in the restaurant area. We always stay at the bar.

                2 Replies
                1. re: bplions
                  erwocky RE: bplions Jun 9, 2010 07:22 PM

                  What bar?

                  1. re: bplions
                    Bob Dobalina RE: bplions Jun 10, 2010 06:20 AM

                    You have the wrong place, unless you mean the area by the window?

                  2. CocoDan RE: sukisooo Jun 10, 2010 12:16 PM

                    Anyone? Please excuse my chow ignorance, but is this Emma's the reincarnation of the Emma's that used to be on Huron Av., or is it a totally different business. I always thought of the Huron Av. store as a very, very close second to Regina's. Emma was a hoot, and made great pizza. Why am I so confused on this one?

                    13 Replies
                    1. re: CocoDan
                      purple bot RE: CocoDan Jun 10, 2010 12:26 PM

                      More of an evolution than a reincarnation. Wendy Saver (current owner of Scup's in E. Boston) bought it from Emma and moved it to it's current location near Kendall. Wendy sold it to one of her employees (I believe) named Jeff a few years ago. I'm a solid fan, and don't find the pizza dry at all. It's fair to say, as others have, that it's just not the OP's style. As far as the service goes, I've never had any issues or noticed anything one way or the other. I probably go once every couple of months. As far as I know there's no bar area either, as one person mentioned. Unless they're talking about the few stools at the window near the door, but I would hardly call it a bar.

                      1. re: purple bot
                        CocoDan RE: purple bot Jun 10, 2010 12:44 PM

                        Thank pb! That clears it up for me. I'll give it a try. Loved the old Emma's, but always open to find a new good pizza.

                        1. re: CocoDan
                          gansu girl RE: CocoDan Jun 11, 2010 08:28 AM

                          CocoDan - there are LOTS of "new Emma's" lovers here, but be prepared, it's NOTHING like the old Emma's on Huron. I grew up eating at Emma's on Huron (and we were regulars there, she and her husband Greg used to invite me behind the counter when it wasn't busy and recognized my parents' voices on the phone!) and have never liked the nouveau-crackery-crusted-funkily topped stuff at Emma's in Kendall Sq. Try it for yourself, see what you think, but just don't expect a taste of the good old days . . . .


                          1. re: gansu girl
                            nsenada RE: gansu girl Jun 11, 2010 10:56 AM

                            A friend of mine who lives near the old Emma's told me that she would scold those who asked for exotic toppings such as broccoli on their pizzas. "No yuppie pizza" were her words.

                            1. re: nsenada
                              gansu girl RE: nsenada Jun 12, 2010 08:54 AM

                              true! we were a pepperoni & mushroom pizza family . . . Emma-approved toppings.


                              1. re: nsenada
                                bakerboyz RE: nsenada Jun 12, 2010 09:09 AM

                                Emma once scolded me and my wife for trying to order 2 meats on a pizza (pepperoni and sausage) loudly proclaiming in her Italian accent "No two meats". We weren't sure what she meant at first but then we quickly realized that she refused to make a pizza with two meats on it. She and her husband were a real hoot but regardless, it was my favorite pizza in Boston and I miss it.

                                1. re: bakerboyz
                                  newhound RE: bakerboyz Jun 12, 2010 09:47 AM

                                  Was she Italian? Neighborhood tradition rumored that she was Eastern European.

                                  1. re: newhound
                                    bakerboyz RE: newhound Jun 12, 2010 10:03 AM

                                    Actually, I have no idea, that was just an assumption on my part but her husband made an incredible pizza. I am a big fan of a thin crust pizza that has a bit of black and black air bubbles sort of like you might find in New Haven although I believe that most of New Haven's pizza is made in coal fired ovens and I don't believe any Boston establishments are coal fired.

                                    1. re: bakerboyz
                                      newhound RE: bakerboyz Jun 12, 2010 10:33 AM

                                      Wherever she was from, she ruled the roost. My father would sometimes show up early after ordering a pie on the phone. He'd walk in, Emma would say "Waddya want?" and then bark at him for showing up before the pizza was ready. "Sit down! You're too early!" And my father, an ex-Marine officer, would quickly comply without a word.

                                      1. re: bakerboyz
                                        CocoDan RE: bakerboyz Jun 16, 2010 07:15 AM

                                        I believe Regina's on Thacher St. is a coal fired oven. And if it's not, it's still the best Boston has to offer, and that ain't bad!!!

                                      2. re: newhound
                                        gansu girl RE: newhound Jun 15, 2010 06:33 PM

                                        I'm pretty sure she was Armenian (at least that's what my Lebanese mother told me).


                                      3. re: bakerboyz
                                        catspercapita RE: bakerboyz Jun 16, 2010 04:45 AM

                                        She was not Italian and neither was the pizza. I was never a big fan. I thought it was too dry back then and not enough taste.

                                2. re: purple bot
                                  lipoff RE: purple bot Jun 10, 2010 02:07 PM

                                  This is my favorite place for pizza in Boston. The crust is fantastic in both taste and texture, and there is a wonderful variety of toppings. Their smoked mozzarella is really unique as a pizza topping. I would say that the service can vary from attentive to lackadaisical (i.e. stoned), but is always well-meaning and I don't think being a regular has anything to do with it.

                              2. p
                                pasuga RE: sukisooo Jun 15, 2010 07:36 PM

                                To the OP: If you haven't been there, give Beauty's Pizza in Cambridge a shot. I've always gotten it delivered, and have to admit the thin crust generally arrives a bit soggy in the middle, but I like it like that. Their sauce and all the toppings I've tried have been great, with really fresh veggies. It's not the NE Regina's but since moving to Cambridge from the North End I've found it a very satisfactory substitute. They also have thicker American crust and whole wheat crust options. Delivery has always been spot on time.


                                2 Replies
                                1. re: pasuga
                                  jgg13 RE: pasuga Jun 16, 2010 06:05 AM

                                  I like beautys but have to be in the mood for it. The crust/sauce often is a bit on the sweet side w/ a distinctive taste - sometimes I like that, sometimes I don't. Had the capicola pizza the other night which was a total night & day difference from usual - the outer part of the crust was thicker & chewier, sauce was totally different, and the giant pieces of capicola would just rip off leaving you essentially with a kinda crappy no-topping (not even cheese) pizza.

                                  I do usually really like their puttenesca sauce pizza though - usually get it with pepperoni, ham & one other thing.

                                  1. re: jgg13
                                    lipoff RE: jgg13 Jun 16, 2010 10:47 AM

                                    Beautys is a totally different kind of pizza from Emma's, but both are very good. The Margherita Francesca is my favourite at Beauty's.

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