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Nov 9, 2011 02:55 AM

Max and Leo's. Real pizza just off exit 17, Newton.

Without looking to re-start the chicken wing wars, everyone has to admit that Buff's in Newton are among the best in boston area.
Now, 50 meters from Buff's front door is some of the best pizza,certainly in Newton and i have to say, in Boston proper.
Twin Newton raised brothers (not oddly, Max and Leo), have carved this labor of love into the washington street neighborhood with their hands and the actual sweat of there brow.
the 8000 pound coal oven from california required the removal of the rear of the building and the 15 foot high cut stone facade was laid by hand in what Max told me was "one of the worst months of my life"
The small (to be expanded) place is a wonderful mix of reclaimed Vermont doors, a skimmed wood bar and lighting fixtures that once resided on boats. painted in a deep red that works well with the blacks and wood feel. Harpoon i.p.a., UFO, and a couple others on tap. Guinness in cans and several more in bottles. italian sparkling water in bottles and the usual suspects in sodaland.
The coal burns wonderfully hot and even (witness, Pepe's and Grimaldi's) the temps inside are 900+ and even more to the point, 700 to 800 on the deck. Heaven. Fans at the top of the shaft pull excess heat off so the tops dont scorch before the bottom can get a nice char (my complaint with many a wood burning place).
My wife's white pizza with pear, ricotta, carmelized onions, prosciutto and a drizzle of honey was cooked pretty much to perfection, with some dark bits but still foldable. Straight up sausage had great cheese and the sausage had picked up bits of well done pork from the super heated air. Other combinations are interesting and worth exploring. Fresh tomato sauce, grilled chicken, roasted red pepper, red onion smoked and regular mozz , the BBQ pork pizza (with onions, smoked mozz, BBQ glaze) is made with pork sourced from Blue Ribbon. Max, a self described "veggie guy"is interested in some innovative preps like one with a mushroom base and elsewhere, roasted butternut squash with thyme.
Mercifully, the regular margarita is 9.95 and the 'roni 11.95. Oven roasted lemon rosemary wings and a couple of nice salads round out the simple, but thought out menu.
Concern with the quality of the product has made them decide to not do delivery currently, there was even a discussion about not doing take-out but cooler heads prevailed on that point. While i will concede that pizza is best right out of the oven, i love me a slice for breakfast the next day. One of my favorite places, Stella's in Watertown is tragic in this regard, it does not hold up well if not eaten fresh. Though it will pain Max greatly to hear, this stuff is good even cold (well, room temp.)
In true chowhound spirit i want to keep this place to myself but even more i want it to succeed, as pizza is in a poor state in newton, and quite honestly, north of the upper west side. Go, please.
Also, i believe i heard the owner say he might be closed on sundays for a while,so if that is your target a call might be in order to check., facebook, twitter, etc.

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  1. This is awesome news. Thanks, hyde. Can't wait to try it.

    1 Reply
    1. re: bear

      Thanks for the very detailed report. I am always looking for good pizza options in the western suburbs and the location right of the Pike is convenient.

    2. FWIW Frank Pepes wasn't very good cold.

      2 Replies
      1. re: trufflehound

        Pepe's clam is good cold but the rest aren't. Crust is too thin and doesn't hold up over time.

        I'll have to try this place in Newton.

        1. re: lergnom

          If I am going to head to Pepe's -- the ONLY pizza I am going to order is the CLAM -- amazing.

      2. Thanks for the report. I drive by there about every day and wondered why there was a need for another pizza place in Newton Corner (Uno and Bertucci's already there), but this place sounds to be a different and a cut above.

        2 Replies
        1. re: pemma

          local boys, local place, quality product. im sure they would make any combo you wanted.
          i keep thinking about pizza and beer here and then wings and more beer up the street.... (then a cardiology consult.).

          1. re: hyde

            How's the size? Filling enough?

        2. Of course the oven is only half the battle. Consistent execution with Pizza, and much food is everything.

          Fiorella's in Belmont has a nice wood fired oven, but sadly drops the ball on execution too often to make it a standard for me. e.g. I had a pizza there not to long ago that was obviously pre-cooked, then had the toppings dropped on and was reheated...

          The pizza was all nice and done, but the sausage on top looked like it had been nuked, or sauteed and then dropped on top at the last second. Gray flabby sausage on a half decent pizza.

          Personally I get a little nervous when folks are expending lots of effort on "reclaimed Vermont doors, a skimmed wood bar and lighting fixtures that once resided on boats."

          Excuse the digression, I really hope these guys can turn out top notch Za day after day! In the end it's about the Pizza.

          4 Replies
          1. re: StriperGuy

            stripe, while i hear your plea, like it or not, to make a reasonable run at a sustainable restaurant in a town like newton, a more upscale vibe is more likely to bring the mass to your door.
            i agree with you overall, but would ask that you go in and talk to these guys, they are very serious about their food.
            i, too, am a fan of fiorella's, but recently at 6 oclock on a saturday night encountered an hour long wait to get seated then an hour+ to get food to the table,and another 30 minutes to get a check. i actually asked for my main to be boxed up so i could just get out of there.. they are a victim of their own success.
            and forgive the clunky review, im a hospital night worker and have no real aptitude for this.

            @ bear, ordered two pies for myself , wife and 18 y.o. daughter. took home two slices. full but not stuffed. personally think a pie for one and a couple of drafts would be plenty. im 6'1", 100 kilos.

            1. re: hyde

              Thanks, hyde. I'm there soon! Menu looks really good.

              1. re: hyde

                Hyde, I'll just shut the heck up and give it a whirl ;-)

                I actually thought your review was very well written!

                I just have an overdeveloped foofiness radar and get nervous if I am afraid the food is not taking the front seat.

                That said it's all about the za and will give it a whirl soon and stop pontificating.

                1. re: StriperGuy

                  Looking forward to your reivew StriperGuy -- you turned me on to Fiorella's in the first place many years ago !

            2. I just returned from getting a pizza from Max and Leo's. I ordered the "L'Enza", which is sauce, mozzarella, mushrooms and sausage. Leo took great care to continuously turn the pizza so that it was evenly charred on all edges. Haven't seen that care taken in a long time. It's a very tiny place with 3 or 4 stools at the bar and 2 2-tops so I can see them being totally reliant on take-out business to prosper given the accommodations. I thought the pizza was delicious. I actually just sat in the car to try a slice and ended up eating 3, hot and just out of the oven. I'll definitely return.


              9 Replies
              1. re: JoJo5

                Had the L'Enza yesterday. I thought the sauce and cheese were very good and the sausage was excellent. The crust was OK but it could use some improvement. The thing that surprised me was the canned mushrooms. You would think that after going to all this effort to make a quality pizza they would be using fresh

                  1. re: PAUL

                    If by fresh you mean raw -- a mistake that way too many pizza joints that should know better make -- that's a great big Do Not Want. Raw mushrooms gush the water from their dessicating cells onto the pizza as it cooks, turning the whole thing soggy. (T. Anthonys in Allston does this, so I try to never order mushrooms on my pizza there, and always regret it when I do.)

                    Now, throwing a pan of sliced fresh mushrooms into the oven at the start of service to parcook them and then throwing those onto the pizza, yes please. But honestly, I'd take canned mushrooms over fresh on a pizza any day.

                    1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                      Agree Jenny --- if they want "fresh" please pre-cook or saute - or do something other than lay them on raw. There has to be a better way than pure canned/jarred mushrooms which actually look funky - and don't taste bad - but are so un-romantic sitting next to fantastic ingredients which are either home made or procured from great places. I need to start really figuring out how to deal with amazing ways to prepare pizza mushrooms.

                    2. re: PAUL

                      Are you sure they weren't dried, reconstituted mushrooms? The menu says wild mushrooms, and many places use the dried ones. I'm not aware of canned, wild mushrooms being used commonly on commercial pizza.

                      1. re: bear

                        I am sure they were canned white buttons. You are correct about the menu description but they did not use wild mushrooms as advertised. I am fine with white buttons as long as they are fresh. I have eaten many fresh mushroom pizzas and never had any gush water on my pie. The small amount of moister they contain evaporates quickly in the heat of the oven.

                        1. re: PAUL

                          i will ask about this the next time i am in. i find the owners very forthcoming about their food and imagine they would be responsive to positive feedback.

                          additional note:
                          i believe expansion into the adjoining space is planned but it was suggested to them by the newton police they leave the soaped-up windows in place as thieves have been breaking into establishments in the area and stealing every bit of copper (and whatever else) they can lay hands on.
                          they recently stole the copper plaque commemorating John A Kelley's contribution to the boston marathon which sits at the start of heartbreak on comm. ave.

                          like starting a restaurant is not filled with enough hurdles.

                          1. re: PAUL

                            Just tried the pizza last night. Definitely NOT canned white buttons, or canned anything. Wonder if they ran out of the real thing when you were in? My best guess would be creminis that were parcooked ahead of time. Not what I'd call wild mushrooms, necessarily, but not canned white buttons either. We really liked everything about the pizza and I was impressed that it survived a 10-minute car ride and still had a crispy bottom crust when we got home.

                            1. re: stomachofsteel

                              I will be back to try the pizza again. See if the mushrooms are different. This is what my mushrooms looked like. They were very small about the size of a dime.