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

  • h

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.

http://maxandleos.com/, 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.

              JoJo

              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.

                               
                    3. Interesting. Coal and its resultant high heat really do make a difference.

                      What size are these pizzas?

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: KWagle

                        I just tried L'Enza today. It's certainly a tasty artisan pie. It's a 14" pie sliced into sixths. I could finish one but it's better to split it with someone, particularly for lunch. If it were a full sized slice like I grew up with in NY I'm not sure it would fold.

                        I'm surprised to read they were questioning doing delivery because I really don't understand the menu given the space. There are two 2-tops, 4 seats at a nice beer/wine bar and about 6 along a wall counter. They don't sell slices or even a large pie. It really seems like it's designed around being a date place, but there aren't enough seats for that. I had wanted to try a slice or two for lunch but had to get a pie instead. For takeout I'd probably still go to Sweet Tomatoes in West Newton as parking is easier and I can get 2 larges for four people and have a few slices left over. Delivery from here would be great, but for four people (particularly guests) I'd consider getting 3 pies to be sure I would have enough.

                        -----
                        Sweet Tomatoes
                        421 E Falmouth Hwy, East Falmouth, MA 02536

                        1. re: hurm

                          I've been to Sweet Tomatoes in Newton Center a few years ago. Their large was just about the right size for one person. :D

                          -----
                          Sweet Tomatoes
                          421 E Falmouth Hwy, East Falmouth, MA 02536

                          1. re: KWagle

                            whoa, thats a 18" large. probably weighs in around 4500 to 5000 calories depending on toppings. max and leos 14" will be a snack. hopefully you have the metabloism of a humminbird or in a while i will be fitting you with a cpap mask to manage your obstructive sleep apnea.

                            1. re: hyde

                              Heh. I just avoid any carbs not covered in cheese and pepperoni!

                      2. we just ordered pizza/wings for take out a few nights ago, it was delicious! We ordered the L'enza, we wanted ricotta instead but ultimately wasnt on the pizza. Not a deal breaker. the pizza was on the small side-so the wings were a good addition. Wish they were a little crispier-but very good and we'll def be back really soon! HIGHLY recommend it.

                        1. I went this weekend and shared a L'enza (sausage and mushroom). Excellent crust - really enjoyed it. There's more details on my blog.

                          Thanks for the alert about this place!

                          Gltsoi.livejournal.com

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: gltsoi

                            WOW!

                            I had the L'Umina pizza --- a white pizza with sliced pears, caramelized onions, basil, ricotta cheese, olive oil, and a drizzle of honey. It normally comes with prosciutto as well, but I asked them to leave it off. With a little sprinkle of hot pepper flakes the contrast between the heat of the pepper flakes and the sweetness of the honey drizzle is revelatory. Unlike some de-porked dishes, this one didn't taste like it was missing a salty or savory element.

                            And it was super-terrific. I can't believe that this is from a little store front in Newton Corner. Very small space inside, but it's cute enough for a date. As you can see from the attached photo, I got mine to take-out. Perfect dough and crust, and just a nice combination of tastes on the pizza.

                             
                          2. Where can you park for this place? I'm too intimidated by crossing Washington Street and the creepy parking garage at the Crowne Plaza and there are never spots in front.

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: Scruffy The Cat

                              Can't you park in the parking lot where Uno's is? You should be able to drive past Uno's and take the first right and the entrance to the parking lot is right there and very close to Max and Leo's. And you don't have to cross Washington.

                              1. re: Scruffy The Cat

                                They have their own parking lot behind the store..just take a right on peabody st ..

                                1. re: Adam551

                                  Thanks. I have always found that area really intimidating. I'd suggest they put parking info on their website for other people who also don't know where to park, but I sent them an email asking about an ingredient (allergen) last week and haven't heard back so I don't know how well they do with online communication.

                                  1. re: Scruffy The Cat

                                    just a heads up
                                    DO NOT park in the lot at bertucchis/starbucks on centre street and walk over. the company that tows from that lot are bastards and ALWAYS have someone in that lot monitoring parking. they WILL tow your car.

                                    did this one night to go to buffs and paid dearly for it.
                                    that said, i still find it easier than parking in cambridge or the south end.

                                    1. re: hyde

                                      There is a town lot with meters right behind the Bertucci's lot.

                              2. I went to Max and Leo's for lunch yesterday and found it a very worthy pizza, up there with some the best you can get in Boston proper. I had the Margarita and really enjoyed it. My only criticism would be the quantity of cheese which I thought was too high for my taste. The crust was excellent and the pie was turned well in the oven so as to be consistently cooked all around. The lunch scene is a bit chaotic, but a little patience is warranted and things will work out fine. Sauce was DOP San Marzano tomatoes with a pinch of garlic and salt. I will definitely be back for the L'Enza. I had no issues with parking at lunch time. The place is tiny and not upscale at all but nice enough, and very much purpose oriented. Max and Leo seem like very down to earth guys, are friendly, and insistent on using only the finest ingredients. Thanks for the recommendation Hyde.