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Flavorless, flaccid pizza at The Hungry Ghost Bakery, Northampton, MA

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As copied from my website:

To some Northamptonites, this review will strike the wrong chord. They will place it in the same shock category as a "Nobama" bumper sticker. The Hungry Ghost, a two-time James Beard semifinalist, is a small town staple atop a small hill in the center of town, flanked by office buildings and groceries just off the main drag. When I first came here for school, it was all everyone spoke about.

"Oh, you must try the Ghost- they only bake one kind of specialty bread a day and don't bake any more when they run out! The owner wrote a ballad about the bakery! They have a schedule for their bread." Handwritten menus and a shabby workspace pass for status indicators in this area, I noticed. In fact, I entered the bakery twice prior to their late 2011 renovation and left before ordering as I was appalled with the putrid state of conditions there. Formerly a dusty, dank bakery, albeit one with lovely smells, the reviews of The Hungry Ghost's bread range from passionate to pallid. But it was their recent renovation and switch to pizza that piqued my curiosity one evening, prompted by an October 2011 review by Serious Eats writer Liz Bomze, when the bakery had first branched out to pizza. I'm not one to place SE on a pedestal, but I respect their input and recognize their experience in eating many different types of pizza, so their range of comparison would be vast and hopefully serve as a good benchmark for my own experience.

What Liz described as "some of the best pizza in New England" was something I wouldn't have the heart to feed my dog. (Who, for the record, was raised on New Haven apizza crusts slipped under the table.) Perhaps this would pass for good pizza to someone who was heretofore fed exclusively Domino's and Digiorno, but for a Connecticut resident, this barely has the life and character of a freezer-burnt Ellio's. Entering the bakery, we were the only patrons yet stood for a few minutes as the cashier finished a lengthy conversation about boys with a friend of hers. When we made a motion to order and ask for a recommendation, as it was our first time checking the place out, it was made painfully clear that the delicate rhythm of the discourse was blatantly disrupted by our presence. This was reflected in the service. Hideously annoyed that her soliloquy about menfolk was stopped in its tracks, the cashier was surly, exhibiting a vapid passivity nearing autistic levels, thrusting a paper menu toward us and all but telling us to go screw ourselves. Any further requests for recommendations yielded blank stares and eye rolls.

We finally agreed to try their margherita pizza, a basic set of flavors that, when done well, transport the eater back to summertime. A simple choice for a first time. Informed that the pizza would take twenty minutes to cook, a strangely long time in a brand new Llopis wood-fire oven, we were told to come back. We perused a local deli and returned only to be informed that the bakery was cash-only. No signage alerted us to this fact, nor did our server choose to capitalize on our twenty minute wait by offering up this fact. Thus, our pizza was delayed another ten minutes as we found an ATM per her vague directions and went on our way.

That ten minutes made no difference at all. In fact, I doubt ten seconds would have made a difference, because this pizza was abhorrent both hot and cold. For starters, the composition. A margherita pizza is retardedly simple: tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, and a little extra virgin olive oil.

Our pizza had rivulets of grease pocking its surface and running down the sides and into the crust and was sparse in the basil department. Apparently there's a shortage of skimpy, free-range basil leaves in the region. Fresh tomatoes were replaced with what tasted like canned tomato sauce, and the cheese was barely browned. Checking out the upskirt, we were once again dismayed by the shoddy performance of this seemingly new oven. I'm not sure if the owners got an upcycled oven or if it was left on the curb and posted on freecycle, but it yielded a flaccid, soggy crust with a gummy interior, each piece collapsing on itself, saturated and glistening with more oil than a male model and shedding dandruffy flakes of cornmeal and flour when moved from box to plate.
The first few bites of each slice were wet, thick, and slimy, the result of the copious amounts oil migrating to the center of the pie. With each bite, I was waiting for International Bird Rescue to come clean my mouth in the same way oiled seagulls are cleaned after a disaster. $13 bought an extremely bland, oversweetened twelve inch pizza that left a sheen on our lips and carried a pervasively annoying sourdough tang, more tangy and sour than their bread. I've suffered from heartburn with a more nuanced flavor than this.

We had structured our day around getting this pizza tonight. I'm just pleased that we didn't go "full pizza" and snag more than one pie or even upgrade to a larger size. This was so unappetizing that we didn't even bother to sit down at the table with it, much less open the bottle of Mondavi we'd left chilling for the occasion. From the many Bret Easton Ellis novels and old issues of the New Yorker I've perused, I gather that high-end restaurants of the 80's were proud of being stingy and standoffish, cultivating the type of clientele who would know better than to question the difference between ceviche and cilantro. I don't, however, understand why this snobby "value" is superimposed onto the more mediocre examples of fine dining I've seen in small towns. It seems like a certain strain of naive people equate this attitude with quality dining, and it unfortunately causes restaurants like this to thrive where they can be king of the college pizza scene. Hungry Ghost comes across as an ludicrously arrogant big fish in a small pond. The hype is not deserved.

Photos here: http://bit.ly/hungryghost

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  1. the pizza and almost everything else is better at Bread Euphoria, I think. Many local people agree.

    15 Replies
    1. re: magiesmom

      Totally agree with you there- I've never met a pizza or sandwich I didn't like at Bread Euphoria! It's unfortunately much harder for students to get to without a car...

      1. re: zammdogg

        there is a bus, and it is well worth it.

        1. re: magiesmom

          I've written extensively on Bread Euphoria before. I think more students should learn about it so they can avoid sub-par experiences like this one.

      2. re: magiesmom

        We probably get 2-3 pizzas a month at Bread Euphoria. Last Friday we had a caramelized onion and sauteed mushroom pizza (a build your own) that was easily the best pizza i've had there. it was perfect. and i really like their tomato sauce...very simple, fresh tasting.

        1. re: saintp

          I was hoping the pizza at HG would have the quality of BE but mirror the flavor and thin-crusted style of New Haven apizza more, but it paled in comparison to the quality of Bread Euphoria. Love those specialty slices.

          1. re: zammdogg

            Not to flog a dead (ghostly) horse, but I was always disappointed at Hungry Ghost when it was doing bread. There was this mystique about it which totally eluded me. I felt like the kid pointing out that the emperor was really naked, so I didn't. But I thought so.
            Have not tried their pizza, have not intention of so doing, but am a HUGE fan of Bread Euphoria. No comparison. And the people at Bread Euphoria are actually really NICE. They're glad to have your business. What a relief

            1. re: BerkshireTsarina

              are they no longer doing bread at all at HG? only bought it once years ago and thought it was marginal.
              I am hoping that BE can keep their espresso machine going, it has been broken often and that is a drag as I always want a latte when I go. But I agree, it is a pleasure to do business with them.

              1. re: magiesmom

                They're still doing bread and encourage you to reserve a loaf the day before you want it.

                1. re: zammdogg

                  well, having read the bad review of the pizza at hungry ghost, i decided to try it again, since the last time we had it i thought it was pretty darn tasty. i work about a 5 minute walk from the place, so we ordered a 4 cheese tonight before clocking out. my daughter walked up and grabbed it, and i thought it was very good indeed. the crust was really dandy -- crunchy and fine tasting and really not soggy at all despite the extremely gooey topping. when they first started doing pizzas there i admit i didn't find them all that attractive, but it seemed like they sorta worked the kinks out after a couple of months. since we order at least one meal locally every day, the rotation sends us back there semi-regularly, and we have not really noticed problems with the pies at all. i'm not exactly sure where in northampton i can get a better one. i recall a decent one at paradiso many years ago, but i will only visit those hideous claudio joints if someone else absolutely insists. so my chances of revisiting are scant. i should add, perhaps, that i enjoy the bread there as well.
                  bread euphoria is a nice spot, i agree. but i'm only ever out that way for breakfast and usually horribly hungover, in which case their service and clientele always kinda bum me out. for that reason i generally end up breakfasting at the look when i've spent the night in norhampton. unless it's saturday and great wall is doing dim sum.
                  bu honestly, in northampton proper, where is there a better pie? as fond as i am of certain spots for certain instances (joe's, etc.) i'm having a hard time thinking of anywhere that matches them. on my last visit to magpie i felt they had made some mighty strides in terms of mastering the brick oven, but greenfield is only on my lunch schedule when i'm doing jury duty. and then i hit hope & olive religiously. although i am very curious to try the new spot -- belt buckle ot something like that -- which has just opened in the spot formerly held by cafe koko then syren. the cook there was the former second line guy at hope and olive. he's from texas and supposedly serves a bodacious corned beef taco. hoping to hit it soon.
                  but for now, when stuck in northampton, i find hungry ghost pizza mighty fine. maybe the fact that we're eating it within 5 minutes makes a difference. someone should invent a pizza box that releases steam without shedding heat. that would be excellent.

                  1. re: fatheryod

                    No one has even mentioned Florence Pizza (a hop, skip and a jump away from downtown). Is it too old-fashioned? Does it stick to traditional pizza toppings? Is it best eaten right on the spot as Father says?
                    Well, yes to all those things --- but within its parameters, this is the pizza of my oldest memories, when there first WAS pizza in the US of A. Gooey stringy cheese, thin crispy crust, your choice of tomato and cheese or cheese and tomato.
                    Actually they also have pepperoni and sausage, onions and green peppers, you know, the usual. It freezes great and reheats great (when you learn the secret of proper reheating. But then again --- fancy pizza toppings leave me cold, and when I'm looking for pizza I'm not looking for ambiance.

                    1. re: BerkshireTsarina

                      A subject dear to my heart: where to get good pizza in the Northampton-Florence-Easthampton area. The only pizza i have truly enjoyed here (in 25 years) was Luna's on Pleasant Street, and that suddenly went dark and stayed that way for years, never to re-open (BTW it is currently being renovated as some kind of sandwich shop, which, if it's good, would be amazing since I am also always looking for that special sandwich place in Northampton).
                      I didn't know HG was doing pizza now, but that's because I tried HG bread many, many times and found it gooey, undercooked and hard to digest. Some of their more imaginative combinations of ingredients were downright inedible. I was also, frankly, kind of grossed out by Mr HG's visible, hairy arm pits. I stopped going there quite a while ago and made my own bread instead using that wonderful NYT no-bake recipe.
                      I agree with all posters that BE in Haydenville is the best bakery-cafe-specialty pizza place around. It isn't that hard to get to, there is some bus service, and I find the service quite pleasant if you don't expect to be fawned over. I buy my dogs their dog biscuits, which I also occasionally eat dunked in my afternoon tea. I do not eat their lovely cakes, though. They are strictly for looks. No taste. But that isn't unique to BE. Many fancy cakes with that type of thick, rolled icing (can't remember the word right now) are tasteless but pretty.
                      BerkshireTsarina, I have eaten my share of Florence Pizza. It's OK. And I guess I'll have to give HG pizza a try since it is easy to come by and no harm in trying.

                      1. re: jzzy55

                        Fondant, that's the word for the cake icing.

              2. re: BerkshireTsarina

                I don't understand the criticism of HG's bread - on the few occasions I've purchased it, I've found it absolutely delicious. Never tried the pizza.

                1. re: fame da lupo

                  I tried HG as many as six or eight times. Gummy, undercooked, hard for me to digest. Better bread to be had from my own kitchen, or from Bread Euphoria or El Jardin Bakery. I also don't care for Normand's bread; to me their products have strange, unappealing flavors. Their challah is especially dreadful compared to homemade. But each place has its devoted following and we all have our own ideas of what bread should taste like.

                  1. re: jzzy55

                    Weird. I am particularly in love with HG's rosemary bread, and their batard is also quite awesome. Makes great French toast the day after.

        2. I heartily second AND third your review, zammdogg, for I had the unfortunate circumstance of suffering through TWO hideous pies from Hungry Ghost.

          I had been (more on that had later) a big fan of their breads and baked goods, BNO (Before New Oven). But back to the pizza. Here's what I posted on Yelp a while back. It was "filtered" so you have to dig to find it:

          >>>This review is for the Hungry Ghost's pizza only.

          They added pizza to their operation after completing their oven replacement and expansion. It is available only from 5-9 p.m.

          I purchased two pies today, their margherita and a special roasted garlic pie.

          The crust was ATROCIOUS. Dense. Gummy. Pale and undercooked. Quite possibly the worst pizza crust I have had in a long time, which is quite disappointing considering how exquisite their breads are.

          Another downside to their new pizza menu is that it is vegetarian. Not that prosciutto, or sausage, or pepperoni would have been much of an overall improvement, but it would have at least been small compensation for enduring the abomination of that crust.

          This is the second woodfired pizza place in this area that suffers from undercooked and flaccid dough. I know that woodfired ovens are trendy but if you cannot use the oven properly, you should NOT be selling your pizza. The crust should be well browned on the bottom and even blistered.

          I will continue to enjoy Hungry Ghost's breads and pastries which have never disappointed me. But I will not be trying their pizza again.

          As for the service notes posted here, I must also report that the crew of grungy hipsters and homely hippies that served me exhibited a uniformly disinterested and almost autistic attitude toward me and the other customers. <<<

          Bad crust. Surly service. But what about the breads I used to love, BNO? My first loaf from the new oven was impregnated with what I can only call a "burning tire" flavor. I actually brought it back and asked for an exchange. That loaf had the same flavor, but not as intense. A third loaf brought the same results.

          I don't know a lot about this fancy new oven of theirs, but I have to blame either that oven or user inexperience for these terribly off, acrid flavors. And clearly the oven is being underfired or has random cold spots, or the pizza dough would have come out at least crispy, if not properly risen.

          So BNO, I liked Hungry Ghost. Since new oven, I am bitterly disappointed.

          And regarding Luna - YES! It was the ONLY worthy pizza place in western Mass. I work across the street and I mourn it every day. All these other sliceterias either cater to drunk college students or are hopelessly Greek. Both pizzas have their places and times but nothing can beat a real apizz!

          21 Replies
          1. re: scaffnet

            Luna was indeed quite good, I was sad they closed. I've had HG's New Oven bread, and didn't notice a difference in quality...

            1. re: scaffnet

              Apparently, someone thinks they're pretty great. They just got nominated for a James Beard Award...again!

              http://www.masslive.com/business-news...

              1. re: scaffnet

                Didn't they win last year?

              2. re: scaffnet

                After all this chatter here about HG bakery, I decided I should revisit the place, since I haven't been there since they remodeled and expanded their offerings. I went in for the pizza but it was too early, so I had a savory pie instead. The flaky pastry dough was tasty, the filling was OK (squash) but the bottom was burnt. Not just a spot or two. The whole damned bottom was charred. It should have been thrown out. In their favor, I didn't have enough cash, no checks on me, and they don't take credit cards. So the young clerk let me have it "on credit." That's very sweet and I appreciated the gesture. I left feeling conflicted -- such nice service, but the food itself was a problem. Sigh.

                1. re: jzzy55

                  I love the idea of Hungry Ghost and there's nothing wrong with their bread. I feel the same about Bread Euphoria. My problem is that EVERYTHING is sourdough (except rye)!!! I think sourdough has its place but sometimes I just want plain old Italian bread or a nice French-style baguette. Part of this comes from living in San Francisco where I got burned out on sourdough. I like sourdough with certain soups and stews, but I don't want it with everything! I go to Bakery Normand or WF when I want bread. This is unfortunate because I would love to go to Hungry Ghost and Bread Euphoria, but I will stay away until they start offering bread without sourdough in it, which might possibly be never! I do love Bread Euphoria for brunch. I like the setting and the feel of the place.

                  I haven't tried the pizza at Hungry Ghost, but I will the next time I'm around there at lunch time. My husband and I love the plain cheese pizza at Mariella's in NYC (the one at 960 8th Ave.). They don't sell anything but pizza by the slice or a whole pie and it's awesome! We find Pinocchio's in N'hampton to have the closest pizza of that style. Not as good as Mariella's but it has a really thin crust and slightly greasy cheese topping, just the way I like it! Neither of us liked Luna pizza because of the fancy, higher quality mozzarella cheese they used.

                  1. re: JunieB

                    every thing is not sourdough at BE, though most things are.
                    challah, potato cheddar, granary and one or two others are not.

                    1. re: magiesmom

                      I find BE's challah to be the best I've had in New England, and I grew up with a great uncle who owned a Jewish bakery in Brooklyn.

                    2. re: JunieB

                      I hadn't noticed BE's bread was all sourdough either. I don't eat much white flour or yeast bread, though. so it wouldn't be a problem for me. I know what you mean about ODing on sourdough in the Bay Area. I visited there 2-3 times/year for 30 years (family) and sometimes I just wanted a plain old baguette. I loved the baguettes at Cheese Board in Berkeley. I don't think that is sourdough. Now that is an exemplar of good baking.

                      1. re: jzzy55

                        A few of the breads at BE are definitely not sourdough --- but of course which they are eludes my aging brain right now. If it recovers, I'll post, but I'm sure of the facts. I dislike sourdough a lot, so I really stay away from it.
                        I'm sure noses will turn up, at least some, but I love the sperlonga bread at Whole Foods. I'd never heard of it before, it's light and airy yet chewy, and makes (to my mind) a substitute for ciabatta that beats the originals. I use some right away and freeze the rest.

                        1. re: BerkshireTsarina

                          sperlonga? that's a new one on me. must Google. Thanks BT.

                          1. re: jzzy55

                            Google says it's a city in Italy known for, among other foods, its bread. So perhaps the WF loaf is something like what they make over there. SOMETHING like being the operative word.

                          2. re: BerkshireTsarina

                            My husband says WF's sperlonga is the closest thing to the great ciabatta we used to get at a WF near where we lived in the Philadelphia area. I like their baguettes too, although not the sourdough ones :)

                            Thanks, magiesmom, I'll have to check back at BE because I go there fairly often. I asked one time, a couple of years ago, if all their bread had sourdough starter in it and they said yes, so I never tried again. I mostly go there now for their pastries and their brunch. Some of the artisan breads around here have a very mild sourdough flavor, but if you're sensitive to the taste and smell the way I am, even mild is not mild enough!

                            jzzy55, you're spot on about the Cheese Board! The Bay Area is a great place for food lovers.

                            1. re: JunieB

                              Have you tried their challah? It is pretty decent and definitely not sourdough.

                              1. re: magiesmom

                                I only like challah for certain things - French toast, bread pudding, etc., and I don't make them that often. I mostly go for a really good chewy baguette or a whole grain loaf. I will keep them in mind for challah though the next time I need it. When I first moved here (long before BE) I was shocked to learn that grocery stores only had challah on certain days of the week! As if I only want French toast on Fridays! I gave up on challah pretty quickly because I always wanted it on the wrong days.

                                1. re: JunieB

                                  But don't most people buy it on Friday for their Sabbath observance? I have never bought it, made it or thought to buy it except on Friday. You could get it on Friday, slice it and freeze it if you're only using it for french toast or bread pudding. Not necessary for it to be fresh for those (supposedly stale bread is better for both). I have never seen it for sale except on Friday and Saturday (day old).

                                  1. re: jzzy55

                                    That's true - around here anyway. I have lived in 8 states and I was always able to buy challah any time I wanted it. I guess I could buy it on Friday and freeze it, but I never think that far ahead. It's no big deal, because it's not a food I crave anyway.

                                    1. re: JunieB

                                      I've never seen it except for Shabbat, either.

                                    2. re: jzzy55

                                      Jzzy- in my family, we would buy it for Friday night Shabbos and whatever we didn't eat would soak overnight for French toast in the morning! For a family of four, a large loaf guaranteed breakfast in the morning...

                                  2. re: magiesmom

                                    Seconding the Bread Euphoria Challah recommendation. I recently tried it for the first time, not even bought fresh from the store, but rather picked up at River Valley Market in a bag, and thought it was the best Challah I've had since I could get it on 2nd Ave in NY. I'm determined to actually get some from the bakery next time.

                                    1. re: spryngtree

                                      At the bakery you can get small ones, which are lovely.

                                2. re: BerkshireTsarina

                                  I like that bread also . But when I am at WF i get distracted by the Pigs Fly breads, most of which I adore.

                        2. The pizza in this area is sacrilegious, and it's beyond me why good pizzerias are a dime a dozen in the major cities, yet no one around here has been able to replicate them. Someone should be able to make a New-Haven apizz, a NYC wood-burner like Motorino & followers, or a Picco (Boston) style pie. When they do, they'll be rakin' it in; until then, I'll drive south.

                          20 Replies
                          1. re: homesick for food

                            Luna tried, but it didn't work out. Unfortunately, people in this area do not want that kind of pizza.

                            1. re: hilltowner

                              Luna's demise was due to family squabbles not lack of customers. I agree that the pizza around here is just OK. I can make do with the occasional slice from Pinocchio's or Bread Euphoria. I'm not eating as much pizza as I used to anyway now that I try to minimize my carb intake.

                              1. re: hilltowner

                                Luna's was good but not on par with the better pizzerie in New Haven/NYC etc.

                                1. re: fame da lupo

                                  We're not IN New Haven. I don't compare the Connecticut River to the Seine or the Tiber, so why would I compared our local food to that of Paris or Rome? As for NYC pizza, it is like the bagels there - not what they used to be. I had an 'authentic water boiled old-fashioned NYC bagel" two days ago. It tasted just like a Bruegger's bagel. Puffy, soft and flavorless. I grew up on NYC bagels back in the day. They were small, hard and, honestly, rather flavorless until toasted (kind of like an English muffin). The closest thing in NE to a real 1960s NY bagel is Katz's in Chelsea, MA.

                                  1. re: jzzy55

                                    Thanks for saying this!

                                    1. re: magiesmom

                                      Another comment from someone who grew up back in the day. (When bagels broke off a tooth if you weren't careful.) ((In Brooklyn. Authenticity.))
                                      Great Barrington Bagels, a little south of the town of the same name in the Berkshires, has bagels that are closest to what I remember. They're somewhat smaller than the usual, and they give you more of a tussle.
                                      That said (don't you hate that expression?) my favorite flavors, like tornado and blizzard, some with all the seedy goodies sprinkled on (gasp) an EGG bagel, are not in the least authentic. Just good.

                                      1. re: BerkshireTsarina

                                        Tornado and Blizzard? That's new to me! Will try next time I'm in the area. Yes, a "real" bagel fights back. If you put on too much cream cheese and lox (my dad was too cheap to buy novy) and you bit down carelessly, the filling would just squish out the other end of the bagel since your teeth were pressing, not cutting it. THAT'S how you know it's a real bagel.

                                        1. re: BerkshireTsarina

                                          I went to college in Ann Arbor, not known for its gastronomy then (Zingerman's didn't exist yet, just as well since i had no money for such places). There was a bagel store called The Bagel Factory that I snubbed. I ate bagels back at home, not in MICHIGAN. Of all places. They sold something called a Fragel, which was a deep fat fried, cinnamon-sugar-dusted raisin bagel. People used to rave about it but I had no interest, disdaining it as nothing more than a fake doughnut, midwestern munchie food. I'd try one now, but the Bagel Factory is no more.

                                          1. re: jzzy55

                                            I lived in Ann Arbor for a couple of years. Loved Zingerman's and the original Border's. When I moved away, I often wished for a deli as good as Zingerman's and a bookstore as good as the original Border's. But now I'm careful what I wish for. Seattle always had coffee shops and carts on every corner. I loved Starbucks in the 70's and then when they started expanding around Seattle, I wished there was one in Philadelphia. Same thing happened with Anthropologiie, Urban Outfitters and IKEA. Their original U.S. stores were in Philadelphia. I missed them when I moved away, but now look at what's happened! It's sometimes better to just enjoy the local flavor of an area when you visit, but let them remain local.

                                            1. re: JunieB

                                              Agreed, JunieB. The first big Border's was the real deal. I remember going in there the day it opened (1972?) and just gawping. Do you remember Pleasant St Bookshp here in Hamp? That was a very fine bookstore, but a lot smaller of course. Have never been to Zingerman's, only bought mail order. IKEA was a lot more fun before I read about their terrible labor practices at their US factory. Too old for Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie clothes, and too cheap.

                                              1. re: jzzy55

                                                I was in Ann Arbor in the mid 70's and remember Border's well. And have lived in/near Hamp since 76 so remember Pleasant st Bookstore, Tupper's hardware, a real Woolworth's and Beyond Words, a nice new agey bookstore. And also the women's bookstore on King St ( forgot name, uh oh)

                                          2. re: BerkshireTsarina

                                            You're right about GB Bagels. I had to go GF, DF and SF more than five years ago, but my friend loves to get a bagel sandwich at GBB. One day, the craving for a real bagel overwhelmed me, so I tried an everything bagel with cream cheese. What utter bliss! It really did take me back to the good old days when those fillings used to ooze out.

                                        2. re: jzzy55

                                          I'm not sure why being in any particular geographic area is an excuse for making bad pizza. It's a question of using the right heat to properly cook a dough and then adding whatever is seasonal/tasty on top. Pizza is dead simple. Just requires attention to detail and a little knowledge, two things that travel well.

                                          I'd extend this argument to any food, so long as the necessary ingredients are attainable. Food is about applying knowledge in the form of technique to raw material. Knowledge and technique travel anywhere. The raw material varies, but that's why food is adapted to the locality. That being said, we here in Northampton have access to 00 flour, good mozzarella, tomatoes, wood and brick, so I see no reason why great pizza can't be made in the Valley.

                                          1. re: fame da lupo

                                            I agree!! That's why when I moved here 11 years ago I was shocked at how much mediocre food there was, and people seemed to be keeping the places in business. It's gotten better, but there's still a lot of room for improvement, in many areas, not just pizza. I sometimes think people are just trying to jump on the band wagon because of all the hype that N'hampton is becoming a food town, so they think they can open up any old thing and it will fly.

                                            There's a pizza place in Burlington called "Flatbread Pizza" that makes wonderful pizzas with great local meat, produce and cheese. The menu changes weekly with whatever is in season. It's different from other pizzas but it stands on its own. At meal times the lines can be horrendously long. I've wondered the same thing. Why can't someone do it here?!

                                            1. re: fame da lupo

                                              When peple want to know where to eat I sometimes say, "the Farmer's Market." I don't think the restaurants here are all that either, but for some reason I don't have very high expectionas of food in New England anyway. As I've saId before here, I prefer the small, inexpensive ethnic places over anything more ambitious.

                                              1. re: jzzy55

                                                If that's what you like you should go to Worcester. You can eat your way around the world there.

                                                1. re: scaffnet

                                                  Recommendations? I do remember going to a wonderful world market, but that was before there was an international market on every corner, even here in the Valley.

                                                  1. re: jzzy55

                                                    Thank you Fame and Junie. Yes, I agree this has nothing to do with geography, but instead, competence. Jzzy, you obviously have not eaten pizza in NYC recently; places like Saraghina, Robertas, Motorino, and successors are a testament to your uninformed remark. I'd agree about the the state of bagels, but that's what Montreal's Mile End neighborhood's for.

                                                    1. re: homesick for food

                                                      "Uninformed" is not a friendly word; generally people here are nice and not snobby.
                                                      I eat neighborhood pizza in NYC where my relatives live, not what you can get at destination pizza bistros which employ or are owned by self-identified chefs.
                                                      If basic NYC neighborhood pizza by the slice is no better than what I can get in Northampton, than ordinary NYC pizza has deteriorated in quality.

                                                      1. re: homesick for food

                                                        Agreed that NYC pizza isn't like it used to be -- and that's because artisanal pizza became the new "it" thing a couple years ago and therefore the number of quality pizzerie has jumped significantly. I just had a nice pie at Keste over the weekend.

                                      2. I've never visited the Hungry Ghost though I've lived only a few blocks from the bakery for quite some time. Now I'm tempted to give it a try, if for no other reason than to determine if the author's palate is as discerning as his writing is grandiloquent.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: josephmartins

                                          "Her" palate, thank you, and I'll be waiting for you to retract "grandiloquent" after you try their pizza. I assure you no word was typed bombastically...though I'm curious to hear what you think.

                                          1. re: zammdogg

                                            Thought maybe they'ed worked the kinks out, so we tried HG pizza for second time a couple of weeks ago and was disappointed again! We had the margherita. Dough was great, but something in the topping, whether cheese or sauce, had a funny, hard to describe, off taste. Maybe metallic? We've always thought they deserved the accolades for their bread. The double chocolate mocha cookie was awesome but has been deleted since remodeling. But the pizza is really underwhelming. I am wondering if they might sell their pizza dough!?!

                                            1. re: zammdogg

                                              zammdogg, I adored your incisive review. We only visit Northampton a few times a year, though we've been going more often since I became hooked on WEBS. Pizza is lost on me these days, as I shouldn't have gluten or dairy. I found a decent GF pizza at Roberto's, but then again, I'm grateful for any pizza I don't have to make myself out of ersatz dough. I miss good pizza so much that I occasionally brave all the nasty side effects of consuming gluten/dairy for the right pie. We have a good pizza place in Williamstown called Hot Tomatoes (the garlic/bacon pie is sublime). Since I moved to Western Mass from Metro NJ/NY (via PA), I've heard the same complaints about the bad pizza or other restaurant foods. I can understand what some of you mean, though we've had some good meals in Western Mass and Vermont. We used to have an excellent restaurant called Gideon's. We have a decent tapas place called Espana in N. Adams. Rouge in W. Stockbridge is marvelous. We have some good breakfast and diner places in Manchester, VT. If you want a lovely scenic drive, followed by a great meal, then check out Simon Pearce in Quechee, VT.