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Apr 19, 2012 11:45 AM

All-Star Pizza: A preview?

So All-Star Pizza was inviting people in off the street today to sample their wares. A good pizza place is just what Inman Sq. is lacking, despite the pizza being tasty enough at City Girl, which isnt really a pizza place. Now I understand this is only a preview and that the pizza I had today might not fully reflect the final product but boy what a letdown. A tight, dry and under-salted crust, a light sauce over-seasoned with garlic powder. Average cheese.... This just seems wrong-headed. Admittedly, I didn't have any toppings but the pizza itself (as it stands now) is just so utterly average I can't see even the best toppings making a difference. i have the impression they are nice people so I hope they rethink this.

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  1. Have you been to Pizza Pie-er? I found it to be quite good last weekend. It is a level of sophistication below City Girl but a very good takeout pizza. Did you share your feedback with the All-Star people? I'm certain they are giving out free pizza with the hope of getting constructive criticism. The whole reason they are taste testing is to get the kinks out. It seems a little unfair to post a public review before they are open.

    5 Replies
    1. re: hckybg

      All-Star/ECG definitely listen to feedback. I've emailed them after a meal that needed improvement (too much pineapple core in the diced pineapple) and a manager read it and responded.

      1. re: emannths

        There has not been any affiliation between ASSB and ECG in quite some time.

        1. re: emannths

          I don't believe that All Star is affiliated w/ ECG any more - I believe that Chris sold it a few years back.

          1. re: jgg13

            Wow, you're right. Looks like it was sold in 2008, only about 2 years after it opened. I had no idea, though I was never too frequent a ASSB customer. Thanks for the tip.

            1. re: emannths

              Chris isn't part of ECG anymore either - he sold it earlier this year to some of the existing staff.

      2. Does it really matter if City Girl isn't a pizza only restaurant? The pizza is still very good.

        Also, I 2nd Pizza Pie-er recommendation (despite their unfortunate name).

        Inman isn't really lacking for pizza, so AS Pizza will have to be good to compete. I don't have high hopes as I think their sandwich place is pretty mediocre other than the fries and rings.

        Haven't both ASS Bar and ECG been sold? I don't think they are affiliated longer.

        26 Replies
        1. re: Gabatta

          Inman isn't lacking for pizza? Maybe you mean delivery, but City Girl is the only pizza actually in Inman. Well, I guess the S&S sells something called 'pizza' but I don't think that counts. Now there's Pizza Pie-er (which just opened) and All Start coming soon. All the other options are in Central, East Cambridge, or Harvard Sq...

          1. re: bobot

            Inman has City Girl and Pizza Pie-er. Two very good options for the neighborhood, and better than anything in the other areas you mentioned IMO. A truly top notch option would certainly be welcome, but Inman is suddenly better off most than most areas when it comes to pizza. I live closer to Harvard Sq and there is nothing (not a fan of the reheated slices at Otto).

            1. re: Gabatta

              I had to actually sign up for an account here just to post about this.

              First of all: I went to Pizza Pie-er the week they opened and got a take-out pepperoni pizza. I am a HUGE pizza fan, like I kind of have a problem with pizza... and this was maybe the very worst pizza I've had since I was in college and ate cafeteria pizza. I have no idea why anyone would like it. It's thick and bready and doughy, there is three times as much sauce as there should be and twice as much cheese as there needs to be. And none of it tastes very good. I was really shocked at how bad it was. It is not a "very good option" for the neighborhood, I will never eat there again and I'm right in Inman Square. I've warned friends about it. It's terrible.

              2nd - you live close to Harvard Square and there is nothing? What about Pinocchio's? Cambridge 1? Angelo's? If you're not a fan of any of them, this confirms my theory that Pizza Pie-er specifically caters to people who don't actually like pizza.

              I am not that hopeful about All-Star after seeing pictures and reviews, but maybe they will get better. I will give it a try. It can't be as bad as Pizza Pie-er, I hope, and it's probably better than the place that was there before. But I might have to stick to Beauty's delivery if All-Star is ordinary...

              1. re: InmanSarahV

                Gabatta said "closer to harvard", implying on the inman side - that's not thesame as "close to harvard square". For instance, if I lived over by the hospital on cambridge street that's probably how I'd phrase it and i'd still not consider Pinocchios to be anywhere near where I lived.

                1. re: jgg13

                  Gabatta also referenced Otto in the same sentence, which is right in the middle of Harvard Square... so... yeah.

                2. re: InmanSarahV

                  The pizza you describe from Pizza Pie'er is nothing like my one experience at the Inman location (it was neither thick, bready, doughy or over-sauced), or at the RI original. Maybe I got a good pull or you got a bum one. More data points will be required on that one.

                  I like Pinocchio's Sicilian slices, but their regular pizza isn't really worthwhile. Cambridge 1 is off our list as it is way too inconsistent.

                  Angelo's was one and done for me, but the CRLS kids seem to really like their cardboard-like oversized slices, so I can use that as a barometer for what your tastes are as 'someone who actually likes pizza'.

                  1. re: Gabatta

                    Are there any thin-crust pizzas you like in Cambridge?

                    I have a hard time believing anyone who made the pizza I got at Pizza Pie-er could ever make a competent pizza, honestly, it was that bad... maybe I had very very bad luck... but... I have a hard time believing that. The sauce and cheese were not good, it doesn't matter if you put them on a well-made pizza, it will still taste lousy. I can't imagine they deviated from their sauce recipe just to make a bad pizza for me. The very first pizza I ever made was 1000% better than the one I got there, and they have years of experience making pizza professionally? Ack.

                    I have only been to Angelo's once also, Cambridge 1 twice, and what I got was pretty good (miles better than Pie-er). Maybe they have consistency problems I don't know about. I don't spend much time in H-Square. At home it's all Beauty's, their margherita francesca crust is really excellent.

                    If you want my taste barometer, I'd have to take you to Naples, or maybe New Haven... ;-)

                    1. re: InmanSarahV

                      "I had to actually sign up for an account here just to post about this"

                      What an imposition, You had to sign in to participate. Life's tough. So did eveyone else who posts here.

                      Naples, New Haven or bust. A lot of good pizza is slipping by you.

                      1. re: 9lives

                        Wow, it must be challenging to willfully misinterpret everything you read! ;-)

                        I meant: for the very first time, I was sufficiently moved by the pressing desire to post a reply that I found myself compelled to sign up for this site, which has never happened before. I pointed this out because it indicates the strength of my feeling on the subject (which I thought was pretty clear), not the difficulty of signing up for Chowhound.

                        Yes, I think New Haven and Naples have the best pizza I've ever had. No, I don't think there is no good pizza to be had anywhere else (didn't I JUST name multiple other pizzerias I like in Cambridge?). I actually have pretty low standards for eating pizza (I'll eat mediocre stuff and enjoy it, just not as much as I enjoy excellent pizza) which should tell you how bad I thought Pizza Pie-er is if it's 3 blocks from my house and I've sworn never to return.

                        1. re: InmanSarahV

                          Not challenging at all..and certain that I didn't misinterpret wrongly..(Naples?)just repeating you...and your "burden" of signing on.puts the onus on the board.."you have to stoop so low to sign on with the hoi polloi"....not challenged; calling it like I see it.

                          It would be like me saying Boston's Thai food is not as good as Thailand...yeah

                          I'm glad you were moved to sign on, however burdensome it was for you.

                          Telling people that pizza in Naples is the best is fairly useless. I don't have a fast enough jet to go for lunch.The New Haven pizza has been talked to death.

                          Talk about the "best" in Boston, please. I'm a great fan of Gran Gusto, want to try Posto. This is a Boston food board, let's talk about what we HAVE..not how it's better somewhere else...which helps no one.except people who are going to that place.

                          1. re: 9lives

                            Someone else brought up the concept of my pizza "barometer," I was just telling them what I measure pizza against since they implied my taste was suspect. Those are the best I've had, everything else is measured relative to those.

                            Around here? Posto's great, definitely go there! Their non-pizza food is also excellent, and they take their libations seriously as well. I also loved Gran Gusto but it's a bit of a pain for me to get to without a car. As I think I mentioned earlier, the margherita franscesca pizza base at Beauty's is really worth trying - a delicious chewy crust with quality toppings. It's a little boring plain, but I love it with pepperoni. I like Emma's, but that's a whole different ballgame - they're more about the toppings than the crust, and I think a truly great pizza has to have a great crust and not merely be a vehicle for toppings (which I think Emma's kind of is). City Girl has been mentioned in this thread, I like their pizza OK but I think their other food is better... great soup and panini... when I go there I never order pizza.

                            In the end I'd absolutely kill for an even semi-decent slice/takeout shop that was open late in Inman... but it doesn't look like I'll get that in the near future. I had such high hopes for Pie-er since they're open late and so close by... there's usually one day a week where I manage to miss dinner and not get home till 11:30PM or later, and I'd love something quick and hot to eat on my way home from the subway or bus...

                            1. re: InmanSarahV

                              Thx, Now we're getting someplace.

                              I'm carless in downtown. Picco in the South End has been very good. Don't overlook Regina's on Thatcher..order thin/stretched and well done and I think you'll enjoy...1 or 2 ingredients at most..meat and a veggie or margheritas.

                              1. re: 9lives

                                Oh yeah, I've been to Regina a few times. I like them a lot... haven't been to Picco's, but then again I can't remember the last time I made it over to the South End for anything. You know how it is with us Cantabrigians, it takes a lot to get us to cross the river...

                                What I really miss is that Roman pizza place that was in the Holyoke Center. Campo di Fiori. Really good and a unique style of pizza that you don't see often in the US.

                                1. re: InmanSarahV

                                  I liked that campo di fiore too...

                                  1. re: 9lives

                                    InmanSarahV and 9lives - I'm glad to see that your back-and-forth has turned into a productive conversation about good pizza options.

                                    To InmanSarahV: welcome to the Chowhound boards - I hope you post about other things besides pizza too, since what you've contributed so far is great!

                                    Dave MP

                                    1. re: Dave MP

                                      Second what DaveMP said. Welcome to CH, Sarah!

                          2. re: InmanSarahV

                            Last time that I was in Naples I had crappy pizza that had hot dogs and french fries as the toppings.

                            Actually, considering the hour, that doesn't sound half bad.

                    2. re: InmanSarahV

                      sounds as bad as the pizza at the MFA cafeteria, which made my so non gourmet son say Italy should take over the MFA. But I'm not about to try it, so thanks for your post.

                      1. re: Madrid

                        I had Pizza Pie-er for the second time in a week, this time a pie with walnut sauce, mushrooms, and spinach, and just like the first one it was very good. It is definitely a crustier pizza than most but the crust was nice and yeasty, had a nice bite to it like a good bread. It was a fine pizza, a very good version of a pizza more casual than what you find at City Girl. InmanSarahV is totally welcome to her very strong opinion, but I do hope others, like Madrid, form their own opinion before they never even try a place. Likewise, as I said in my first post, I think it is really unproductive to treat the pizza at All-Star as if it was a reviewable specimen. It's nice that they are giving out free pizza at the beta stage, I think that entails something of a gentleman's agreement that those who get free pizza would provide useful feedback to them and not post premature reviews. Opening a restaurant is hard enough without bad reviews before you even open.

                        1. re: hckybg

                          I understand your concern about reviewing something that might not be the final product, as I stated in my OP. However, they are touting the opening and the pizza on places like Grub Street and should have fine-tuned the pizza well before this point.

                          1. re: sadflour

                            But did you give them your feedback? That seems like the key question.

                            1. re: hckybg

                              No, because it wasn't like you could say I liked this and liked that but maybe if you tweaked this here... If i were honest it would have been insulting, so I passed on the feedback part.

                    3. re: Gabatta

                      So we have one restaurant that makes, but does not specialize in, pizza. We have Pizza Pie-er, which just opened. I call that 'lacking for pizza', and you didn't present any contrary evidence.

                      1. re: bobot

                        Who cares if they don't specialize in pizza exclusively? City Girl has great pizza, period.

                        Who cares if pizza Pie'er just opened? Either you like the pizza or you don't.

                        I like both, so that is more than enough options in one very small neighborhood for me, which was the point of my original reply. However, it is clearly lacking for you bobot, so I truly hope AS Pizza helps with that. Inman has plenty of needs before another pizza option IMO.

                      2. re: Gabatta

                        I've lived in Inman Square for 15 years-- there is no good pizza in Inman Sq that you can get by the slice. City Girl is great but it isn't a pizza place. The best pizza in the vicinity are the slices at Royal Bakery, and frankly those aren't as good as they once were. I haven't been to Pizza-Pie-er yet so I can't comment. Inman Sq. could use and deserves a great slice and based on what I had at All-Star yesterday, the wait continues. When I need my fix I head over to Armandos, which isn't exactly in Inman Sq....

                        1. re: sadflour

                          Pizza Pie-er doesn't sell by the slice, only stupid little personal pizzas. I imagine they think they will make more money this way but they won't be getting any from me. It drives me nuts when a pizza place won't sell by the slice.

                  2. Went tonight. Thought the crust was alright. The sauce on the cheese slices wasn't my favorite. The atomic meatloaf pizza was good although I like the actual sandwich better.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: jgg13

                      Just came back from All-Star. Clearly modeled around hipster joints in Brooklyn and Portland Or. Buckets of Pabst, pitchers of beer, off-beat art... Problem is those places are built around terrific pizza. Arrived at lunch time today, 10 people behind the counter (I counted) including cashier and a couple of manager-types. Clearly the staff is still learning to stretch and shape the pizza. Slice of Roni-- 4 bucks! Plain cheese-- 3.50, or so. Sloppy and soggy. I won't go back, however people were lining up. Can't decide if its because the pizza bar is set so low around here or because the place is just opening.

                      1. re: sadflour

                        Sadly, I have to agree. I have a soft spot for cheap Greek pizza (and cheap deli sandwiches) so I actually kind of liked Aram's and I really wanted to like this place but... I kind of don't. I paid $7.50 for a slice of cheese and pepperoni that weren't particularly big and were blackened on the bottom yet still sort of soggy. I'm not that into their sauce either, it has this distracting tangy/spiciness I can't put my finger on. I figured if they were into wacky toppings they would at least have one weird pie on special for slices, especially for their first day, but nope, just cheese and pepperoni. Hopefully they'll get better but I really don't like the sauce and I'm not going to pay 7 bucks for two slices of pizza.

                        1. re: uallach

                          Mrs jgg13 described the sauce as being "too much like pasta sauce"

                          1. re: jgg13

                            I went after work and grabbed a couple of slices. The cheese slice had a sauce on the sweet side which might be what gave her the pasta-sauce idea. I thought it worked better on the pepperoni slice. I think there was a little less sauce on that one, too.

                            If I'm nitpicking: crust a bit blah, sauce a little sweet, and it's a touch expensive. (The price doesn't really offend me though, that's what they charge at the awful place in the mall, and it's, what, 50 cents more than Pinocchio's?)

                            But honestly, it's pretty decent, especially for the first day. And it's so convenient for me (and I am such a pizzaholic) I can see myself going there a lot. If they were open till midnight and served slices late I would be there about 3 times a week, but that's just my wacky schedule...

                            The fact that they only sell 16" pizzas will probably keep me from buying whole pies very often because that size pizza box won't fit in my fridge...

                        2. re: sadflour

                          I just saw this article where they claim their cheese slice is $2.50 and pepperoni $3? Huh?

                          My girlfriend bought a cheese pie last night and it tastes better than the slice I got, so maybe they'll figure it out after all. Still not sure why we got charged $7.50.

                          1. re: uallach

                            I got 1 pepperoni, 1 cheese, and a bottle of water and paid $7.50 for that. Either they were tweaking their prices throughout the day (and lowered them in time for that article after seeing everyone horrified at the prices earlier in the day) or they need to train the cashier a little more...

                      2. We tried two pies last week, and I must say that I agree with much of what sadflour said. I ordered a meatball/broccoli rabe combo and my son ordered the romesco/ratatouille. The crust is definitely undersalted, and either needed more time in the oven or needed to be cooked at a higher temperature. It was definitely underwhelming. The ratatouille was very bland and undersalted but the romesco was tasty. We wouldn't order that one again.

                        There wasn't enough broccoli rabe for my taste but the meatballs were delicious enough to make me want to go across the street and try the meatball sandwich. The sauce was okay but too herby.

                        With some serious seasoning and a little more heat on the crust, it could be a decent pie. I won't bother again, though, unless I hear that things have changed.

                        12 Replies
                        1. re: bear

                          I thought it was good enough for a slice, and I'd like to try something other than cheese and pepperoni, but agree that it is a fairly bland, floury crust. I prefer the pizza at Pizza Pie-er and City Girl. But All-Star did remind me of the pizza at the regional chain LaRosa's, which I grew up with in Ohio. It's a taste that many Cincinnatians love and so the crust had some sentimental association for me.

                          1. re: hckybg

                            As a former Cincinnatian, you've got my attention... now I have to try All-Star :)

                            1. re: Boston_Otter

                              *high five!*

                              Let me know if you agree. It's the bland crust and the sauce verging on spaghetti sauce. Something that most people do not seek in pizza, to be sure, but it struck a sentimental cord, reminding me of an earlier era when I hadn't yet tasted what pizza could be. So in that sense, I liked it and would go back for it.

                              1. re: hckybg

                                I'll let you know. Is the sauce crazy sweet, like Prego sauce? :)

                                Now if I can just convince people that chili was made to be served on spaghetti.. and find something approximating Busken donuts... my nostalgia will be satisfied.

                                1. re: Boston_Otter

                                  I don't remember if it was super sweet, but it def was more like a jarred spaghetti sauce than anything else.

                                  1. re: Boston_Otter

                                    I don't remember the sauce being overly sweet.

                                    1. re: Boston_Otter

                                      I was just going to say that I'm still waiting for Graeter's to get here, since I thought only a far-out Fresh Market carried it, but I just searched on their website and they now say that Whole Foods and Market Basket have it! I actually looked at the Prospect Street WF yesterday, but will have to look again!

                                      1. re: hckybg

                                        It's definitely at the Basket...we go to Burlington.
                                        Also the little Whole Foods on 16 in Medford.

                                        1. re: rknrll

                                          Also, Formaggio has Jenni's but it's $$$$$$$$$$$$.

                                        2. re: hckybg

                                          Whoa!! Confirmed -- I just rushed out and picked up a pint of Black Raspberry Chip (!!) at Whole Foods in Fresh Pond. $5.99/pint. Yow!!

                                          They had vanilla, BRC, mocha, and mint choc. chip.

                                2. I finally got to Pizza Bar last week. I really, really want to like this place, and on the whole, I do. First, the interior is small and pleasantly funky. There's an excellent mural (I believe painted by the same guy who did some of the work at the Sandwich Bar) of various sci fi characters eating pizza. Some friends and I split four of the specialty pies (Redhead, Chile Relleno, Romesco Ratatouille, Ms. Piggy's Fig) and a cheese. I found the dough...lacking. Not big on flavor, not terrible or excellent in texture. It's not dealbreaker bad, but the dough isn't calling me back.
                                  My hunch is that the dough (and probably the sauce) was developed to be able to support the toppings. Some will hate this philosophy, but I think the dough is a supporting player in this pizza and not the star and it seems deliberate.
                                  The specialty pizzas were *excellent*. Anyone who's been to the Sandwich Bar has seen what these guys can do with a blank canvas. The otherwise lackluster dough did an excellent job supporting all these toppings, which were plentiful; these weren't slices that drooped under the weight or had toppings sliding around. The consensus winners were the Ms. Piggy (fig, prosciutto, arugula, goat cheese, pistachio gremolata) and the The Red Head (potatoes, steak, bacon, caramelized onions, horseradish cream). They might sound busy but I thought the flavors and textures played really nicely together.
                                  It sounds like they're gearing up for more daily specials (facebook messages were advertising a pork belly confit carbonara pizza). I wouldn't go for a slice of cheese or pepperoni, but I'll definitely be back for some of the specialty pizzas.

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: morecheesejer

                                    They seem a little better than when I first tried and a slice of cheese is $2.50 now, but not really any better than what you'd get at La Mamma for a buck fifty. What annoys me is the fact that they're obviously focusing on crazy pizzas with 5 toppings, but only offer slices of pepperoni and cheese. Why not have one or two special pies for slices? It seems busy enough that nothing would be sitting out for very long.

                                    1. re: uallach

                                      They are doing a special slice or two every day in addition to the cheese & pepperoni, actually.

                                      1. re: InmanSarahV

                                        Is there a sign or something? I know they weren't the first few times I went in so I stopped asking.

                                        1. re: uallach

                                          When I've gone in it's been written on the menu board as a daily special, above the drinks etc. Plus they've been posting the daily slice specials on Facebook most days.

                                          1. re: InmanSarahV

                                            In that case I should probably just pay better attention to stuff.

                                    2. re: morecheesejer

                                      This place is improving! My cheese slice was considerably better than my last visit... Had this pizza, Upper Crust and Penguin pizza this week(sad to report) and I think All Star was the best of the three.