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May 29, 2012 08:06 AM

Pino's in Cleveland Circle, what's the fuss?

I read pretty good reviews about Pino's, a pizza place in Cleveland Circle, and being there this past weekend to visit my daughter we decided to check it out. Some people (not on Chowhound) even compared it to Santarpio's, so I was intrigued.

Having never been to Santarpio's, if Pino's is comparable, I would pass. We shared a simple cheese pie and there was nothing about it that struck me as memorable or special. The crust was thicker than thin crust and thinner than thick/Sicilian - some kind of crusty netherworld. The sauce tasted like standard pizza parlor stuff as did the cheese.

A side tossed salad and Greek Salad were insipid - standard iceberg and bland tomato/cucumber stuff.

My husband said, "Well it's been a long time since we've had pizza in Boston, so maybe by Boston standards this is good."

I don't think so. I enjoyed the pies we had in the past at the original Pizzeria Regina's and Antico Forno and the slices at Umberto's. I also have an odd fondness for the South Shore bar pies you find at spots like the Cape Cod Cafe in Brockton. To me, they're all much much better than Pino's.

Was there something else we should have ordered, or is this a case of it is what it is, like it or lump it?

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  1. Trish: you've hit some losers lately. PIno's and Athan's in the same weekend would sent me on a hunger strike.

    1 Reply
    1. re: gourmaniac

      Ha Gourmaniac! And here I am reading on CH about this new spot Otto's in Coolidge Corner everyone seems to like.... if only I knew!

      I'm just bellyaching a little really. To be honest, we ate just fine this weekend. The plain croissants were turned into tasty brunch sandwiches with scrambled eggs, Fontina cheese and bacon. (See pic of our champagne brunch below). The Caramel Apple Coffeecake in the photo is homemade and it was quite good.

      Plus I made my Three Cheese Crisp Grilled Cheese sandwiches and served them with fresh Gazpacho shooters.

      We're coming again in August and have Green Monster seats so I'll pay more attention to CH for dining options.

    2. I have never loved Pino or Presto. Neither would make my top 20 Boston pizzerias. Maybe you have to grow up on it, or it's a BC thing.

      1 Reply
      1. re: MC Slim JB

        Slim is right. My Dad grew up on Pino's, and as a result I also grew up on it. I actually prefer it to the original Regina's, but would put it behind Santarpio's for a classic pie and Galleria Umberto for Sicilian.

      2. Who makes a fuss about Pino's? Conan O'Brien? Only because that's where he went in HS. And that is exactly what Pino's is - the place you go after HS soccer practice, or clubbing in Brighton (to the extent one can go clubbing in Boston) or whenever you want a slice. Its not a gourmet destination.

        Personally, I'll go there many times before I'd get a mashed potato, bacon, and scallion "pizza".

        7 Replies
        1. re: drb

          The Boston Globe and the Phantom Gourmet, for two recent examples. I know: consider the source. But they do come up in many such discussions and polls.

          I hardly think a place has to be "gourmet" or offer fancy toppings to rate, but I've found these places to be very ordinary.

          1. re: drb

            I think I lived around the corner when Conan was in high school and I thought Pinos was great ... but what did I know then?

            1. re: C. Hamster

              I lived on the south shore growing up, but had a friend who lived around the corner from Pino's and I remembered loving their pizza way back then, and even into my 20's when living in Allston. That being said, I have gone there a few times not so long ago (I have a 5 year old pizza fanatic to appease) and have gotten slices for the little man, and I have to say it does not taste the same as it used to. I am fully prepared to entertain the idea that time has morphed my memory of mediocre pizza to excelent pizza, but can't help but wonder if they are just 'dialing it in' so to speak these days. Ah well, nowadays when the kiddo gets a yen for good pie, I take him to the Regina's on thatcher, he loves the pizza and the bartender girl who works on saturdays loves him (he's a looker, and quite charming, IMHO, but I am biased)

              1. re: devilham

                I always struggle with this question with places I remember with strong nostalgia but don't live up to my memories of them years later. Did the place go downhill, or is it simply that my tastes have changed? I can't always tell if it's one or the other or both. It's a rare thrill when a place I loved from decades ago turns out to be everything I remembered it to be.


                1. re: MC Slim JB

                  It's still worth going for a Sicilian slice....

            2. re: drb

              Yep, I grew up in Brookline, went to BHS, and probably ate at Pino's twice a week. They were always nice to us high school kids who would go there, spend $4.50 on two slices and a soda (the #1) and let us sit in their booths for a few hours on the weekends. Then we'd go outside and yell stupid stuff at the BC kids. Would I send someone there as a destination? No. Is it a decent slice joint if you happen to be in Cleveland Circle? Sure. Does my nostalgia for the place bring me back whenever I'm home? Usually.

              1. re: Sugar

                Sugar, that's a nice sentiment about a nostalgic spot.

            3. Those two pizza places, Pino's and Presto - which was an offshoot of Pino's, have been there forever. Pino's is 50. That's the appeal: if you want old fashioned pizza, then this is what it's tasted like for 50 years. It isn't as good as pizza today, just like food generally is better. Think of the crappy red sauce junk that passed as Italian 50 years ago compared to the variety of Italian restaurants we have today. Compare Wonder Bread to artisan bread. Or percolator coffee to hand drawn coffee.

              3 Replies
              1. re: lergnom

                Point taken, but I would not equate Pino's with Wonder Bread. Its cheap and tasty, and fills the bill just fine when you are in the neighborhood and want a slice. Sugar has it exactly right.

                1. re: drb

                  I'll eat Pino's every now and then. It's better than many old places, especially those bar pizza places on the south shore.

                  1. re: lergnom

                    Apples and oranges...err ...or maybe lemons and oranges, same family but very different classes of pizza. IMHO

              2. We've had the Pino's vs. Presto argument here before and the answer is "Pino's", if it's the 1970s.

                If it's the 80's or 90's, it's Presto, and if it's the 21st century it's either one, but only for nostalgia purposes.

                Of course if it's the 60's the answer is Zallens.

                1 Reply
                1. re: L2k

                  Great way to put it. I enjoy the Pino's slice on the rare occasions I have it, not because it's my favorite pizza in Boston but because it's like going home.