It’s a subject as hot as a wood-fired oven: Who bakes the best pizza? Boston has countless no-frills places serving deliciously greasy slices, and many of the best Boston restaurants offer twists on the perennial favorite (and not just Italian restaurants). In fact, some our best pie purveyers are among the best pizza restaurants in America. Don’t believe us? Try them for yourself.
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Best pizza in Boston
Yes, it’s everything you hear and more—well worth the toll fare and general sense of displacement. The century-old East Boston legend, once a bakery, serves the best cheese pizza in town with a side of nonpareil people-watching. Knock it off with the schmancy craft beers and order a Bud Light already; the atmosphere demands it, and besides, you get carded no matter what. Just remember to hit the ATM beforehand, since it’s cash only.
This Kendall Square brick oven pizza purveyor is known across town for its signature flatbreads, made with a focus on back-to-basics recipes using simple, high quality ingredients and 30-hour-fermented dough. The weekend brunch menu is a hearty affair with pastries from the A4 cafe like orange matcha scones and blueberry cornbread making a welcome appearance.
And lo, Mario Batali finally arrived on our shores, and it was good. Really good. The celebrity chef’s inaugural Boston effort is a pizza-centric affair (though pasta, antipasti and gelato all get their due as well). Wood-fired in a 1,000-degree brick oven, the pies are crispy and perfectly chewy thanks to a dough made daily every morning. Though the menu at this Babbo is less inventive than at its NYC counterpart, pizza toppings include cockle, pistachio and pickled chilis. And the biggest surprise: It’s very affordable. Almost every pizza rings in under $15, with the marinara starting at an astounding eight bucks. Who knew celebrity was this accessible?
We know how it goes: You’ll politely peruse the South End Enoteca’s charcuterie and pasta menus, and then quickly order a wood-fired pizza topped with bone marrow or lamb sausage. And then you’ll surreptitiously return on Sunday morning for the Hangover ‘za topped with bacon, sausage, prosciutto, mozzarella, rutabaga and two over-easy eggs. There’s nothing wrong with being honest about your pizza love.
When regulars start lining up for lunch outside a mysterious storefront at 10:30am, you simply put your head down and follow their lead. The nondescript North End takeout spot turns out consummate Sicilian slices: thick, chewy and square-shaped (never mind cheap as hell). The food is so addictive that even those waiting for a table at nearby sit-down restaurants have been known to make an appetizer out of a slice. Little wonder that it’s one of Alan Richman’s favorite pizzerias in the country.
Posto is serious about pizza. Mozzarella is handmade in house, produce is locally sourced and each wood-fired pie is made according to guidelines laid out by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana. But Posto is more than just a pizza joint—it’s a cozy Italian restaurant that works just as well for a first date as it does for a group dinner with friends. Warm wood and brick abound in the dining room, while the menu offers classic Italian favorites like meatballs made with nonna’s recipe, caesar salad with white anchovies, gnocchi with braised beef short ribs, veal saltimbocca and, of course, a wide variety of both white and red pizzas.
With plenty of flatbread, sandwich and pizza options and a seasonal patio, the Salty Pig is a welcome post-work spot for the Back Bay suit-and-tie crowd. Make a selection from the ever-changing draft list over the slightly-fudged cocktails—The Salty Pig’s hard liquor options are limited to cordials and liqueurs.
The hipster little sibling to Kendall Square’s Area Four (think mounted animal heads and Atari in the back), A4 serves as a Pavlovian laboratory of sorts: Which new topping combos will induce drooling the quickest? Well-known favorites like the sausage and banana pepper pie are menu staples, as is the Hoodsie Cup dessert, the only one on the menu. Insiders know to call ahead to check on the table wait (no reservations are taken) and to show up after 11 pm for half-priced slices.
Why order peppers and onions when you can have tomatillo salsa and chorizo? Or shaved steak and horseradish cream? Or a choose-your-own-adventure of duck confit, soft-baked eggs and jerk-roasted jackfruit? Greek brothers Kosta and Johnny Diamantopoules, the dudes behind All Star Sandwich Bar, practically grew up in a pizzeria, which explains why they’re willing to take risks with creative toppings and combos (including five vegan options). Inman Square residents are forever in their debt.
Cambridge families, displaced New Yorkers and four-star chefs all flock to this unremarkable-looking Sicilian spot for pies that induce rapturous, babbling praise. It’s everything you want from an old-style Sicilian spot, down to the tossed dough performances and Fanta soda. It almost goes without saying that it’s cash only: All the best places are.
Area Four gets all the acclaim, but this Kendall Square mainstay has been quietly turning out terrific grilled pizzas for many years. The names of the 25 different custom pies (Hasty Pudding Pie, Chomsky’s Chicken) nod to Cambridge’s intellectual scene, but regulars usually opt for the mix-and-match pies that let you choose your cheese and sauce as well as toppings. Wooden pizza paddles decorated by customers and staff hang on the walls.
The Fort Point Neapolitan joint does it right on every level, from the casual urban-farmhouse aesthetic to the wood-fired pies topped with all manner of house-made ingredients: duck sausage, mozzarella and smoked pancetta, to name just three, plus fresh veggies like arugula and broccoli rabe. The cost-effective cocktails and European wines by the glass make for a perfect laidback date night, even for families: As parents have quickly discovered, the 5pm feeding hour is a whole lot more palatable with Pastoral’s non-condescending kids menu and bottomless Shirley Temples.
The pie-slingers think differently at this South End gem, flame-roasting the pizza to produce the signature charred crust (wusses can ask for a less well-done version). These gourmet pies don’t come cheap—little surprise when toppings include speck (smoked ham) crème fraîche, and Gruyère cheese—but they’re more than worth the extra dough (sorry). The restaurant’s other secret weapon is its rotating list of homemade ice creams; as you wait for a table, you’ll see local after local come in for a pie and a pint to go.
Who doesn’t enjoy a pizza pie and a pitcher? The classic North End pizzeria—which could double as a movie set with its well-worn booths and framed celebrity headshots—is the oldest in town, still churning out brick-oven beauties in a convivial atmosphere (don’t plan on deep dinner conversation, unless you’re cool with screaming it). Just be prepared for a legitimate wait thanks to the tourist contingency.
Rockstar-turned-mobile pizza entrepreneur: Yeah, there’s a role model for that. Former Letters to Cleo bassist Scott Riebling finally followed his pizza passions and launched a food truck armed with a 6,000-pound oven. The single-serving pies are wood-fired for just three minutes, then topped with plenty of meat, from bacon to artisanal pepperoni (you can even opt for barbecue sauce in lieu of tomato). Vegan cheese can be swapped in for the heart attack-weary.
There’s nothing remotely parlor-like about this Harvard Square pizza parlor, as austere as you might expect a former fire station overlooking a graveyard to be. But there’s plenty to like about its no-nonsense attitude, reflected in a streamlined menu of elegantly simple salads and thin-crust pizzas. The latter are charcoal-grilled and topped with the likes of lobster or chicken sausage, with flavoursome fresh herbs and infused oils.