How many people would shlep all over the city in the pouring rain just to eat pizza? At least 16, by our last count, including some who travelled from as far away as New Hampshire and Cape Cod!
Five purveyors of pizza were tested on this outing. To facilitate comparison, we mostly stuck to plain cheese slices, though a few toppings were consumed here and there. Participants shelled out a $10 donation to chowhound.com, and were rewarded with a ballot and a commemorative map (with CiaoHound drawing by galleygirl) marking the highlights of North End food and drink emporia.
Bianchi's: only two intrepid morning hounds made it to this Revere Beach pizzeria. They described the crust as thin and buttery and the sauce as light. Perhaps they can round out the picture a little more for us?
Santarpio's: The East Boston neighborhood watering-hole-cum-pizzeria. Theirs has a crisp and bready crust, liberally dusted with cornmeal, offset the sweetness of the sauce and the high-Parmesan-content cheese. "Typical Santarpio's pie", "best I've had here" were among the comments this reporter overheard.
Haymarket: This is one of the little hole-in-the-wall shops opposing the line of pushcarts along Blackstone Street. Group I of fast-moving hounds collared and consumed a cheese pie; since your correspondent was not among them, they will have to chime in here. Then, as Group II arrived, several variously-topped slices were ordered and divided for tasting. 'Fraid yr NSH servant was not impressed with her wedge of onion pizza: crust slightly doughy; cheese bland and gloppy; sauce almost nonexistent; onions completely raw. (I've been trying to keep these notes objective, but...well...to paraphrase an astute Boston hound: "Sucky pizza sucks!")
Regina's: The old-time-Boston-tradition-tourist-destination on Thatcher St. in the North End. These pies came closest to my recollection of the Friday-night outings of my New-Haven-suburb childhood. Thin, nicely charred crust; slightly stringy but very flavorful, salty cheese (we asked for a blend of Mozzarella and Romano for a closer comparison to Santarpio's) balanced by a pleasant, unobtrusive tomato sauce; a sheen of oil floating on top. Magically, an anchovy pie had that savory fishiness even where there were no anchovies.
Ernesto's: we were admittedly a little pizza'd out by now, but a small selection of topped slices revived our flagging tastebuds. Ricotta pizza was pronounced good by all who sampled it. A spinach slice turned out to be deliciously kissed with garlic. The crust here was a bit chewier and saltier than either Regina's or Santarpio's, but not in a *bad* way.
Finally, sodden but smiling, dripping with rain and olive oil, we went our separate ways... some to sample cannoli at the 3 M's of North End pastry (Modern, Mike's, and Maria's)... others to stock up on assorted Italian delicacies at the salumerias and other shops... still others simply to head for home, change into dry clothes, and let Boston's best pizza course through their systems. It is hoped that a good time was had by all, and that we raised a sizeable stake for the site.
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