Heading to the East Coast this summer? Bypass New York City and embark on a pizza road trip of Providence and Boston. Grilled pizza, Chicago-style stuffed, apizza, wood fired, and your standard cheap slice—when it comes to pizza, both cities really know how to deliver.
In 2014, Travel and Leisure Magazine ranked Providence, RI the second best city in America for pizza. This surprising pick came in second to (you guessed it) Chicago. A 45-minute drive or a $23 roundtrip train ticket from Boston, Providence makes for an easy and enjoyable day trip. During our visit, we spent the entire afternoon in the Federal Hill neighborhood, a walkable, trendy area that, despite some gentrification, has still managed to hold onto its strong Italian-American roots. While we would’ve loved to explore more of the city (and eat more pizza), we were on a tight schedule. It also didn’t help that, during our short time there, Providence welcomed us with a torrential downpour that lasted all day and left the backs of my feet with blisters the size of silver dollars.
Bob and Timmy’s Grilled Pizzas
In 2009, GQ Magazine listed Bob and Timmy’s Grilled Pizzas as one of the top-25 pizzas in America. Naturally, we had to check it out. As the name suggests, the pizza at Bob and Timmy’s is grilled on an open wood fire—giving the crust a crackery thin texture and a smoky flavor. We ordered two pizzas and washed our slices down with a pitcher of Narragansett Lager. Which can really only be described as the Old Style of New England.
We got a 14″ wood grilled pizza and did 1/2 The Pizza 3 ($10), topped with Parmesan and Romano cheese, garlic, olive oil, and sum dried tomatoes and 1/2 The Sausage Supreme ($16), also a wood grilled pizza, was topped with sweet Italian sausage, mozzarella, pomodoro, red onions, green and red peppers. Having been born and raised on deep dish, I’ll have to admit that, while Bob and Timmy’s Grilled Pizza was delicious, it wasn’t very filling.
32 Spruce Street
M-THUR, SUN 11:00AM-10:00PM
Intrigued by their promise of Chicago-style pizza, the second stop on our pizza road trip of Providence was Sicilia’s. If you’re a Chicago transplant living in Providence and Sicilia’s isn’t on your radar, it should be. By no means is Sicilia’s the best stuffed pizza you’ll ever taste, but it is some of the most authentically Chicago-style stuffed pizza we’ve had outside of Chicago. On your visit, stick to sausage and see if you can taste the fennel.
181 Atwells Avenue
Providence, RI 0293
M-W, SUN 10:00AM-2:00AM
Even though Boston came in 5th place on Travel & Leisure’s list, we still had high hopes for pizza in Beantown. Luckily, the city didn’t disappoint. Much like Chicago, we found that Boston’s pizza scene ranges from the traditional to the artisan and is not to be ignored.
Mike’s Food & Spirits
The photo of the slice of sausage pizza we had at Mike’s Food & Spirits should say it all. This was not good pizza to eat while sober, on a weekday afternoon. The sausage was a strange shape and texture and the slice itself was a little too greasy. Still, what Mike’s lacked in pizza they made up for in service and atmosphere. The day we visited Mike’s a 5K in Davis Square was taking place. Josh Groban music was blasting from the race’s finish line. Stephen and I, along with every Under Armor wearing race participant, were looking to be raised up and lead into shelter. Luckily, Mike’s was nearby with pizza by the slice, plenty of beer, and a jukebox loud enough to silence the Groban.
9 Davis Square
Somerville, MA 02144
M-THUR, SUN 11:00AM-12:00AM
Part pizzeria and bar and part bowling alley, Flatbread Company serves up what they describe as “flatbread” pizza. Here at Encyclopizzeria we would say that Flatbread falls somewhere between Neapolitan and New Haven apizza. Whatever style you claim Flatbread Company’s pizza as, one thing’s for sure, it’s delicious.
Since 1998, Flatbread has been aiming to provide pizza lovers with a, “place to renew their spirit.” Sourcing primarily local ingredients from a variety of New England farmers, Flatbread uses high-quality fresh ingredients for all of their pizzas. They prepare their pizza dough fresh, daily, and—to our excitement, make their own maple-fennel sausage in house. There’s a variety of pizzas to choose from ranging from the traditional cheese and herb to the more eccentric mango BBQ topped Mopsy’s Kula Pork Pie. Unlike many pizzerias, Flatbread even has a vegan pizza on their menu.
While there are a variety of Flatbread locations throughout New England, we would urge you to try the location in Somerville. Unlike the other locations, the Somerville location is part pizzeria and part Sacco’s Bowling Haven. Sacco’s isn’t your average bowling alley. Forget the flashing lasers and 70s disco music of cosmic bowling because Sacco’s is not your traditional experience. Sacco’s only has candlepin bowling. I had never seen such a thing.
Originally developed in 1800 in Worcester, MA, candlepin bowling, like skiing or going to the shore, is very New England. Not to be confused with the also very New England—duckpin bowling, candlepin bowling is much different than the ten-pin, cosmic bowling Midwesterners know and love.
Instead of ten frames, there are ten rounds. With a maximum weight of 2 lbs and 7 ounces, the ball used in candlepin bowling is the smallest bowling ball in any North American bowling sport. Fallen pins are not cleared from your lane between each bowlers turn. Like driving in Boston, candlepin bowling is chaotic and fascinating.
Sacco’s Bowling Haven alone is reason enough to check out the Flatbread Company. The fact that the pizzeria had the best pizza we had tasted while on our pizza road trip of Boston was just the extra mozzarella on top of an already delicious pizza pie.
45 Day Street
Somerville, MA 02144
Regina Pizzeria (North End) Pizza Road Trip
In Providence, we made the mistake of not trying the Rhode Island-centric Pizza Strip. In Boston, we weren’t going to make the same mistake of leaving without trying the city’s oldest pizza. That’s why, after a day of intense seafood eating and touring Harpoon Brewery, we headed over to the original Regina Pizzeria in North End.
Regina’s has been serving up brick oven pizza in the North End since 1926. A family owned and operated business, the pizzeria has been run by the Polcari family for three generations. Today, the pizzeria has multiple locations throughout Boston.
At Regina’s we over indulged and ordered two 10” pizzas–a Giambotta and a Sausage Cacciatore. For two people, we were being overly ambitious but we didn’t care. The Giambotta came with three-pounds of traditional toppings: pepperoni, Regina’s sausage, fresh mushrooms, fresh onions, salami, fresh peppers, and anchovies upon request.
The Sausage Cacciatore included sliced sausage links, mushrooms, roasted onions and peppers, and fresh parsley.
According to their napkins, website, and every other bit of promotional material—Regina’s crust is made from an 80-year old secret recipe and uses a special natural yeast that’s aged and proofed to perfection. The, “…natural sauce is light, yet spicy, with a hint of aged Romano,” the cheese is a specialty aged whole milk mozzarella, and all of the toppings come from fresh ingredients with no additives.
When we were done at Regina’s, we noticed that our $23.86 receipt had a “state & local pizza tax” of $1.93 on it. We did a little digging and, while we couldn’t get to the bottom of the tax, we did find out that, based on this 2011 Yelp forum thread, Boston Pizza Tax might really be a thing. What gives Boston?
11 ½ Thacher Street
Boston, MA 02113
M-THUR, SUN: 11:00AM-11:30PM