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Review: Ernesto’s Pizza, Boston

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Restaurant Reviews

What: Ernesto’s Pizza, Boston (http://www.ernestosnorthend.com/)

Where: 69 Salem Street, Boston


Overall Impression:


Bottom Line: My favorite pizza place in Boston for a quick lunch or pre-game slice. Ernesto’s specializes in slices (and to them a slice is 1/4 of a pie — two normal slices — you’ve been warned) and keeps a case stocked with 10 or more different varieties at all times. They also serve beer and soda. A slice (remember, a double by normal standards) and a soda will set you back $5.50, or $6.25 if you want a bottle). Personally, I think Ernesto’s has the best crust in Boston, but admittedly, I haven’t eaten my way through the entire Boston Globe Pizza Crawl yet, but I’m working on it.

Atmosphere: Perfect North End atmosphere. Two tiny tables on the sidewalk, a yellowed inside with old-time pictures of sports people and Frank Sinatra, closely-packed seating, and a few shady-looking locals wandering in and out and behind the counter. Oh, and on rainy or snowy days they still sprinkle sawdust on the floor!

Service: They are pretty efficient … not quite Uptown Cafe efficient, but close. They have to be, because there’s no room in the place to stand and wait. The guy begind the counter is usually helpful, though at times there are some others helping him who aren’t. Be prepared to order quickly though … people eating here expect the line to move.

So — if you’re in need of a good and fast lunch or dinner, go to Ernesto’s. Other places may be better for a sit-down meal with friends, but none is better for just getting something good to eat.

My Pizza Story

I’ve lived in New England for more than 20 years now. But while growing up I spent my time in central New Jersey and around Scranton, Pennsylvania. Both areas with heavy Italian influences. So good pizza was part of my childhood. All that changed when I moved to New Hampshire though… In New Jersey and New York, Pizza places are owned by guys named Sal, or Giovanni, or Joe (Giuseppe). One of my favorites growing up as a kid was owned by a guy named Salvatore Mennino; and man could he throw a crust. Not so much in New Hampshire.

For those of you reading this from places other than New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania, here are some important things to know:

Pizza is an Italian-American invention. Not Greek. When I had my first taste of pizza after moving to New Hampshire I was stunned at how bad it was. I mean truly horrible. The … bread … because I can’t call it a proper crust … was chewy and grainy. The cheese was rubbery, the sauce was thin and gave me heartburn, and they sliced the sausage on the pie. Sliced! Not crumbled, sliced! And I found this common. So common in fact that I invented my “first rule of New Hampshire pizza:” If your pizza place has baklava on the menu, RUN! And I resigned myself to never again tasting a proper pizza with a thin crispy crust and smooth slightly sweet tomato sauce with actual flavor. Oh … and in most New Hampshire places, you can’t get a slice. What kind of pizza place doesn’t sell slices?!

Prior to working in Boston, I had few chances to travel to the city, and even fewer opportunities to really look around and find places to eat. But about six or seven years ago my wife and I were in Boston one afternoon with some spare time and we stumbled across this tiny pizza place on Salem Street in the North End with two small tables in front. It was old and dirty and crowded. So we gave it a try. And after more than a decade in the wilderness, I had found what I was looking for! Really good pizza! This was Ernesto’s. And I was hooked.

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