Delving into Boston’s pizza culture
Posto presents a nice date location in Davis Square
187 Elm St
Somerville, MA 02144
Sunday 4:30–9:30 p.m.
Monday – Thursday 5:30–10 p.m.
Friday – Saturday 5–11 p.m.
When I was little I had a picture book called How do Octopi Eat Pizza Pie? I’m sure the answer was some math-pun (one slice each), but I know how Octopi would really eat pizza pie: with gusto, since they have remarkably high intelligence.
Pizza is one of my favorite foods; one might even call me a pizza snob. Since I moved to Cambridge from the New York area (read: New Jersey), I have talked about writing a blog or some sort of column that documents my search for pizza that matches that of my childhood. I have tried the upscale, the hipster, the classic, and the dive in that search for a slice that says “third grade birthday party,” or is simply delicious.
Now I have reached my last semester at MIT before I graduate and move to New York City (yes, mostly for the pizza). It’s my last chance to formalize this search. So, I’ve started a brief list of places to try or revisit, and drafted some criteria with which I will judge the contenders for Best Pizza near MIT.
Pizza ultimately comes down to four components. Warning: my opinions on pizza are strong and rather uncompromising (Among my controversial pizza opinions: Deep dish pizza is not pizza. It is a casserole.).
Crust: Does it have that perfect balance of outer crunch and inner chew? Since looks determine to a large part, is it light? Dark? A nice golden brown? Does it have that malty taste, or does it taste more like supermarket white bread?
Sauce: Here’s a great example of quality vs. quantity, with a logarithmic relationship making for the best pizza. It doesn’t matter if the sauce is bad if there’s only a drizzle, but bad sauce tends to be ladled on. Good sauce, however, can still be put on too heavily, so there amount of sauce levels off with quality. And it doesn’t have to be tomato sauce! Pesto, buffalo sauce, creme fraiche all come in qualities that are more or less tasty based on quantity.
Cheese: Some people don’t necessarily think of mozzarella as the necessary pizza cheese. In my opinion, other cheeses aren’t wrong, but the pizza has to be really good to justify deviation from the classic. And unlike many college students, I do believe there is such a thing as too much cheese.
Toppings: A drizzle of olive oil? Some mushrooms? Pancetta and arugula and figs and balsamic reduction? There’s value to all of them, as long as they’re tasty and judiciously applied, and since I’m Course 2, they can’t affect the structural integrity of the slice.
I’ll be judging pizza this semester based on these components, but also how it all comes together. Do all the flavors and textures work together? And, especially for an upscale pizza joint, is it pizza — or just fancy bread with toppings?
Join me on my pizza odyssey this semester, and maybe you’ll discover your new favorite Boston pizza with me. If you have a place you really love in the area, let me know if the comments!
For my extra-special first pizza stop, I chose somewhere I had actually never been before: Posto, in Davis Square. Those MIT students without a friend at Tufts University may see no reason to head all the way up to Davis Square, but it’s one of my favorite neighborhoods in the area. It’s full of cute cafes and restaurants and has tons of great options for eating. In the warmer months it’s so nice to sit outside of Tosci’s and Boston Burger Co., but today the weather was snowy and icy and altogether miserable, though the lights on the trees and the brick sidewalks made it feel Christmas-movie cosy.
That vibe continued as we walked into Posto, with its open concept, rustic interior and candlelight. Sure, I was with my friend and photographer Vivian, but I could definitely imagine coming here for a nice date. So I wasn’t expecting a greasy slice of dollar pizza (which, don’t get me wrong, is one of my favorite foods in the world); Posto does traditional Neapolitan pies, with daily-made fresh mozzarella and San Marzano tomatoes. We got a classic margherita and a porchetta pie. Here’s how each component did:
Crust: The crust had a near-perfect texture. The outer ring of crust, or cornicione, had a slight crunch with the crust on the outside, chewy on the inside. Like most Neapolitan pizzas the crust was quite floppy on the inside, but my pizza partner had no trouble eating the slices with her hands, folded over, while I ate mine with a fork and knife (gasp!) until I got to the stiffer part near the outer edge. However, the crust had quite a bit more charcoal on it than is typical, to the point that the second half of my pizza was coated in a fine black dust by the time I went to eat it. That charcoal also made the smoky flavor a bit too intense by the time I had reached slice three out of four.
Sauce: This sauce was amazing. It was fantastic. It tasted fresh and light, not sweet — it tasted like tomatoes.
Cheese: This cheese on the margherita (the fresh mozzarella) was also delicious. It was rich and salty, and when the pizza just came out of the oven, it was gooey and stringy and everything you want cheese on a pizza to be. But when the pizza started to cool, I noticed how thick the cheese was (about as thick as the crust). Unlike a lot of margherita pies, the cheese was applied uniformly to the pizza, without spaces of sauce in between. Like a child who doesn’t know what’s best for them, I have often assumed that the more cheese, the better the pie — but as the gooey mozzarella solidified, despite how good it was, I found myself wishing that there was less of it. But on Vivian’s porchetta pie, the fontina and asiago cheese didn’t solidify as quickly, and the pie retained that gooey goodness for longer.
Toppings: I don’t eat meat, which is where Vivian came in to help me out! She was impressed by the lack of excess grease on her porchetta pie, because pizza with meat can be especially greasy. The porchetta was tasty as well.
How did the whole pie come together? My first slice was fantastic. All the flavors melted together in a salty, gooey, cheesy, tomatoey mess. But as the pizza and my hunger cooled, the pie became less amazing, and became merely good.
With a margherita pizza coming in at $15 and a porchetta at $18, Posto is definitely not somewhere I would go casually. Neither Vivian nor I finished a whole pizza though, so maybe split a pizza if you choose to go. They also have pastas and salads on the menu, though we didn’t try them (this is a pizza project!), and a mocktail we tried was quite good.
Is Posto my new favorite pizza in Boston? Not really. But if you find yourself craving Neapolitan pizza, it’s not a bad option.