Boston’s Best Pizza: Newtowne Grille (Cambridge, MA)
It can be tough dating a pizza snob. There’s that time I brought him to one of my old favorites from childhood – Town Spa in Stoughton – and he was less than impressed by my beloved bacon pizza, extra crispy. Or that time he made me wait in line for two hours – and then at the table for another two hours – to try Sally’s Apizza in New Haven. (I’ll admit that that one was out of this world, but I’d never wait that long for pizza again.)
Sometimes I think it comes down to an argument over the definition: I’ll allow for favorites in a variety of pizza genres, like the pub-style pies at Town Spa, or the fancy combinations at places like Emma’s or Zing or Za, or the good old-fashioned Italian-style pizza. The snob, a Connecticut native, will only accept pizza as “good” if it fits into that narrow New Haven-style genre: cooked at ridiculously high temperatures (preferably with coal) to result in a crust that perfectly balances chewy, doughy and charred; a sauce that is flavorful but not too sweet; a golden ratio of cheese to sauce.
While I’ll gravitate towards different types of pizza depending on my mood, my boyfriend always craves this specific specimen. Fortunately, after much searching, we’ve found a version that comes extremely close – and it’s not even in the North End. No, our Boston pizza quest has ended in Cambridge at Porter Square’s wonderfully divey bar and restaurant, Newtowne Grille.
It’s the type of place where, if you’re not a regular, you might get looked at as you walk in past the bar. The servers tend to ask if you need a menu rather than handing it to you right away. It’s easy to see how you’d become a regular at a place like this; we would be if we didn’t typically just order take-out. Newtowne Grille has been going strong since a guy named Socrates opened it in 1966; his family has opened up a second branch in Billerica.
Beyond the bar, the dining room tends to be filled with a younger crowd watching sports and enjoying the cheap food and beer, and there are often specials that make everything even cheaper (half price appetizers during many sports games, for example). Our favorite special, which seems to be perpetually occurring and will hopefully never end: $12 for a large cheese pizza and a pitcher of PBR. Perfect.
Newtowne Grille Food & Spirits
1945 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02140
Hours: Mon – Sat 11 am – 10 pm
Rachel Leah Blumenthal is a Somerville-based writer, photographer, and musician. She writes about food on her blog, Fork it over, Boston!, and runs Boston Food Bloggers, a networking community. For more information, visit RachelBlumenthal.net.