Loyalties run deep when it comes to “beach pizza,” our region’s most rectangular delicacy.
Photo Credit : Katherine Keenan
Pizza isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when most people think of New England. From lobster rolls to Boston cream pie, the region has an array of iconic foods that often steal the limelight (and with good reason). Still, as many New Englanders will attest, our pizza deserves its moment in the sun. Along with piping-hot bowls of chowder and top-split hot dog buns, New England also boasts a number of distinctive and delicious pizza styles.
There are the big chains with humble New England beginnings — Papa Gino’s, Bertucci’s, Flatbread Pizza Company, etc. Then there are the Greek-style pies, which are represented throughout New England at Greek restaurants and family joints with names like Pizza Factory and House of Pizza. Finally, there are the strictly local styles, with the most prominent being New Haven “apizza,” South Shore bar pizza, Salisbury beach pizza, and Rhode Island pizza strips. Curious about what sets all these New England pizza styles apart? Read on!
Beloved by many who grew up south of Boston, bar pizza is what you’d imagine: pizza from a bar. South Shore bar pizza is also notoriously tasty, thanks to a few key factors. Firstly, there’s bar pizza’s signature cracker-like crust, a product of the individual metal pans in which it’s cooked. Next, there’s the scatter of mozzarella and cheddar, which creates a delightfully greasy topping as well as a lacy, browned edge.
Finally, there are the toppings. While most bar pizza spots offer the usual suspects, others feature some unexpected options too, such the “Baked Bean Special” — topped with Boston baked beans, onions, and salami — served at the Lynwood Café in Randolph, Massachusetts.
New Haven Pizza (Apizza)
No visit to New Haven, Connecticut, would be complete without grabbing a pizza — or rather, “apizza.” Similar to New York–style pizza but with a thinner and crisper crust, these pies bearing the Neapolitan-inspired nickname “apizza” are traditionally baked in high-heat, coal-fired ovens (which provide the signature charred crust) and topped with oregano, tomato sauce, and grated Pecorino Romano cheese. Ordering for the first time? Don’t forget that mozzarella is considered a topping and must be requested!
There have been decades of heated arguments over which is the best pizza in New Haven. For many, the first stop on any tour of New Haven pizza is Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, the original New Haven pizza joint, where options include a beloved white clam pizza (fresh littleneck clams, grated Pecorino Romano, and a sprinkle of herbs and olive oil). But stellar pies can also be found at Sally’s Apizza and Modern Apizza; plus, if you’re outside New England but want in on the fun, there’s a delicious mail-order version from Zuppardi’s Apizza.
“One small green pepper and onion, one small pepperoni, and a Greek salad.” That was the order my parents called into our local House of Pizza once a week. And, oh boy, was that my favorite night of the week. Growing up in rural northern New Hampshire with few pizzerias to choose from, I found that the Lancaster House of Pizza would set the bar for all future pizza experiences. It also instilled in me a deep, undying, and moderately controversial love for Greek-style pizza.
These pies are simple and consistent. The crusts are slightly oily and always crunchy, thanks to the metal pans in which they’re baked. The pies are also on the thicker side — in fact, it wasn’t uncommon for our family to break out the forks and knives on pizza night (another controversial move). And to identify the Greek pizza joints near you, all you have to do is look at the names. To this day, one of the first things I do when I move to a new town is hunt down the local House of Pizza, Pizza Factory, or similarly named establishment. When the craving calls, any will do!
Salisbury Beach Pizza
The first time I saw a rectangular slice of pizza topped with a pale circle of provolone cheese, I thought, “Absolutely not.” Flash-forward to last night, when my first beach pizza experience left me a changed woman. I’m referring, of course, to the pizza served at Cristy’s Pizza and Tripoli Pizza in Salisbury, Massachusetts. I had been hearing about these pizzerias ever since moving to New Hampshire’s Seacoast, and I knew I would eventually have to take a stroll down the boardwalk in nearby Salisbury to see what all the fuss was about.
It’s not what you envision when you picture pizza. While the basic concept of beach pizza — a four-sided crust topped with sauce and cheese — may conjure up memories of school cafeterias and bowling alleys, the experience (as locals love to declare) is vastly different.
At Cristy’s Pizza, a soft, doughy rectangle of crust gets topped with a classic tomato sauce and a smattering of cheese. For a small surcharge, they’ll tack on an extra slice of provolone or American cheese before popping it into the oven for a quick reheat. Eating one of these slices is a gooey, slippery, messy experience. And, at less than $3 a pop, I loved it.
Meanwhile, over at Tripoli, the slices are sturdier. This is pizza that’s practically meant to be eaten as you walk along the beach. The delightfully crunchy crusts are topped with a sweet tomato sauce and an amount of cheese that, as with Cristy’s, can be left as is or bolstered to your liking. Though the sauce was slightly sweeter than I would’ve liked, the crusts at Tripoli were undeniably good — and the line was undeniably longer.
But whether your allegiances lie on the right end of the boardwalk or the left, the charm of beach pizza is something that everyone can appreciate.
Rhode Island Pizza Strips
Perhaps the farthest thing from “typical” pizza on this list are Rhode Island’s pizza strips, which boast a small but passionate fan base. Cut from a slab of dough that’s been baked in a sheet pan and slathered with a thick tomato sauce, these slices are known in the Ocean State as “bakery pizza” or simply “red strips.” And as fans of pizza strips will attest, not all pizza is meant to be eaten piping hot — in fact, pizza strips are typically served at room temperature. Some well-known spots for pizza strips include Colvitto’s Pizza & Bakery, DePetrillo’s Pizza & Bakery, Antonio’s Bakery, and D. Palmieri’s Bakery. This regional delicacy has also been picked up by local supermarkets, including some Stop & Shop locations. Finally, when it comes to bakery pizza, no cheese is no problem. Need we say more?
Have we missed any New England pizza styles? Let us know in the comments below!