I had been to Boston in my early 20s, a journey from which I recall only a McLobster sandwich and navigating the lobby of a cheap hotel overrun by the members of War (yes, that War).
After a 15 year lay-off, I returned to the site of our country’s original Tea Party to visits some friends, promptly asking several locals to describe a "Boston-style" pizza. I received mostly shrugs. Unlike its East Coast neighbors (e.g. New York, New Haven, and Philadelphia), Beantown pizza does not seem to have a signature style. One thing everyone could agree on was that the first (and possibly) best pizzeria to try is Pizzeria Regina, a brick oven favorite since 1926.
I had seen a Regina in South Station upon disembarking from my bus, but the original, more authentic location is nestled in the city’s historically Italian neighborhood, the North End. The day my friends and I descended on Regina’s happened to be Saint Anthony's Feast, the largest Italian religious festival in New England, which means the joint was mobbed with festival-goers getting ready for a day of overindulgence via zeppole, cannoli, and other heart-stopping Italian street treats. But Regina gets ‘em in and out and we were quickly seated amidst Red Sox memorabilia and autographed shots of celebrities that scream “local tradition.”
The menu and napkins both carry the Regina manifesto and tell you pretty much everything you need to know up front: the quality and sourcing of ingredients is top-notch; an 80-year-old dough recipe “uses a special natural yeast and is aged to perfection”; their light tomato sauce adds a touch of aged romano; mozzarella is a specialty aged whole milk variety. With more than 20 pies to choose from, our group kept simple with the Margehrita: tomato sauce and fresh chopped basil with mozzarella and pecorino romano.
The crust at Regina is quite wonderful — crispy and not quite burned on the outside (apparently, there is more of a char on weekdays when the oven is less crowded and pies get a few more minutes of cook time); the inside strikes the perfect combination between chewy and light. The sauce has a wonderful fresh tomato bite; not too sweet and with a little zing from the romano. My only criticism: the cheese. If you’re going to go to the trouble of rocking excellent fresh ingredients, why not go the extra mile and use fresh mozzarella? Perhaps skimping on cheese keeps the price of the pies lower?
Regina boasts one of those great, classic pizzas that you and a couple friends can kill in 10 minutes before stumbling back out into the late summer heat, feeling light enough to nimbly dodge a high school marching band on their way to fete Saint Anthony. Wicked good!