Best Sicilian Pizza. What is it? And who has it?
Sicilian pizza is pizza prepared in a manner that originated in Sicily, Italy. In the United States, the phrase Sicilian pizza is often synonymous with thick-crust or deep-dish originating in the province of Palermo. It is typically rectangular, with more dough, sauce and cheese than a typical Neapolitan pizza. An authentic recipe often calls for herbs, onion, tomato sauce, and strong cheese.
In the United States, a Sicilian pizza is typically a square pizza with dough over an inch thick, a crunchy base, and an airy interior. Sicilian-style pizza is popular in Italian-American communities throughout Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Michigan, Oregon, Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey. Sicilian pizza should not be confused with two other types of square pizza, beach pizza and bakery pizza.
Beach pizza is common in the Merrimack Valley and Salisbury Beach. It has a dry thin crust with a sweet sauce. Bakery pizza (also known as Pizza strips, Party Pizza, Red Bread, or strip pizza) is a style of pizza common in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. It has a somewhat thick crust and is topped with a thick tomato sauce and oregano. Bakery Pizza is traditionally made with no cheese (though sometimes a bit of Parmesan or mozzarella cheese is sprinkled on) is served at room temperature. Most Italian Bakery’s sell some version of this.
Everyone has heard of Caserta Pizza in Providence RI, perhaps the most famous New England Sicilian pizza parlor there is. In keeping with Sicilian tradition they only have 4 toppings, pepperoni, anchovies, mushrooms and olives. It’s a bit out of the area that we cover so we did not include it in our tasting although we would encourage people to take a road trip to Providence and include Caserta Pizza in their stops.
Top Tier (The Best)
Leone’s Sub and Pizza, Somerville ($2.25 slice)
This is a real old school pizza/sub shop that has been around since 1954. They still have an egg salad sub on the menu. We had a slice of cheese and a slice of the spinach and garlic. The cheese slice had delicious cheese well-seasoned with oregano, a crisp chewy crust, and a nicely flavored tomato sauce which was neither too sweet nor too salty. The sauce was lightly applied. We couldn’t put the spinach/garlic slice down it was so good. It had just the right amount of garlic so it wasn’t overpowering. Some of the tastiest pizza I’ve ever eaten, and only $2.25 for a huge square slice. www.leonessubandpizza.com 292 Broadway, Somerville
Armando’s, Cambridge ($3.21 slice)
Armando’s is a very small neighborhood pizza place in Cambridge’s Huron Area. It is old school; no website, cash only, but they are still doing a great piece of Sicilian pizza. The crust was delicious by itself; about an inch thick, nice and airy with a lot of oil in the crust. That did make it a bit greasy but in a good way. The cheese had a sprinkling of herbs on it and the tomato sauce was just ground tomatoes with a nice flavor. The place is busy so during peak times there is a bit of a wait but it will be well worth it. 163 Huron Ave, Cambridge
Galleria Umberto ($1.85 slice)
In Boston if you are talking Sicilian Pizza you are talking about Galleria Umberto. Located in the heart of the North End, Galleria Umberto is busy from the time it opens until it closes around 2pm. If you are lucky enough to get a slice straight out of the oven then you have gotten a little piece of heaven. The crust is flavorful and crisp and airy. The tomato sauce is light and perfectly seasoned and the cheese is flavorful and stringy. Next to Sicilian Pizza in Wikipedia is a picture of Galleria Umberto. Cash only 289 Hanover St, Boston
Haymarket Pizza, Boston ($2.00 slice)
Haymarket Pizza is a no frills pizza place in the Haymarket section. It is cash only and has only a few seats. This is definitely old school and has not changed since 1970 when they opened. Haymarket sells round pizza, slices of round pizza, slices of Sicilian pizza and small calzones. The pizza is good with a flavorful crispy crust, good quality tomato sauce and a nice amount of cheese. You won’t be disappointed. 106 Blackstone St., Boston
Bova’s, Boston ($2.50 slice)
Bova’s Bakery is open 24 hours a day so no matter how late it is you can always stop and get a slice or a cannoli. I find that very comforting. In fact, I think this might be one of the reasons Tommy has for wanting to move to the North End. Their cheese slice has a nice thick crispy crust; it is not as airy and thick as some but it is tasty. There is more tomato sauce and less cheese than is typical. Cheese and tomato sauce is quite good and there are not a lot of herbs. It is a great piece of pizza. 134 Salem St, Boston http://m.mainstreethub.com/bovabakeryboston
2nd Tier (Still very good pizza)
Napoli Pizza and Subs, Lawrence ($1.85 slice)
Napoli’s has been a staple in the Merrimack Valley for 40 years. The same family, different generation, is still running it. It is a little bit like walking into a time warp; looks exactly like it did when I was a kid. While Tripoli across the street sells beach pizza and Pappy’s which closed down sold bakery pizza, Napoli’s has always had square Sicilian pizza in addition to whole Napolitano pizza. Napoli’s Sicilian pizza has a somewhat thick crust which is very airy. There is not a lot of sauce and cheese on top but it is a delicious piece of pizza. And a shout out to their spinach pie, one of the best ever. 70 Common St, Lawrence
Napoli’s Pizza, Haverill ( $2.00 slice)
This is no relation to the Napoli’s in Lawrence. Old school, although recently renovated, pizza shop that makes pizza and dough fresh every day. This means they may sell out of pizza before the end of the day. Crust is thick and crisp, tomato sauce is flavorful but the cheese is what makes this pizza different. On the original, they only use a dusting of parmesan. You can get mozzarella as a topping though. 146 White St, Haverhill
Pino’s Pizza, Brighton ($2.81 slice)
Pino’s is on Beacon Ave in busy Cleveland Circle and it has been around since 1962. The Sicilian pizza is light and crispy. We found it almost too airy. The sauce of ground tomatoes is put on lightly but could use a bit of salt. Mozzarella cheese was very good and the pizza was cooked perfectly. It was a decent slice of Sicilian pizza. If I was in the area, I would definitely get one. One of the best things about Pino’s is that you are next door to their sister restaurant Eagle Deli and some of the best burgers available. We took time out of our busy pizza tasting excursion for a delicious Bianco burger and believe me it did not disappoint! 1920 Beacon St, Brighton www.pinospizza.com
Pisa Pizza, Malden ($3.25 slice)
Pisa Pizza has been open since 1993 and located in the present location since 2002. They are one of the only ones offering different toppings for the Sicilian pizza. All of their specialty pizzas can be ordered Sicilian (either half or full tray). Our slice of cheese was served at room temperature and the crust was thick but doughy. Perhaps if the slice had been served heated the crust would have been lighter. The sauce was good and lightly applied and there was plenty great mozzarella. I would definitely try a slice heated up. 133 Pearl St, Malden www.pisapizzamalden.com
Pinocchios Pizza and Subs, Cambridge ($3.25 slice)
Pinocchios is in busy Harvard Square and has been around since 1966. They are open late and cater to the college crowd (they call it Noch’s). The most unique thing about Pinocchios is that they have about 15 different Sicilian pizza toppings. Generally you will at most have 4 available so this is quite nice being able to customize like a regular pizza. Our visit did not yield the best slice however. The crust was a little doughy and did not have a lot of flavor. Cheese flavor was underwhelming as well. 74 Winthrop St, Cambridge www.pinocchiospizza.net