By Estefania Lahera’20
It’s that time of year again: finals. We’re tired, we’re cranky, and most importantly, we’re hungry. And let’s be honest: what’s more convenient and comforting than pizza?
But before you reach for the phone and dial up some convenient Harvard standbys that may or may not be amazing because you’ve had a tough day and just want some damn pizza stat, take a deep breathe and hear me out.
When it comes to food, I don’t settle for anything but the best. So, when I was craving pizza several months back, naturally I wanted Boston’s finest. After diligent research, I found my answer: Regina Pizzeria.
Now, you Boston natives might be saying “well duh, everyone knows that”, but as a transplant to the east coast, finding the true “best” was a bit difficult, a bit hidden under the oohs and ahhs of new wave, less traditional pizza places. I’m all for innovative takes of pizza, but not at the expense of forgetting or shunning the classics. It’s the curse of being the best. Everyone knows you’re the best, they know you are consistent, so they decide to try other new places. Which sucks. So of course, I had to go pay Regina’s a visit.
This was way back in September, and I remember it fondly. I had a great experience, but I couldn’t help leaving with a bit of regret, and not for the reason you’d expect.
You see, the menu was HUGE and tiny college-student me could only eat (and afford) so much.
And I wanted just about everything on the menu.
So many different combinations called my name, but what was a girl to do, alone in a pizzeria?
I would look crazy to order more than one pizza for one person, but I wanted to have the one best pizza in the best pizza place in Boston. How in the world would I ever know which pizza combination was the best if I only tried one?
Sure, I could go back another day, but it would be difficult to compare. Yes, it is commonly acknowledged that Regina is one of the best, but the lack of consensus of which pizza was the best was a little blemish in the Boston food reporting scene, one I was more than happy to address.
I bided my time, and when I finally joined the Crimson Crave, I called Regina’s to ask about taste testing their pizzas, so that perfectionists like me could be sure to be completely satisfied next time they visit Regina’s.
That happy day came, a day of pizza paradise, when I visited Regina’s original North End location and sampled six of their best pizzas.
So, without further ado, I give you a thorough, diverse study and ultimately a ranking of some of the pizzas Regina Pizzeria has to offer!
- The Melanzane.
This was the biggest surprise of the day, the dark horse in this pizza race that ended up being my favorite, and received equally high marks from my fellow tasters. I tacked it onto the order at the last minute, a decision I will never, never regret. Homemade ricotta with eggplant and red onions might not sound like the “go to” for pizza, but it is magic. Literal magic. I don’t know why more pizza places don’t use ricotta, because the warm, soft creaminess of it combined with the tart, crunchy onion and eggplant is to die for. Normally, I don’t even like ricotta or eggplant. I would go as far as to say that I actually dislike ricotta and eggplant. But this pizza, as one taster described it, was “like a combination of lasagna and pizza”, a perfect harmony of classics combined in a way that makes them feel new. I only slightly disagree. It was better than lasagna on pizza (probably because I don’t like lasagna!). This pizza was the perfect medium, light enough to not feel it was destroying your cholesterol, but not so light that it failed to excite the taste buds.
- The Giambotta.
The giambotta has a bit of a reputation, and I was expecting it to come out on top. But in a competition where there is no bad, just delicious and scrumptious, the giambotta came in second by an inch. The giambotta is an absolute beast of a pizza, with large chunky vegetables and three meats, because of course pepperoni is not enough; you have to throw in some sausage and salami to really kick things up a notch.
- The St. Anthony
If you’re going for a white pizza but are craving meat, this is the pizza for you. Hearty chunks of sweet, crunchy, fresh green pepper paired with various meats seems to be a (welcome) pattern at Regina’s, and the St. Anthony’s was definitely a riff on this. I am a firm proponent of going easy with the meat. Sometimes, to be fair, like with the giambotta, you need a good punch of juicy flavor, but that only works in combinations like the giambotta, paired as it is with an abundance of vegetables. Here, the pepper was enough for the sausage, and the sausage was enough for the pepper, no more, no less. The sausage in the St. Anthony was subtle, where you could actually taste the true flavor of the meat, delicate and balanced, rather than an overload of salt and pepper. This was a quiet favorite, the go to for that rainy day. It’s much more nuanced, relying on the purity of ingredients rather than powerhouse red sauces that dominate the pizza industry. It’s not new-wave inventive with bananas and hot sauce imported from Brazil or some crazy hipster combination like that, but it doesn’t have to be so far-fetched and almost forcefully inventive to be unique and standout.
- The Mediterranean.
Here’s the thing about the Mediterranean. You can really, really taste the olives. You can really, really taste that the briney sea flavor, and that’s what transports you. A taster as first remarked that it was too salty, but after taking another bite, this time with some sweet onion and the creamy feta, revoked their statement. The Mediterranean pizza (just like the Mediterranean diet!) is all about balance, and Regina’s hit it on the nail. Again, as a picky eater who dislikes feta, I was pleasantly surprised.
- The spinach E Pomodoro.
This pizza comes near the end of this list to the great protest of my fellow tasters. To them, this was their absolute favorite, a fresh, light pie with whole tomato and spinach. They loved the pure tomato-yness of it, the simplicity, the restraint. It’s my ranking though, and torn as I am, something had go near the bottom and I picked this one. It’s just not as much of a showstopper as the others, and I’m a “go big or go home kind of girl”.
That being said, if you’re craving something lighter, even lighter than the melanzane, skip over the first four pizzas in this list and go ahead and order this one. As a health nut in between bouts of indulgence like this, I would definitely recommend this pizza as a wiser choice when eating out with friends. I’m happy that Regina’s accommodates all types of eaters, not just carnivores like me!
- Meatball pomodoro.
Placing the meatball pizza near the end, like the spinach pomodoro, was controversial among my fellow tasters. They enjoyed it, especially the gentle garlic flavor, which even I couldn’t pick out. That’s actually quite the accomplishment, to incorporate garlic subtlety without the pungent flavor dominating the pizza, now that I think about it! But I had originally picked this pizza because I wanted to try something under the meat section of the menu, and was expecting little round meatballs on top of the pizza. Because I’m an idiot and didn’t do my research (on Yelp) to ascertain that assumption, I’m taking it out on this pizza and placing it last!
Just kidding. In reality, it’s only last because I don’t think most people, myself included, can handle a meat pizza without some sort of vegetable balance or light counterpart to buffer the heaviness. Were I a 250 lb football player, maybe the ranking would be different, but alas, I’m not.
Here’s the thing about Regina’s, though: regardless of the topping, every single crust is amazing. The crust just blew all of our minds because it stayed crispy in the center. I cannot tell you how many pizzas I’ve had whose crust is nice and crispy on the outside edge, sure, but once you got to the center, the crust flopped around like a soggy mess. In my opinion, they don’t advertise the brick oven enough, because I’m pretty sure that, along with their secret recipe, is what makes that crust so spectacularly “crusty” on the outside while keeping it soft on the inside.
And that red sauce…. Just perfect. It tasted fresh and tangy and just sweet enough. The garlic sauce is like a underdog that just captures everyone’s heart, and last but not least: they do not skimp on toppings. Each pizza is piled with hearty additions that makes it extra satisfying.
And that is why Regina’s is the best pizza in Boston. Not because of their amazing abundance of toppings (which are all delicious), but because, like with all important things in like (pizza, school, work) the foundation, the crust that goes for every pizza, the two main sauces, the generosity with the toppings, is solid.
And it’s for that reason that looking back, this ranking was sort of ridiculous. It was like trying to rank good, yummy, delicious, delectable, and mouth-watering. They were all good because they all had the same crust, the consistently great sauces, and a generous helping of good quality, well matched toppings. How could that every be bad?
And so in reality this ranking represents is my personal preference of toppings, but more so a confirmation that Regina Pizzeria still dominates the Boston pizza scene.
Therefore, my dear colleagues, next time you’re craving something comforting, especially this finals period when the typical schedule is suspended, just go ahead and treat yourself to some pizza from Regina’s. Best for rewarding yourself after a day spent studying or celebrating the disposal of another final.
I recommend the original North End location, but whether you go to the Fenway location, the Allston location (a twenty minute bus ride from campus!), or somewhere else in the city, a classic institution like Regina’s can’t disappoint. Fulfilling that niche intersection of convenience and quality, local chain has upheld its standards and played a significant part of Boston’s food culture for almost 100 years.
The four closest to Harvard are:
Original North End: 11 1/2 Thacher St, Boston, MA 02113
Faneuil Hall: 226 Faneuil Marketplace, Boston, MA 02109
Allston: 353 Cambridge St, Allston, MA 02134
Fenway: 1330 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02215
Reservations: none needed!
Available for take out, curbside, and via DiningIn.
Finally, feel free to follow the Crimson Crave on Instagram at @crimson_crave or if you’d like to see more about my personal food adventures, follow me at @tinyfoodtraveler!
by Caroline Gentile ‘17
Compared to my hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio, Boston has a lot more to offer. In terms of culture, things to do, and most importantly, things to eat, the difference is like night and day. In fact, I think Harvard Square alone has more diversity in fare than my homogeneous suburb of Cincinnati. However, the one category in which I’ve found the greater Boston area—and New England in general— has fallen short, is barbecue.
Until I found Sweet Cheeks Q.
Finally, a place where I could stuff my face with smoked meat and biscuits the size of my face – and wash it all down with a towering glass of sweet tea! At first, I will say, I was skeptical. Given the scarcity of barbecue in New England, I did not have high hopes for Sweet Cheeks. Located in Fenway, the restaurant itself seemed a bit too polished with to serve truly authentic barbecue compared to the dive-like barbecue establishments I’m used to.
I was quickly proven wrong. When a large bucket, overflowing with warm, fluffy, buttery biscuits was placed right in front of me, with a side of honey butter, I could barely control myself. After a 5-minute-but-felt-like-5-years walk in the 15-degree weather from the T to the restaurant, let me tell you that there are few things better than coming in from the cold and being given a bucket of biscuits to slather in melted honey butter deliciousness.
Approximately two minutes elapsed until my table had demolished all ten of the massive buttery biscuits. Our next victim? The drinks. I should have known from the bar vibe that Sweet Cheeks gives off—think bar stools and massive TV—but they have some damn good drinks. The legal members of my fellow diners decided to go for the John Daly Scorpion Ball. For those of you who are unfamiliar, a John Daly is the alcoholic twist of an Arnold Palmer: lemonade, sweet tea, and sweet tea vodka. When the drink finally arrived, we were in shock; the Mason jar, filled to the brim with the sweet, yet tart elixir, was literally bigger than our faces. For the under-21 crew, the non-alcoholic version of this beverage was just as tasty, and also served in an absurdly massive mason jar.
Now, for the star of the show: the barbecue. By this point in the meal, I was already overflowing with biscuits and sweet tea, but I soldiered on so as to make room for what I really came for. A friend and I decided to split the Fat Cheeks Tray, which allowed us to pick three kinds of meat, a cold side, and a hot side. We decided on pulled pork, pulled chicken, and brisket, with sides of mac n’ cheese and potato salad.
While the pulled chicken was nothing impressive, the pulled pork and brisket were everything smoked meat should be: tender, flavorful, and well, smoky. Their tangy, savory barbecue sauce went perfectly with their meat. The potato salad was crisp and fresh. Honestly, though, I think the best part of the Fat Cheeks Tray—even better than the barbecue itself— was the mac n’ cheese. Not too thick, creamy, or cheesy, and covered in toasted breadcrumbs, this mac n’ cheese was probably the best I’ve ever had.
Frankly, because I am not truly from the South (although Cincinnati does share an airport with Kentucky…), I am not entirely qualified to make informed decisions and recommendations about barbecue. I am, however, a mac n cheese expert. Rest assured, one of my friends who accompanied me to Sweet Cheeks Q hails from San Antonio, and she, too, was impressed with not only the mac n cheese, but also the barbecue. And if a Texan likes it, you know it must be good.
Sweet Cheeks Q
Location: 1381 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02215
Reservation: TableUp or call at (617)-266-1300
Stand-out dishes: Brisket, Mac n’ Cheese
Overall Rating: 4/5
Editor’s note: Tiffani Faison, the head chef and owner of Sweet Cheeks Q, recently opened an Asian-inspired restaurant, Tiger Mama. Check both of them out!
by Bovey Rao ’19
In 2011, Boston changed its food policy regulations to allow for food trucks vendors. While many other large cities made the change previously, the food truck movement remained relatively muted, as it was seen as a financial risk. However, Boston made an active effort to reinforce this movement by designating several special parking locations and scheduled trucks at each primed position. Thus, Boston’s food truck revolution shot off with notable restaurants on wheels like Roxy’s, Bon Me, and Chicken and Rice Guys (which come to Harvard Plaza). In 2012, Mei Mei joined the race.
Mei Mei specializes in Asian Fusion cuisine and incorporates international flavors into its classic Asian cuisine. “Mei Mei” translates to little sister, which is a reminder of the family that runs the truck. Started by an older brother with his two younger sisters, Mei Mei brought forth their traditional Asian techniques combined with exotic global flavors. Almost immediately, the food truck shot out to incredible popularity and was named Boston’s best food on wheels. In 2013, they opened a brick and mortar location near Fenway Park and have continued their trend for elegance with top honors from Eater Boston and Boston Magazine.
Mei Mei’s restaurant in Fenway is a short walk from the T stop and conveniently located near Boston University. My friend and I arrived exactly between lunch and dinner, which proved to be a significant shift at the restaurant. Transforming from casual lunch counter to a more sophisticated sit-down establishment, Mei Mei demonstrates incredible versatility in its restaurant model. After placing our orders at the counter, we sat in the empty restaurant and waited comfortably for our food.
As the aroma began to waft from the open kitchen, I snuck in a glance and watched the final trays being assembled. When our names were called, we rushed to the counter and grabbed our lunch trays, reminiscent of our high school years.
With the famous Double Awesome, a braised beef porridge, and a steamed bun with compound butter, I stared at my tray contently. My friend’s pierogi dumplings and rib tips accompanied his Double Awesome, as we snapped our pictures before digging in.
Mei Mei’s Double Awesome is regarded as one of the best “sandwiches” in Boston, with a scallion pancake caressing two beautifully fried eggs with pesto and cheddar. Utilizing the Asian scallion pancake as a “wrap” for non-Asian ingredients like pesto and cheddar is a testament to Mei Mei’s Asian Fusion brand. As I bit into the soft, but crisp pancake, the egg burst open, releasing its rich yolk to mix with the earthy pesto and creamy cheddar. While somewhat difficult to eat, the Double Awesome is exactly as promised; it is indeed awesome. The untraditional pesto, mixed with chives and other Asian herbs, provided the necessary green to balance the liquid egg yolk and melted cheddar. It is difficult to describe the savory mess that this becomes as the egg yolk drips from the wrap, but I promise you it is worth it. If you ever have the chance to visit Mei Mei, the Double Awesome is a must!
The rest of the meal proceeded without a hitch, as we vacuumed up our portions. The braised beef porridge with cabbage and tortilla strips seemed bizarre at first, but it was perfectly nostalgic. While the porridge was a little grainier than I was used to, the warm, flavorful broth reminded me of home. However, this was more than a normal porridge. With the salty beef broth, crisp tortilla strips, and acidic cabbage, the dish was perfectly balanced both in flavor and texture. It may have seemed a little peculiar at first, but the dish was the ideal combination of nostalgic flavors from home with exotic accompaniments.
While I enjoyed my meal, I had a quick sample of my friend’s portions. Pierogis are essentially Eastern European style dumplings with potato fillings, and I was surprised to see them on the menu. Surprisingly, they were exemplary with a smooth, but spicy potato filling in the fried skin. With the traditional Asian dumpling shape and an untraditional filling, they again filled me with a weird sense of nostalgia. Finally, we had the rib tips. Unfortunately, the rib tips, with an amazing sauce, were tough and unpalatable. The little meat that could be salvaged was delicious to say the least, but overall, this was the disappointment of the night. Satisfied with our meal, we left the cozy little shop into the crisp Boston evening.
Mei Mei is considered one of Boston’s best restaurants, and it is obvious why. For Asian Americans, it is the perfect place to be hit with nostalgia, while simultaneously exploring other cuisines. For everyone else, it delivers dishes that are both familiar and foreign at approachable prices. It serves as the perfect canvas for people to try cuisines that they are not accustomed to. I look forward to my next visit to Mei Mei and what other nostalgic noshes I will experience.
Mei Mei Street Kitchen
Location: 506 Park Drive, Boston, MA 02215
Reservation: 857-250-4959 for Reservation
Stand out dishes: Double Awesome, Pierogi Potstickers
Overall Rating: 5/5