In the words of my favorite pizza delivery person, aka Tobey Maguire in “Spider-Man 2,” “it’s pizza time.”
Pizza is one of the most commonplace foods, and that certainly has been the case in my life. I’ve eaten slices at sunrise, devoured numerous whole pizzas during late nights at college and splurged on every pizza shop you can think of in the hours between. I even play the part of Gordon Ramsay at home, slow cooking my feeble attempts at a savory pie with uncompromising precision. As for the results … they are at least getting better!
There is beauty to pizza’s simplicity. All you need is sauce, cheese and dough to create a scrumptious meal in an instant. Yet, through this straightforward formula, hundreds of pizza restaurants imprint their distinctive characteristics on each creation.
All pizza connoisseurs also harbor their own beliefs of what makes a perfect pizza. You might like your pie oozing with gooey cheeses, seasoned with an onslaught of toppings or cooked to different levels of extremes. Everyone holds their own pizza preference quirks. Personally, I tend to like my pizza well done, sometimes to an almost burnt degree. The balance of a robustly seasoned pizza sauce with a bite of slightly charred crust is always a winner for me. I know, it’s not for everyone!
It would be impossible for me to cover every pizza place I love in one column, but here are a few local staples that come to mind.
Red Rose 1060 Main St., Springfield
Red Rose is an institution for Italian food in Western Massachusetts. Centered in Springfield’s vibrant downtown, the restaurant is an epicenter of activity on any evening. A vast dining room packed to the brim with patrons takes center stage, with a dedicated team of waiters and servers circling the bustling environment like a team of well-coordinated figure skaters. Red Rose further compliments its central dining area via an upscale bar and cozy banquet room. The diversity of options is one of the restaurant’s many charms. I always love walking inside and being greeted by an array of sounds and aromas. It is a singular dining experience, and I am sure most readers have warm memories of enjoying a meal with friends and family.
I will save detailing the rest of Red Rose’s menu for another day; today’s mission is pizza. Most try to fit pizzas into different subcategories, whether it is traditional Neapolitan, the hearty bite of Chicago pizza or the minimalist approach behind a margherita pizza. At Red Rose, the pizza defies standard quantification.
It’s a fascinating blending of sensibilities — a thick dough macerated with aromatic marinara sauce and fresh cheeses. The pizza maestros at Red Rose always cook their pies to perfection, achieving a perfectly golden brown top balanced by the bready bite of the airy pizza dough. Best of all, each pizza will satisfy diners at all hunger levels. The personal pizza is a great canvas of flavor for one person, while the restaurant’s massive party-size pie seems like it stretches the length of a football field. No matter what patrons choose, they can’t go wrong with Red Rose’s singular pizza creations.
Roberto’s Restaurant 223 Pleasant St., Northampton
Roberto’s Restaurant indulges in a warm embrace of rustic Italian cooking in every sense, especially with their pizza. Along with their carefully curated catalog of Italian comfort food staples, Roberto’s prepares a delectable pie that will leave patrons returning for more.
Every pizza at Roberto’s comes crafted in a thin-crust preparation. The crust provides a crunchy exterior after the pizza arrives fresh out of the oven in a well-done manner. As someone who likes their pizza cooked a bit more, I love Roberto’s approach. The top of the pizza showcases a remarkable tan of golden-brown textures, but the pie’s base still maintains the fluffy chew one would expect in pizza dough.
Every aspect of Roberto’s thin-crust pizza combines for a harmonious symphony of flavor. The sauce is constructed with fresh tomatoes and a satisfying blend of Italian seasonings, and the cheese is ever present without overwhelming the carefully constructed pizza equation. There is a consistent uniformity with every slice of Roberto’s that I just love to bask in, as I often find myself devouring slices at the rate of an Olympic gold medal pizza eater when I am there.
In addition, Roberto’s Restaurant is a lovely place to visit. The restaurant’s interior is snug and cozy, maintaining the airs of a homey dining room where everything that races out of the kitchen is prepared with love and sincerity. Roberto’s has also just concluded the installation of a new outdoor patio, which provides an ideal dining environment for patrons looking to enjoy a meal amidst the beauty of summer weather.
There you have it for a few of my favorite pizza parlors locally. Do not be surprised if pizza is featured again on “What I’m eating” in the near future.