Where I grew up there is a regional food specialty known as South Shore bar pizza (or, if you are in an SNL skit, “bah” pizza). By regional I do not mean New England. I do not even mean Massachusetts or Boston. I mean the specific area of Massachusetts that is roughly south of Route 93 and mostly east of Route 24 (though a few towns along 24, like Stoughton, are definitely part of this story) and bound on the east side by the Harbor (or, again, if you are in an SNL skit, “habah”). The southernmost point is the Cape Cod canal. Hence, the South Shore.
Nearly every town within the South Shore has a restaurant that specializes in the bar pizza. The Lynwood Cafe in Randolph. Poopsie’s in Pembroke. Town Spa in Stoughton. While there are differences I’m here to tell you that the biggest predictor of which establishment you frequented was proximity. That doesn’t mean people don’t wax poetic about their favorite. Just try to get a Stoughton guy to shut up about Town Spa. It cannot be done.
A recent story about bar pizza in the Boston Globe (paywall) had my husband and I feeling nostalgic. We always get bar pizza when we visit our families on the South Shore. But, well, 2020. So we haven’t had it since last Christmas. I read the story, watched the video and cried. “Soon,” I thought, sighed and moved on with my life.
My husband read the story, watched the video and thought “I can do that.” So he bought bans, a food scale (?), a food thermometer and he was off to the races. And the results were impressive!
What makes South Shore pizza different? A few things:
- It’s made in a 10-inch pan, exclusively. There is no such thing as a “large” South Shore pizza. There’s one size. But if you think “Oh sure, I’ve had a personal pan size pizza,” keep reading …
- The crust is made with corn oil and it’s not stretched the way pizza dough typically is. Instead it’s pressed into the bottom of the pan creating a crispy, almost cracker-like crust.
- The cheese is a mix of mozzarella and … cheddar. It’s the cheese combo, I think, that gives it a distinctive taste. It’s also traditional, though not universal, to sprinkle the cheese all the way to the edge of the pan so there’s no real crust around the edge. Some places refer to this as “laced” because it creates a crispy edge of nearly-burnt cheese that looks like lace.
We increased the authenticity factor by making it with Pastene pizza sauce, a local variety that triggered an instant flavor memory for me.
While I’m still dreaming about my next trip up for the authentic original, our homemade version was better than I could have hoped for. It was a balm for the soul at the end of a very trying year.