As you head north of Boston, it seems that there are "layers" of places for regional foods, with the cities and towns just north of the city often being known as steak tip country, while further north, roast beef joints tend to dot the landscape more and more, and a bit more north (and east), you find all kinds of places that feature fried clams and lobster. What is often overlooked is another regional food that mostly tends to be found in the inner suburbs where steak tip places and some roast beef joints can be found. And while Sicilian bakery pizza is certainly available in Boston itself along with other communities west and south of the city, it seems that places for these square slices tend to be concentrated in areas just north of downtown Boston that are--or were--heavily Italian. Indeed, Somerville, Medford, Malden, Revere, East Boston, and Everett are filled with bakeries, pastry shops, restaurants, bars, and markets that offer these kinds of slices, and it is this latter community that is home to some really lesser-known places, including a local gem called Elm Street Bakery which has been around for decades but is still nearly completely under the radar.
Elm Street Bakery actually resides in the heart of steak tip country, being across the street from the very underrated Stewart's Pub and within walking distance of what some call the best of them all for steak (and turkey) tips--NewBridge Cafe, which is just over the border in Chelsea--and a very obscure spot called The Line, which also has excellent tips. The bakery has a similar look to so many others just north of Boston, with the exterior having an old-fashioned sign and awning welcoming customers who are looking for such items as pizza, cakes, bread, cookies, and Italian pastries. The interior is about as simple as it gets, with display cases taking up most of the space and unlike some bakeries (La Cascia in Medford comes to mind), this is purely a takeout place as there is no seating to be found.
While the focus of this review is pizza, it would be unfair to ignore some of the other items that can be found at Elm Street Bakery. Some of the offerings include such Italian classics as elephant ears, lobster tails, tiramisu, cannoli, bambas, sfogliatelle, paragini and neapolitans, biscotti, fig squares, scali bread, rum logs, carrot cake, Italian rum cake, and calzones along with other treats such as half moons, chocolate chip cookies, and oatmeal raisin cookies. As far as the pizza here, there are actually two types--the aforementioned bakery pizza and something called pizzette. The bakery pizza here is your classic "Grandma pizza" (and yes, that is an actual term), being a very simple slice with a slightly sweet sauce, a smattering of cheese on top, and a crust that is thinner than some Sicilian slices but has just a hint of sponginess. The pizza at Elm Street Bakery is ultimately closer to the true bakery style of Italo in Medford than that of the extraordinary Galleria Umberto in Boston's North End, with the latter having much more cheese and a slightly thicker crust, which seems closer to what some know as Sicilian pizza than Grandma pizza. The pizzette offered here are a less common type of pizza, and are basically mini-pizzas that look like English muffins or bagels with sauce and cheese on them, but pizza dough is indeed used--and they make for a perfect snack for those who don't want the larger and more filling bakery slices. Both the bakery pizza and the pizzette are dirt cheap, costing around a buck apiece, so for those who want a good meal at an extremely low price, buying several of each will go a very long way for very little money.
If you like hidden gems, Elm Street Bakery is about as hidden a spot as you'll find, which seems to also be the case for a handful of places north of Boston that offer bakery pizza. If you like old-fashioned bakeries and simple and plain (but tasty) slices that can be bought with pocket change, there are few places better than this friendly little shop.
Copyright © 2017, 2018, Boston's Hidden Restaurants (www.hiddenboston.com).