Wednesday, May 22, 2024

The meatball sub – really a wrap – at Si Cara in Central Square. (Photo: Tom Meek)

In Camberville we’re blessed with all kinds of pizza: thin crust (Upper Crust, American Flatbread), Detroit style (Avenue Kitchen), Greek (Harvard House), New York style with special house-fermented dough (Source), truffle pate whites (Gran Gusto) and countless more. So what’s so special about another pizzeria? Well, style – just when you don’t think there can’t be another one, Si Cara pops up with its canotto spin on the traditional Neapolitan. Break out Google Translate, but “canotto” in Italian means roughly “inflatable raft” or “dinghy,” and so the pies at Si Cara are fluffy light mounds – cloud-shaped pillows, if you will – of chewy, warm dough with a choice of savory sauce and topping at the center. The crust is wonderfully hollow and airy, so you’re not eating a lot of bready bread, which can have the gummy effect of wadding up a piece of Wonder Bread and munching away.

Si Cara (back to the Goog translator, “my love” is one meaning, and is the term of endearment used by the owner’s nana for members of her familia) is in Central Square across from The Middle East and open for lunch and dinner, baking its pies in a custom wood oven in an open kitchen that’s practically in the middle of the bar. 

The pizza list covers the basics of margherita, pepperoni, pork sausage and ricotta and but also has a more experimental side with veggie pies and Korean accents. The Peperonata, a puffy mound of charred peppers and mozzarella, comes topped with gochujang, the Korean sweet chili sauce that normally accompanies bibimbap, and a mushroom white pie that comes with what appears to be (and tastes like) freshly foraged ’shrooms and kimchi. It isn’t your typical oven-fired  fare with sliced, off-the-shelf mushrooms simmering in red sauce; these are delicate morels that don’t necessarily have that succulent consistency you might assume, but a strong, varying olio of fresh fungal textures and flavors. I had a hard time detecting the kimchi.

What I really appreciate about Si Cara are its appetizers, lunch offerings and wine. The wedge salad – yes iceberg, don’t judge – comes fresh and crisp and dressed in a rich and creamy yet not overpowering gorgonzola dressing with shavings of speck and fresh apple slice. You can roll your eyes, but as you cut into and consume it, your eyes will widen with guilty, pleasurable glee. The wedge disappears far too fast. Si Cara also makes a rich white bean dip that comes with a balsamic drizzle and potato chips for dipping. Like the wedge, it looks like a lot but goes fast.

Si Cara’s mushroom pizza. (Photo: Tom Meek)

For lunch, you can get ’za by the slice and a chopped salad and sandos that are not on the evening menu. There’s a classic Italian cold cut and tomato, mozz (burrata) and pesto, but let me draw your attention to the meatball sub with juicy, well-seasoned meat, ricotta and basil. (The meatballs are on the dinner menu as well, but only an appetizer.) The sub is a winning synergy: It comes out looking like a wrap in some of that fresh, thin pizza dough. The dough is warm and pliable, chewy but not too chewy, and there’s no burnt, over-toasted or dried-out ends that you might otherwise encounter with a wrap. It’s everything you ever knew about meatball sub comfort and a total changeup at the same time – and a reason to specifically go to Si Cara for lunch.

The other great thing about Si Cara is its rotating selection of organic orange wines, some zesty and bubbly, others smooth and dry. I’ve yet to have a pour that’s given me pause, though they do serve in hexagonal kitchen glasses that remind me of my days as a bachelor drinking wine from jelly jars. 

Si Cara (425 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square, Cambridge) 


Tom Meek is a writer living in Cambridge. His reviews, essays, short stories and articles have appeared in the WBUR ARTery, The Boston Phoenix, The Boston Globe, The Rumpus, The Charleston City Paper and SLAB literary journal. Tom is also a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics and rides his bike everywhere.