Wednesday, June 12, 2024

A triple-decker ham sandwich from King’s Pizzeria & Grille in Mid-Cambridge. (Photo: Tom Meek)

Mona Lisa, that other pizzeria abutting the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School campus (along with Angelo’s on Broadway), shuttered during Covid. In its stead, King’s Pizzeria & Grille has opened, serving just about everything under the culinary sun as a sister shop to the King’s Famous Roast Beef Pizza & Seafood stops in Salem and Gloucester. On any given school day, the place is bustling with CRLS students and staff and workers from the nearby medical facilities. I checked it out for a handful of lunch drops during school vacation week, and it was still well trafficked.

King’s is a straight-up, no-frills fast food joint that serves calzones, pizza, fried or grilled seafood, quesadillas and just about every sandwich you can imagine. I think of it as the love child of Kelly’s Roast Beef and Sullivan’s Castle Island, where the scent of fried seafood is part of the ambiance. I’ll say one thing for King’s: The portions are generous and then some, with surprisingly meticulous preparation and packaging, and there are deals too – less than $5 gets you two slices and a soda. For a family on the fly, there’s a $6 pie among other steals listed in the window.

I tried to vary my samplings. First were turkey and ham triple-deckers, which require a two-handed grip, a gaping maw and a bit of a boa constrictor finagling to get at. They had lean meats, fresh tomato and greens and just the right amount of mayo and mustard on lightly toasted bread. One is almost enough for two people. A chicken deluxe wrap was essentially the poultry version of a steak bomb in a tortilla. The onions and peppers were succulent, and the whole combo was a pleasing, tender, juicy mess, with extra napkins needed. Other wraps on the menu feature a classic chicken Caesar, Buffalo chicken and versions with steak and chicken kabob meat (which also come in dinner plate variations).

A flatbread lobster roll at King’s. (Photo: Tom Meek)

Not listed on the online menu but prominent on the in-store menu is a lobster roll. I gave it a go with little to no expectation, and what came up was unique and surprising in a warmed piece of grilled flatbread folded loosely in a canoe-shape cradle for my crustacean delicacy. The lobster was tender and moist and, like everything else at King’s, ample. It was satiating and passed my strict rule: Just give me lobster meat and don’t distract me with other nonsense such as cheese or rich, gooey, chef-invented sauces. At $29, this may just be the best cheaper lobster roll in town (though Alive and Kicking’s lobster sandwich is my go-to). The side of fries was fine. 

As far as ambiance goes, King’s is spare, with a smattering of basic diner tables. Given all they do there, I wish I had a view into the kitchen, which is blocked by a wall of vast menu that doesn’t quite go to the ceiling, so you can hear sizzles and spatula clanks and clacks. It’s fun, but only teasingly so, because you can’t see the magic being performed. 

King’s Pizzeria & Grille (1621 Cambridge St., Mid-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.