Monday, June 24, 2024

A sausage, onion and mushroom pizza from Stoked near Harvard Square in Cambridge. (Photo: Tom Meek)

Cambridge has no shortage of pizza joints and pizza styles. I count well over 20 pie shops in Cambridge proper, which may sound like a lot but come as no shock – did you know that Massachusetts has the seventh-highest ratio of pizzerias to population in the country? (And of the top eight, according to 2019 data via Statista, four are from New England, with Connecticut, home of the coveted New Haven pizza pie, being No. 1.) Around town you can get thick Sicilian (Pinocchio’s), thin crust (Upper Crust, American Flatbread), New York style (Half Shell, Source), Detroit crustless (Avenue Kitchen & Bar), Greek (Harvard House of Pizza) and Neapolitan (Si Cara). Your ’za options are near limitless. And just when you thought you couldn’t get another spin on sauce and dough, we have Stoked, the wood-fired pizza bar that began as a food truck craze and set up a storefront in Brookline and, just before the pandemic, another on the doorstep of Harvard Law School. There’s a bit of pizza justice there: Stoked is approximately where the old, beloved Three Aces pizza parlor and video arcade was about a half-generation ago.

The menu’s not complicated: You can get appetizers and, as you can expect, pizza. There are salads (look for a very summery strawberry and asparagus), meatballs and marinara, chicken wings and cauliflower bites done three ways (Buffalo, barbecue and General Tso) as well as fried mozzarella. For the pies, there’s a hybrid of Neapolitan pillow and crisp-crust New Haven in white and red. I’m more of a red guy, though the white side has a cheeseburger (and an Impossible vegetarian option) and mushroom and onion variations that looked appetizing as they came up for delivery. There’s also a Buffalo chicken, but to me that’s a wing thing with the bone in ’em.

When I eat red ’za, I love meat. Stoked has a Porky for the carnivores (pepperoni, sausage and bacon) that is a bit of a meat overload and a risk of dried-out bacon. The sweet spot for me is the sausage and onion. The fennel sausage is sweet and spicy and plays well with the nearly caramelized onion, which makes for a nice accent and offset. 

That dough is as advertised: half doughy pillow but with a firm crust around the edge, and moist and chewy inside. It’s the “Everything Everywhere All At Once” of pizza dough. Of course you can get just plain cheese and sauce, or a basic pepperoni or customize your own – sometimes I add mushrooms to my sausage and onion.

The space at Stoked is rather regal for a pizza pad, with chartreuse green accents and an elegant bar top. A full range of beer, wine and cocktails is offered, making Stoked a nice alternative stop-in if you want to imbibe as you read cinderblock-thick law books or tap out food reviews. That said, the space and its wings and pizza scream sports bar, yet the only place you can catch the Sox or Celtics is on the small screen in your pocket.

Stoked (1611 Massachusetts Ave., in the Baldwin neighborhood near Harvard 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.