The Boston Globe's Devra First and Sheryl Julian assess two new wood-fired pizza places this week.
First bestows two-and-a-half out of four stars on Babbo Pizzeria e Enoteca, the highly-anticipated Boston debut for celebrity chef Mario Batali. The pizzas, while tasty, are inconsistent. "Slice slump. Crust collapse. Dough dysfunction ... This is what occurs with two out of three pies at Babbo." Pasta dishes are also a mainstay of the menu, but First finds this menu category to be over-salted. Salads are well-done, especially the "gloriously retro Italian-American antipastipalooza" that is the Babbo chopped salad.
The highest point of First's meal at Babbo might have been paying the bill: "Compared with many other restaurants opening in the city, it is positively affordable. So yes, by all means, visit Babbo, for good food and good value in a relaxed atmosphere. Celebrity is the least of its attractions."
In Needham, Globe food editor Sheryl Julian finds family-friendly fare at Hearth Pizzeria, an independent restaurant opened by a Stone Hearth Pizza Co. alum earlier this spring. Hearth offers something for every guest, she writes. "You can build your own pizzas, salads, and pastas, so everything on the plate is exactly what you like. There’s ... a good formula in the works."
But here, too, the critic experiences "flappy" slices. Julian says chef Ivan Millan-Pulecio purposely undercooks his pies, because "Some people see a charred crust and they won’t eat it. I want my crust charred, and when I return for another visit and request a well done fig, prosciutto, and blue cheese pizza, it is crisp and just right."
Small plates are "menu stars"; meatball poppers are flavorful, and macaroni and cheese is creamy. The simple menu, which repurposes red sauce in several dishes, can be repetitive.