When one thinks about bar pizza, one thinks about the South Shore (and especially the Lynwood Cafe in Randolph). These pizzas are thin — the crusts are soft on the interior and almost cracker-like on the bottom and at the edges — and roughly share a circumference with the kind you’d find in Naples, the land of the stuff’s provenance. Ideally, they fit nicely on the surface of a bar, accompanied by a few rounds of cheap, light, domestic lager.
While Massachusetts’s South Shore lays claim to the genre, don’t miss this winner on the North Shore: The Riverview in Ipswich has been doing one of the state’s best versions since 1947.
The Riverview is housed in an unassuming building. Its vinyl sides, concrete stairs, and steel handrails are a sharp contrast to the stunning brick mill buildings dotting Ipswich’s downtown, not to mention the picturesque Colonial and Victorian homes comprising the neighborhoods just outside.
The interior walls are paneled with wood, and the booths are of that perfect coupling of beige and gray marbled formica tabletops and blood-red vinyl benches. Vintage beer paraphernalia — neon and mirrored signs, a model of the Budweiser Clydesdales — line the walls, and they’re lit by yellow and red fluorescent tube lights. A soft, surreal light hangs over the room; if you didn’t know better, you’d think the space was designed by James Turrell.
A great thing about the Riverview is that two people can go there and eat and drink well for about $35, generous tip included.
The play at the Riverview is the meatball — the pizza chef packs what seems like four meatballs worth of meatball onto one personal-sized pizza. It’s tender and salty, a great pair with the Riverview’s slightly sweet sauce. If you’re sharing, get a green pepper and onion, too. The peppers and onions are slotted underneath the cheese, so nothing falls off onto the plate. The pizzas come out on aluminum pans, and each patron is given a rectangle of deli paper in lieu of a proper plate.
(And if you’re at the Riverview, don’t forget to have a couple High Lifes while you’re at it — at $3.50, it’s foolish not to order a second. Especially if you’re taking the commuter rail back to the city, which, what do you know, is about a 90-second walk from the Riverview’s doorstep.)
I grew up on the North Shore, and I used to go to the Riverview with my family on a semi-regular basis — after Little League games, after pee wee hockey games, just because. When I was younger, there was an all-in-one arcade cabinet set up in the space next to the bar — I recall seeing the logos for Centipede and Street Fighter painted on the side — but I always ignored it because I was more concerned with battling my older brother for control of the jukebox (he’s always had better taste than I, so I should have deferred and played arcades instead.)
On a recent trip to the Riverview, I couldn’t find the arcade cabinet — but that jukebox is still there. In fact, very little seems to have changed about the place in the years since I’d last been there, or ever.
• Riverview Pizza [FB]