Miss Yunks lives close to Arlington, yet rarely ventures that far down Massachusetts Ave. She’s recently noticed tons of restaurants and boutique stores line Massachusetts Ave and wants to check them all out.
Something I love about my side of the river is that it’s full of independent shops and restaurants. Sure, there are a few chains, but the streets are mostly packed with tiny independently owned places. I usually prefer a unique location over a chain because I like the local feel rather than the “I could get this anywhere” feel. After a lovely afternoon of ice skating with my BF, I remembered that there is a local pizza place in Arlington and I wanted to check it out. I then remembered that I was thinking of Za, which I have been to in the Kendall Square location, but it was new to BF and I had my heart set on Za’s creative pizza.
We ordered two pizzas to go.
The staff at Za was very friendly and offered us drinks while we sat and waited for our pizza. We asked if they served rolls we could munch on, and the hostess explained they do not serve rolls because their concept is simple pizza – prepared in 1 size only – and rolls would be an extra process. They do serve rolls at the Kendall Square location because they’re located right next to EVOO and the patrons enjoy rolls there, so Za doesn’t want to deny their own customers. I find this a little bizarre because I would think rolls are easy if you already have pizza dough, but I can appreciate Za’s simple concept.
Both of our pizzas were delicious. They were so warm and yummy smelling that we started eating in the car. The 10 minute drive home was too long! The first pizza is from Za’s specials menu. We were both drawn to this seasonally appropriate unique pizza. It never occurred to me to add pears to a pizza, but the juicy pear pairs so well with the fontina cheese. All of the toppings on this one would be tasty on their own in a bowl – no dough necessary. I enjoyed this pizza lot. The mac and cheese pizza is amazing. I ordered it the first time I dined at Za and the second time it was better than I remembered. A bed of caramelized onions sits between the dough and the macaroni adding an almost hidden sweetness. This makes me want to add caramelized onions to my homemade mac and cheese recipe! The onions are then covered in cheese, then macaroni, and then crispy breadcrumbs. The mac and cheese pizza was both of our favorites. These toppings would also be a meal without the dough.
Which led me to thinking, as I ate leftovers the next day, what is pizza? What makes pizza pizza? Is it the dough? That seems to be the only necessity in every pizza I’ve ever had. While traditional pizza has red sauce and cheese, not all do. It’s quite common now to only have one or the other. Last week I made bruschetta pizza (pizza topped with ricotta cheese and a jar of Trader Joe’s bruschetta). I really loved this pizza because I love Trader Joe’s bruschetta. BF didn’t love it because it was missing the gooey cheese. I asked him, what if I said it’s bruschetta and not pizza? Then what do you think? And his opinion changed positively. So, is dough the only ingredient that is required in anything we call a pizza? What do you think makes pizza pizza?
Each pizza at Za was under $12, making a very reasonably priced meal for 2. If you find yourself in Arlington or in Kendall Square, listen to your inner pizza craving and try something new at Za! I also recommend ice skating, which you can also do in both Arlington and Kendall Square. Exercise for the week? Check!