Za – Fun Pizza in Arlington

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.

Special Pizza topped with bosc pears, dried cranberries, walnuts, fontina cheese, maybe gorgonzola?, and scallions

Mac & Cheese Pizza

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!

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9 Comments

  1. Posted March 1, 2011 at 8:00 AM | Permalink

    Both pizzas sound fantastic! I’m not sure what makes pizza “pizza”. There are so many different ways to prepare it, cook it and so many varieties. I guess if you call it pizza…it’s pizza!

  2. Posted March 1, 2011 at 8:04 AM | Permalink

    My first time at Za a few months ago was pretty good. I really want to try the mac and cheese pizza and that special pizza sounds awesome!

  3. Posted March 1, 2011 at 8:18 AM | Permalink

    The special pizza looks seriously awesome!

  4. Posted March 1, 2011 at 8:25 AM | Permalink

    Mmmm pizza! I have never actually had Za pizza, but my friend buys their raw dough to go and makes amazing pizzas at home with it!

  5. Posted March 1, 2011 at 9:52 AM | Permalink

    I’ve heard really good things about this place…thank you for reminding me of all these North Cambridge delights!

  6. Posted March 1, 2011 at 1:10 PM | Permalink

    Za is one of my FAVORITE places!!! I’ve had the pizza with pears on it a few times, always love it. I’ve never had the mac n cheese one though! Looks amazing!! I think, though, my favorite thing there is the salad with cucumbers, tomatoes, & feta…its got other stuff too but its just incredible, as is their salad with black beans/avodado/etc…if you ever dine there get teh salads! Now I want Za :)

  7. Posted March 1, 2011 at 2:01 PM | Permalink

    Love the mac & cheese pizza (especially with bacon)! I’ve only been to the Kendall Za.

    I think pizza is the dough and whatever you decide to put on it.

  8. Posted March 2, 2011 at 10:01 AM | Permalink

    these look insane. I want to try both!

  9. Posted March 17, 2011 at 8:46 AM | Permalink

    OMG, those pizzas look amazing!! My fiances two favorite things in this world are pizza and macaroni and cheese. I’m going to have to introduce him to this place!

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