Got a gaggle of booze-guzzling loudmouths around you who want to celebrate the glories of televised springtime sports over beer, pizza and more beer? Well, maybe not right this second, but you will. And when they start churning, that’ll be the perfect occasion to check out the new player in the IE, Boston’s The Gourmet Pizza.
Boston’s aspires to be upscale like California Pizza Kitchen, its politically correct brethren, but the distinction stops there. First, Boston’s makes such a mean man’s pizza (among their specialties are the Mama Meata, with smoked ham, pepperoni, ground beef and Italian sausage; their Sicilian would seduce even Tony Soprano) that the figure-conscious elite of the CPK kingdom simply could not handle it. Secondly, there’s nothing remotely Boston about Boston’s, thanks to a muted contemporary mix of Southwestern colors and kitschy prints that belong on the walls of a Parisian café.
In fact, the nearly 50-store chain can’t even claim the appropriate geography—Boston’s was birthed in Edmonton, the creation of Greek immigrants whose ambition to make pizza a household name succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. These Canadian Greeks spun off franchises like pizza dough across the East Coast, inching westerly through the Deep South. For its first Cali locale, the IE somehow got dibs two years ago, and a Boston’s sprouted just north of Ontario Mills. (Another is set to open in Moreno Valley in October.)
I sit down in one of the casually comfy, squeaky-clean booths and start out with the Thai Chicken Bites, consisting of boneless, deep-fried scraps of bird smothered in a sweet Thai chili sauce. The plate smelled, tasted and felt like a deep-sea dive into a pool of garlic. No doubt, the consumption alone would ward off vampires for years to come. Truth be told, a Thai Chicken pizza or Thai Chicken salad anywhere never felt so aromatically blissful. So far, life was good.
Next came the pizzas, which were every bit as fragrant as the appetizer. CPK pizzas taste light, fresh and somewhat healthy, but they never come close to the aromas one finds here. I plucked my selection from the rotating specials, a single man’s portion of the Flying Buffalo, which smelled like spicy, real Buffalo wings and then tasted like it, each bite smoky, savory, cheesy and filling. And the crust? Flakier and crustier like the waitress said—not quite Chicago-style, but no wimp like the thinly-toasted CPK ones, resembling a less-greasy version of the type Numero Uno makes. My dining/beer-guzzling companion across from me declared it to be the best pie he’d polished off in a while. Of course, to combat the effects of old age on our protruding beer guts, we ordered a figure-friendly Florentine, an old-country favorite topped by layers of spinach, basil, artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes and roasted garlic.
If you don’t like pizza, Boston’s has a nice assortment of ribs, burgers, salads and sandwiches (terrible calorie hogs like the Brute or Boston Cheesesteak aus jus). Then again, there’s no escaping the fresh gourmet pastas made on the premises. Noteworthy are the Cajun-inspired Jamabalaya Fettucine or Smokey Mountain and Meatballs. And yes, it’s all right to ask for a wimp-sized portion, if you absolutely can’t stomach the madness.
Boston’s has a laid-back, family-friendly vibe that’s reflected in its service and architectural details. Most of the action takes place in the bar, a glass-encased playground for sports fanatics, where Texas Hold ‘Em competes over the din with beer and strobic big-screen TVs. It’s the main dining room, however, that’s meant for polite, familial (if not somewhat animated) conversations, with a wait staff that pretty much leaves each table alone to hash out post-game analyses, returning now and again to refill empty water glasses.
Boston’s The Gourmet Pizza, 11260 4th St., Rancho Cucamonga, (909) 758-9115. Lunch for two without drinks, $30. www.bostonsgourmet.com.