To those who are new to Boston, or perhaps a tourist or businessperson visiting our city, the North End seems like the obvious place to go for Italian food. And while this charming little neighborhood indeed has countless Italian restaurants, bakeries, pastry shops, and markets, it can be an incredibly crowded place, with lots out-of-towners looking to get a plate of pasta or some cannoli while enjoying the narrow streets and historic structures that make this part of Boston so interesting. The North End, however, isn't the only area around Boston where you can check out the sights and sounds of an old-fashioned Italian community. Indeed, there are other Italian neighborhoods in and around the city that tend not to be in any Boston guides but which are charming in their own ways. One such area is South Medford, which is home to a number of Italian eateries and shops, including a bakery called La Cascia's that got its start 90 years ago in East Boston and which is known in part for its delicious Sicilian bakery pizza as well as its breads, pastries, sandwiches, and imported goods.
La Cascia's Bakery is located on the southern edge of South Medford, just south of the intersection of Main Street and Harvard Street where a number of restaurants and food shops can be found. Similar in a way to the popular Bob's Italian Food Store, which is just up Main Street on the northern edge of the neighborhood, La Cascia's Bakery is a bit smaller and tends to focus more on baked goods while Bob's seems to feature nearly every kind of Italian food imaginable. This is not to say that La Cascia's is limited in its selection of foods, though, as it offers a lot of what Bob's does, but simply on a smaller scale. Along the left side of La Cascia's are pastas, sauces, and imported items, while in the back is a small area where patrons can order some really outstanding subs such as chicken parmigiana, eggplant parmigiana, meatball, an Italian, and a steak and cheese along with calzones and other lunch and dinner items such as chicken piccata, gnocchi with marinara sauce, lasagna with meatballs, and veal parmigiana. In the middle of the room are a few tiny tables, though these almost seem to be an afterthought, as this is really more of a takeout place. To the right are display cases full of Italian and American pastries (such as tiramisu, amaretto bars, and half moon cookies), pies, and other treats, and all kinds of breads (including scali, French, Vienna, and challah) can be ordered here as well. And behind the display cases are rice balls (arancini) with peas and ground beef inside them, as well as the focus of this review, namely, La Cascia's wonderful Sicilian pizza slices.
Soft, chewy, and almost pillow-like, the square bakery slices at La Cascia's are quite different from most other pizzas you will tend to find in area restaurants and sub shops. They are nothing like the thin-crust Neapolitan pies from Regina's in the North End of Boston, the cracker-like individual bar pizza from such places as The Lynwood Cafe in Randolph, the greasy, heavy-on-the-cheese Greek pizza from nearly any "house of pizza" places, the eclectic gourmet pies from Picco in Boston's South End, or the ultra-thin flatbreads of a place like the Flatbread Company in Somerville and Brighton. No, La Cascia's pizzas are more like those of Galleria Umberto in the North End or Tripoli in Lawrence, with a thick crust, a slightly sweet/slightly acidic tomato sauce that is a bit on the chunky side, and a minimal amount of cheese on top. And they are filling--two slices are generally enough for a meal, with four probably being enough to warrant a nap shortly after eating them. The slices at La Cascia's are also cheap; handing over a five-dollar bill for two slices will get you a decent amount of change (as well as a decent amount of pizza).
La Cascia's Bakery is a very popular place among locals in the neighborhood who are looking to have a good, cheap meal of Sicilian bakery pizza, calzones, sandwiches, and/or rice balls, as well as some tasty breads, pies, pastries, and more. It may not be a well-known spot even though it has been around for a long time, but then again, not much in South Medford is all that well known (especially compared to similar places in the North End of Boston). For those who like their pizza square and thick-crusted, La Cascia's Bakery is one of the few places in the Boston area where you can get a consistently good version of a Sicilian slice at a dirt-cheap price. [Ed note: Another location of La Cascia's Bakery can be found on Route 3A in Burlington.]
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