Ernesto’s huge slices of pizza perfect for refueling at Assembly Row – The Boston Globe

After running Ernesto’s Old World Pizzeria in the North End for 20 years, Anthony and Gia Radzikowski decided in October to expand to Somerville’s Assembly Row.

“With the multi-use property that they built, and the community, we felt it was a good fit for a second place, especially being so close to our North End location,” says Anthony. The space is small and clean, with a more modern feel than the original, but you’ll find the same behemoth slices, in several different flavors. “People come in for the first time and say I just want one slice — I say that is one slice! It’s just that it’s a quarter of an 18-inch pizza,” he says.

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On our first visit we arrive after the dinner rush and have the place all to ourselves. We order several pieces, which are popped into the oven and come out with a crisp, foldable crust, and fresh-tasting toppings. Eggplant and ricotta ($5.37) arrives with tender pieces of fried eggplant, mozzarella, and dollops of sweet ricotta. The cheeseburger ($5.61) “tastes just like a Big Mac,” says one employee. It does, in the best way possible, topped with the ground meat, onions and cheese, and finished with special sauce, dill pickles, and shredded iceberg lettuce. Buffalo chicken pizza ($5.37) is a little heavy on the vinegar for our taste, but classic Hawaiian ($5) with ham and cheese hits the nostalgia spot. St. Anthony’s ($5.61) with fresh tomato, mushrooms, and artichokes pleases even the veggie-pizza averse diner, who keeps sneaking one more bite.

Caprese ($5.14), with fresh tomatoes and mozzarella, and standard cheese ($4.21), with zippy marinara and mozzarella, might be the true tests of Ernesto’s pizza technique: They are simple and satisfying.

We return on a bustling Saturday night, and the new Somerville development feels lively, filled with crowds of outlet shoppers and visitors to LEGOLAND. Patrons spill out of the surrounding bars and restaurants, cozying up on outdoor couches around fire pits with mulled wine and hot toddies from neighboring River Bar. Ernesto’s is busy, too, filled with young families headed to a movie, and millennial couples sharing slices. Ernesto’s sells whole pies ($19-$23 for an 18-inch pie) and individual gluten-free pizzas ($11), but the majority of customers seem to be here for a speedy slice.

At Ernesto’s, satisfied customers Katherine Salvador-Lopez, 9, and Jeremiah Lopez Guevara, 4.

WENDY MAEDA/GLOBE STAFF

At Ernesto’s, satisfied customers Katherine Salvador-Lopez, 9, and Jeremiah Lopez Guevara, 4.

641 Assembly Row,
Somerville
617-764-4194.

We order arancini, one of each featured flavor: one spinach and one beef and pea (both $5.61). The deep-fried risotto balls are brought to our table piping hot, swimming in a bath of marinara. They are savory, with a golden shell and a warm gooey interior, perfect food for a brisk evening. Speaking of cold, the tiny restaurant can get quite drafty on busy nights when the door is continually thrown open; you may want to dine in your coat.

Anthony tells us, “Nothing has really changed, the recipe is exactly the same, the pizza is the same.” What the Somerville location may be missing in Old World charm, it more than makes up for with ample free parking — and just across the street, a J.P. Licks ice cream shop.

Arancini filled with beef, peas, and cheese.

WENDY MAEDA/GLOBE STAFF

Arancini filled with beef, peas, and cheese.

Owner Anthony Radzikowski.

WENDY MAEDA/GLOBE STAFF

Owner Anthony Radzikowski.

Catherine Smart can be reached at [email protected]

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