EDITOR’S NOTE: Below is a post my husband wrote about Polcari’s restaurant in Saugus, Massachusetts last year. It was originally posted on November 2, 2016. As he states at the end, we returned there on this year’s visit to New England. Only we didn’t order as much food!
This year we enjoyed their chicken and veal parmigiana and fettuccine Alfredo.
Bobby, of course, got a couple of meatballs to go with the fettuccine.
We ended up leaving just as full and satisfied as we did last year. One thing is for sure, Polcari’s is still one of the best.
I grew up in Revere, Mass., and since moving to Ohio, my wife, Wendi and I have been visiting my sister, Michelle, and her husband, Glenn, and their family for decades. Whenever we hit the U.S. 1, we would always pass Polcari’s Family Restaurant. I never thought much about it. I was never really interested in it.
On this most recent trip, I wanted to know where I could get a really good, Neapolitan-style pizza. Of course, I always stop at Bianchi’s Pizza on Revere Beach, but I wanted to know what places my sister liked. One of the places was Polcari’s Family Restaurant. I had always heard about Santarpio’s in East Boston, and I wanted to give it a try, but Glenn said while it was a good pizza, it wasn’t the kind I was looking for. So, we headed to Polcari’s, and it turned out to be a fantastic choice. I loved everything about the restaurant, from its rustic Italian feel to its tremendous Italian fare.
The four of us ordered enough food for a party of of eight to 10 people. Cheese pizza is my favorite kind, so we had to get a cheese pie. Glenn loves their sausage pizza, so let’s add to the order a small sausage pie. Michelle says the artichoke Margherita (batter-fried, fresh artichoke hearts in a lemon butter, white wine sauce with diced tomatoes) appetizer is to die for. The waitress recommended adding angel hair pasta and making it a dinner.
Outside Polcari’s is also a sign for Regina Pizzeria, New England’s oldest pizzeria, which started in the North End of Boston (home to Boston’s Italians). I didn’t understand the connection between the two. Pizzeria Regina (as it is also known, originally Regina Pizza) was purchased by the Polcari family in the 1920s, and operated the restaurant.
Pizzeria Regina (the name by which I come to know of it) makes great pizza, and Polcari’s offers it in their restaurants. The two restaurants, Polcari’s and Pizzeria Regina, are owned by Boston Restaurant Associates, and they make dough and the sausage fresh daily.
The pizza served in the Boston area is based on New York-style pizza. It features a light, thin crust cooked at a high temperature. Because of this, the crust becomes very crispy and the edges charred. Some might consider the crust burnt, but it adds a depth of flavor. Also, the pizza sauce Pizzeria Regina uses is sort of like petite diced tomatoes in a tomato juice. It is not a thick sauce that has been cooked down a lot. It is a thin sauce. There is something nice about this kind of sauce. I am not sure if Pizzeria Regina uses an uncooked sauce.
Little bit of trivia, when I asked Wendi to marry me, I brought home a large, cheese pizza from Pizzeria Regina. Took the train into Boston with my cousin, Marc, and brought it home on the blue line. Once home, I folded the box and froze the pizza. We ate Pizzeria Regina the night I proposed to her.
I had to have a cheese pizza. This Italian does not like Italian sausage, so I passed on that pizza. But, the one thing I wanted in Boston this visit was a good meatball sub. When we were sitting in the dining room, I could not find a meatball sub on the menu.
However, having worked in a kitchen and cooked many a guest a special dish, I was not shy in asking our waitress if I could get a meatball sub. She said I could because it is on the bar menu. I am glad I asked. When my mother, Carmen, was raising four of us by herself, she worked a second job at the Fernwood Italian Restaurant. The chef there, Frank, made the best meatballs. I have never found anyone’s meatballs who came close to the flavor of Frank’s, until Polcari’s. It was the best meatball sub I had in a long time. The meatballs were so good, Michelle purchased some of them for a pasta party she was having. She says she will never cook meatballs again. Instead, she will just order from Polcari’s.
Well, we were not through ordering, yet. Wendi ordered a chicken parmigiana calzone, and, it, too, was great. The breaded chicken cutlet had such a great flavor. What surprised me is that despite the chicken being cooked inside dough with sauce and cheese, the chicken was still crispy.
To top it all off, we started with some bread and olive oil. The bread was good, a little on the light and airy side, I like my Italian bread a little more dense. The olive oil was fantastic. I like the little kick the crushed red peppers added to it.
As we were wrapping up our dinner, I asked for the manager. I told him just how great the food was. Glenn wanted to make sure he knew our server did a great job taking care of us. For me, the meal was a great one. Everything was better than good. If I were Boston Restaurant Associates, then I would be looking for franchisees. Whether there is space in the restaurant industry for another Italian restaurant chain, I can’t say. But Polcari’s is better, in my opinion, than Olive Garden, Carraba’s Italian Grill and Romano’s Macaroni Grill. I will be coming here every year when we visit.