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From Italian restaurants to pub style eateries, flatbread wood-fired pizza is all the rage these days. And what better way is there to spice up a classic pie than by adding a few special ingredients?
In central Massachusetts, these five fabulous restaurants have added a unique topping or two to take their pizza to the next level. For residents and visitors, each one is well worth a destination trip!
Rail Trail Flatbread Company in Hudson, MA
Nestled in a historic brick building on scenic Main Street, Rail Trail’s huge wood pizza oven keeps a stream of diners coming in and out of this bustling restaurant. The pizza at the Rail Trail is a medium thin-crust, which is great for holding up all of the great ingredients they spread on top.
The fresh flatbread pizzas come in a variety flavors that change seasonally. Currently on the menu are Roasted Pork and Broccolini and Big Daddy Crab, along with traditional offering like Meatball, Buffalo Chicken and Hawaiian.
Big Daddy Crab in the house and on the table at Rail Trail Flatbread
In addition to its signature ‘za, Rail Trail also features tapas, a bar menu and a dinner menu, with plenty of variety between the three. The bar area has dozens of craft beers and hand-made cocktails, making it another popular stop among guests.
Rail Trail has a medium noise level and offers comfy booth and table seating. It is family friendly with affordable prices. It has become a signature hangout and regular dining spot for locals but also attracts destination foodies, too.
+Bonus: must-try signature cocktails, happy hour
The Corner Grille in Worcester, MA
This pizza parlor has been called Worcester’s best-kept secret. Even though it is local staple for area college students, The Corner Grille in the Tatnuk neighborhood makes you feel like you are hanging out in a trendy part of Brooklyn, thanks to its décor, menu and hipster-type clientele.
There is not a huge amount of seating at the Corner Grille but you should eat your pizza on site, as it is best when it’s hot and right out of the oven. The pizza style is super thin-crust, drizzled with delectable fresh toppings.
A Chicken Caesar Salad Pie fit for a king at The Corner Grille
Some favorites include Harvest Moon Pie and Tipsy Goat Pie, as well as Curried Chicken, Mad Russian and several others; the pies are as creative as they sound and the list goes on!
The Cave Man Pie at The Corner Grille isn’t just for Neanderthals!
The Corner Grille adds a few more nice touches in the form of Mason jar bottles full of fresh-made lemonade and large, tasty salads that are easily ample enough to share. They also offer a variety of baked goods, such as whoopee pies, cookies and squares, which you just have to try (or bring home). They even brew up a great cup of coffee!
+Bonus: BYOB, date night, catch up time
Mariano’s in Pepperell, MA
This restaurant was a pleasant surprise on a recent visit to Pepperell. Who would have known such a fabulous restaurant existed here on Main Street?
Mariano’s is small and cozy, a great layout for a quiet night out, an early dinner or lunch with the family. From the bar area, you can see the chefs preparing pizzas and dishes in the kitchen, with the wood-fired oven in clear view.
Pizza fresh out of the oven at Mariano’s
The pizza at Mariano’s is a medium-thick thin pizza crust, and once it is fired up it has that tasty traditional Italian taste and texture that makes you want, well… more!
Ingredients are classic choices, such as sausage, pepperoni, eggplant and, of course, fresh homemade Italian sauce. Some of the signature pizzas on the menu include Cheeseburger, Verdura and Always Sunny.
Not only is the pizza fabulous at this establishment, there are many other fresh Italian offerings that add to the dining experience. Traditional antipasti, Italian entrees, and fresh pasta dishes are just a few of them.
Dining at Mariano’s is definitely worth the trip to Pepperell. During my time there, I decided on Chicken Piccata (fresh and fabulous) and took some pizza to go for the family.
+Bonus: $4 house wine the goes perfectly with your meal & budget, generous helpings
Slater’s in Bolton, MA
Slater’s is a roadside, tavern-style restaurant with an open layout. Each pizza crust and pie is handcrafted right in front of you, while you enjoy the casual atmosphere.
Slater’s wood fired pizza is a thicker-crusted flatbread, which means there’s more crust for you to enjoy! One of their best signature pizzas is the 495, while the Barbeque Chicken and simple, fresh Margarita are great, too.
BBQ Chicken ‘za at Slater’s
Slater’s is a great place to stop after a sports game, for lunch or a night out with the family. The atmosphere is louder, very casual and fun, definitely a great place for families with kids.
Along with its pizza offerings, Slater’s specializes in pulled pork dishes (sandwiches, quesadillas, salads) and sandwiches. Slater’s also hosts live music on Thursday evenings and some weekends, which always makes for a good time.
+Bonus: super friendly and helpful staff, plenty of space to sit down for longer meals
Tomasso Trattoria in Southborough, MA
Tomasso is a farm-to-table style restaurant conveniently located on Rte. 9 in Southborough, just about a mile from the I-495 junction. Visually, it’s easy to miss (watch for the building’s black-and-white awnings), but once you experience the great flavors of Tomasso, you’ll remember how to find it.
Tomasso offers up Italian fare that’s a bit higher-end, using local, farm fresh ingredients. The menu is set up Italian-style with Anipasti, Insalate, Secondi, Pasta, Contorno and Pizze (why it’s last on the menu we don’t know, because the pizza is such a treat). But if you plan to sample from each part of the menu, make sure you plan well; you need to leave room for the pizza (and the dessert!)
Each pizza is an Italian-inspired concoction of specialty meat and cheese combinations on a wood-fired, medium-crusted flatbread pie. Options include the Pesto, the Uovo (pictured to the right), Prosciutto di Parma, Scamorza and the Salsiccie, giving ‘za lovers plenty to try during multiple visits.
Aside from the main dishes at Tomasso (as if they aren’t enough!), you can also treat yourself to Italian desserts that are whipped up in-house and are simply to die for. So, make sure you save room to savor the full dining experience, which, yes, includes dessert.
+ Bonus: date night, great Italian wine selection
Lysa Miller is a Massachusetts-based writer whose work covers notable local businesses around the state. Follow her on Twitter @LadyBugzInc.