There are dozens of different types of pizza, and each with their own proponents, but there's one thing we can all agree on: a well-made pie is a thing of beauty. And something beautiful can be found at Pizzeria Dante, a casual restaurant just outside of Coolidge Corner, with bright red walls and a checkerboard ceiling of emerald and mint green. A loyal delivery and takeout crowd means relative quiet, and seats available for the taking.
The menu purports to offer "real New York pizza," those wide, thin-crust slices that almost require folding to allow a bite. As the restaurant's name implies, pizzas are the specialty here, and the Margherita is at the top of the charts. Legend has it that when Italian Queen Margherita visited Naples in 1889, a pizza maker served her a pie redolent of the Italian flag: scarlet tomato, snowy mozzarella, and bright green basil. This favorite still hasn't lost its charm. Here, tangy and flavorful tomato sauce is laid thick over a chewy crust.
The L.A. is a white pizza topped with thinly sliced potato, bacon, scallion, cheese, and kissed with cream. It's like a hubcap-sized potato skin, rich and salty. Another specialty pie combines the faint bitterness of broccoli rabe with sweet Italian sausage and roasted red peppers, all laced with a sharp tinge of garlic.
Beyond the pizzas are classics like chewy calamari, breaded a bit too heavily to be exciting. Garlic bread is soft yet crispy, grilled with a bit of garlic and oil, and draped with pieces of cheese the size of playing cards. Chicken Parmigiana, that breaded beloved, features exceptionally tender chicken cutlets with a mantle of marinara sauce and melted mozzarella.
Sandwiches are heaping with ingredients, from a beef meatball sub laden with tomato sauce to the Italian, a seeded roll stuffed with cold cuts, finished with a drizzle of olive oil and tart balsamic vinegar. Daily specials can be found written on chalkboards, and red lentil soup is a common du jour offering. It's hot and filling, equal parts red lentils and roasted red peppers, pureed until smooth.
Now, for dessert. Skip the overpriced Nutella fondue and go for a rather un-traditional cannoli. The shell is a pizzelli, a traditional Italian waffle cookie with a touch of anise, which, incidentally, comes from the same Italian word that gives pizza its meaning. To make the cannoli, a pizzelli cookie is popped onto the heat for a few seconds, until just pliable; then, it can be molded into a tube to receive the lemon-scented ricotta. The result is a light, easy dessert, a most welcome substitution for the usual heavy cannoli. In fact, you might find that many items on Pizzeria Dante's menu are a welcome substitution for the usual.
Pizzeria Dante is open Monday through Saturday, 11:30am-10:00pm, and Sunday 12:00pm-9:00pm. 1398 Beacon Street, Brookline. MBTA: Green line (C) to Coolidge Corner.