To Do item: Riverview Pizza, Ipswich, MA

From today’s Boston Globe food pages:

Great pizza, plain and simple:

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. What ain’t broke at the Riverview in Ipswich is the pizza, served the “old way” or regular. This year Saveur magazine named Riverview’s pie to its top 100 list. “Old way” means the sauce and seasonings are placed on top of the cheese, as though the sauce is so good they want you to taste that first. Recipes for the sauce and crust are top-secret. One server, who says she’s been at the restaurant since she was 18 and is now 46, says the recipes are still a mystery to her. Fancy it isn’t. The lighted beer sign hanging above the booths is still the same as when the pizza-only restaurant opened in 1947. What pass for plates are really rectangular slips of parchment paper. Handwritten checks are punctuated with a red smiley-face stamp. They don’t accept credit cards. Fortunately, a family of four could easily eat dinner on the spare bills in your pocket; the basic cheese and tomato pie is $5. Pizzas are one size only. The toppings menu tucks in some pleasant surprises, and is a carnivore’s delight: You’ll find both sausage and kielbasa, pepperoni and salami. The Riverview, 20 Estes St., Ipswich, 978-356-0500.– CATHY HUYGHE

Any of you MINTM readers on the North Shore been there?


6 responses to “To Do item: Riverview Pizza, Ipswich, MA

  1. Larry Pelletier

    I grew up in Ipswich and am therefore a little prejudiced,but in the 1960’s when my father took us out for pizza there was (literally) only one place to go.And although I have always looked for,and occasionally found, pizza that was of a thin,crisp nature I still find this to be my favorite by far.Is it the best pizza?No.One either loves it or hates it usually.But it is still my favorite.Where else is “The special” a combination of mushroom,green pepper and Kielbasa?!

  2. I moved out to the North Shore back in 1996 and stayed until 2004. In that time I searched desperately for good pizza places. The greasy pizzas with their glazed crust at the House of Pizzas are a strange concoction that you can only find in New England (we called it Greek pizza since all the HoP owners seemed to be Greek).

    Early on, however, I found Riverview. After work, after an exam, after a show, we’d always head over to Riverview for a pizza and a Rolling Rock.

    Now that I am back where I can find consistently better pizza, I am still longing for Riverview. I can always find a good pie here, even a great one, but Riverview’s pizza is perfection, and that’s a tough order to fill.

  3. You absolutely can’t beat Riverview. Of all the pizza places I’ve been to it will always rank as one of my favorite places to sit with friends and a beer after a hard days work.

  4. Well, this post took way too long to post, but here goes. Linda and I couldn’t resist Andy’s call to his North Shore readers, and so we decided to head to Ipswich and check out the Riverview. First time we went for lunch. It’s not open for lunch. Next time we went for dinner on a Monday. It’s not open on Monday! Frustrated, yes, but also intrigued. We eventually went relatively early on a Friday, and soon got the vibe of the place. First, it’s sort of in a residential neighborhood, and the street begins to get parked-up pretty early. We could tell that people had that “got to get the last space before this guy does” look on their face as the crowd began to arrive. Second, it’s a cash only place. We parked, and there was already a line, I headed off to an ATM, and the street was totally parked up when I returned just a few minutes later. That is a good sign.

    They do what appears to be a massive take out business, and the interior is modest in a red Naugahyde-booth sort of way. Reminiscent of Vinny’s in Pittsburgh actually. As soon as we sat down a waitress came by and said “Do you know what you want?” We said, “A couple of beers and we’ll look at a menu.” She rolled her eyes in that typical Boston-area way and handed us the little stand-up plastic thing on the table that usually has an advertisement for beer or something on it, and walked away. To paraphrase “You need a menu? … Neophyte.”

    The menu lists all their toppings as well as a few combinations. The Pizza’s are small, and cheap, so we soon got the idea that each person orders one, and takes left-overs if there are any. We decided on the veggy combination (which comes with everything, except spinach) and a kielbasi pizza, since that seems to be a specialty. When we ordered the veggy, the waitress asked “Do you want the garlic?” while peering over a set of reading glasses with one of those librarian-around-the-neck-chain things. It seemed obvious that there was only one correct answer. “Yes” we said, apparently guessing correctly. Off she went. Now, I’m not sure that she actually had one of those librarian glasses-holding chains, or even reading glasses at all, but as time goes by, this is how I remember it. To be fair, our waitress was excellent, beers when we wanted them, and funny, again in that Durgin-park sort of way.

    The Pizzas arrived, and if you remember only one thing I’ve written remember this. The pizza is volcanically hot when it comes to the table. The only thing that saved me from burning the roof of my mouth and not tasting another thing for the rest of the night was a willingness to exhibit table manners that I probably wouldn’t have in most other restaurants. Now I would say that I took a bite and had to drop it back onto my plate to prevent burning myself, but that would leave the impression that you’ll be getting a plate. Which you won’t. So to avoid having to do what I did in the interest of being able to render a fair and accurate taste impression, let the pizza cool for a second first.

    They clearly have a very hot oven, and it shows not only in the temperature of the toppings, but in how the crust is cooked. The crust is thin, but cooked perfectly to my liking, light, and even charred in places around the edge, sort of like a more delicate version of a Vinny’s pie. The taste and sound of the crust is excellent, and the pizza is easy to eat from tip to crust. The oven obviously cooks lots of pizzas, because the bottom is flecked with the charred bits of pizzas gone by. It’s very good. On the veggy, the ingredients are chopped rather small so they give a mixed veggy taste that’s nice, and a little different than usual. The sauce is a sweet tomato-paste type sauce, with no real hint of oregano. Because the veggies are sweet tasting also, I think the garlic is essential, and it was excellent. The same is true of the Kielbasi. I can see why it’s a favorite, the spiciness of the Kielbasi goes perfectly with the sweeter sauce. This kind of pizza, light and intense in it’s way, induces that familiar pizza feeding frenzy (you’ll notice that tables become very quiet after the pizza is served). I don’t remember bringing home left-overs.

    It’s a fun place if you enjoy the atmosphere of a local pizza joint with a faithful following. The pizza is one of the better examples of a kind of pizza that many people love, and they definitely have their thing DOWN. I did not have the nerve to ask to see the pizza oven, but perhaps when I get my press credentials, I’ll be more brave. And Andy, thanks for giving us the assignment, we’re happy to accept any others….

  5. I live around the corner from the Riverview. As an insider, I would like to add that the Riverview is on the street that parallels the Ipswich train station. You can go there by train and walk across the train parking lot to Estes street. Also, where Riverview isn’t open until 4:30PM, the railroad parking lot clears out between 5 and 6. Parking is ABUNDANT at the train station lot and its a quick trot across the parking lot to the Riverview.

    So many people don’t realize this and Estes Street becomes difficult to manuver never mind find parking!

    Have a great meal!


  6. This pizza is by far the best. I grew up on the North Shore playing hockey, and we would go there as a team for each game. Its about a 20 min drive to get there, but that hasnt stopped me from going there well over 100 times. I have since relocated to Boston, but ANY time I drive home I always stop at Riverview to pick up a pizza….or 5.