Friedmanites check out a fledgling but buzzed-about upscale pizza spot in Boston’s Fort Point neighborhood.
Pastoral is one of the newest spots to open in Boston’s Fort Point neighborhood, nestled between the Seaport and the Financial Districts. Competing with big-name, upscale dining spots like Sportello and Menton, this “artisan pizza kitchen” has made a name for itself via its imported from-Naples wood-fired pizza oven. Pastoral specializes in Neapolitan-style pizzas—think hand-stretched dough that has a chewy yet firm crumb and a perfect crispness to the crust’s bottom. Flavors range from much-adored Margherita to more creative pairings such as veal meatball and broccoli rabe. Raved as one of the “hottest new Italian restaurants in Boston” by Zagat, Pastoral has been certified an official “pizzaiolo” by the Italian organization Associazone Verace Pizza Napoletana (or the “True Neapolitan Pizza Association”). A group of friends and I – thirteen of us in all – ventured down to Pastoral a few Friday nights ago, eager for an upgrade to the term “late-night pizza.”
From the rustically mismatched chairs and the blue and white farmhouse napkins, to the big metal coffee cans of silverware on each wood-slab table, the place has a bit of a mixed (and almost confused) vibe between trying-too-hard casual and fancy-date-night. Consequently, Pastoral attracts an eclectic mix of diners. Families of tourists wearing Revolutionary War hats from next door’s Boston Tea Party Museum enjoyed offerings from both the kids’ menu – which includes pizza, pastas, and an $8 grilled cheese – and the regular menu; groups of couples shared appetizer plates like octopus, fried stuffed olives, and chicken liver crostini; and after-work groups indulged in Pastoral’s unique “beer cocktail” selections.
My group tasted a plethora of Pastoral’s offerings. The lemon pizza, though a bit difficult to eat due to the handful of fresh arugula heaped on top, benefits from the mix of its other ingredients: jalapeño rings, fresh mozzarella, and bonito fish flakes that continue cooking after the pizza arrives at the table, causing an alluring illusion of flapping fish fins. There is a good mix of vegetarian toppings as well, while the calamari, clam, and shrimp varieties cater to pescatarian palates. Perfectly chewy crusts are flecked with brown thanks to the restaurant’s nine-hundred-degree oven. Pastoral’s pizzas measure about ten to twelve inches and, depending on topping choice, range from $10-$22.
While the pizzas are large enough for two to share and feel satisfied, the pasta plates are much smaller. For $10-$14, half-sized options allow diners a mere tasting of Pastoral’s homemade pasta choices, while full-sized servings are appetizer-sized but priced at a rather steep $19-$27. Creativity continues on this part of the menu with whipped prosciutto double ravioli in a fresh tomato sauce, ricotta dumplings paired with lobster, sausage, and creamy corn, and beet and goat cheese-stuffed “casoncelli.” While pasta options are limited, the wide variety of flavor combinations are sure to please many a pasta-craver.
Pastoral’s “Large Plates” offer a bit more food. Though the four options are meat-heavy, they include an arctic char dish as well as a daily-rotating whole roasted fish. The vegetable sides are “wood-fired” or “wood-roasted” and include corn, kale, and brassica (the expensive restaurant term for veggies like broccoli and cauliflower). The veggie sides aren’t too impressive, but the portion sizes are. My group ordered the brassica side, and it arrived heaped with, well, brassica—a Friedman favorite.
Pastoral’s drink offerings are arguably more impressive than its food, and local beers and liquors make the list next to other domestic and foreign varieties. And while the combination of beer and liquor might call to mind the “don’t mix alcohol” mantra of undergraduate days, the restaurant’s beer cocktails offer drinkers a unique way to combine both in deliciously grown-up ways. The “Southie Shandy” combines Sam Adams Boston lager, bourbon, and a lemon-sugar-bitters mixture creating a tart, sweet, boozy refresher. Cocktails like the “Freedom Trail” and the “Sorrento” make use of house-made ingredients such as fennel-infused simple syrup. The draft, can, and bottle beer selection is extensive, as is the red and white wine list. Pastoral even offers a small selection of wines on tap. The drinks at Pastoral are by no means inexpensive but prices are consistent with the rest of the menu. Diners can expect to pay $6-$13 for beer, between $7 and $13 for a glass of wine, and around $11 for a cocktail. On-table bottles of sparkling or still mineral water are free.
One disappointing part of my group’s excursion to Pastoral was that our waitress brought our bill without any mention of dessert or even coffee. While rumor around the table was that Pastoral creates homemade gelato and decadent buttermilk cookies, neither were listed on the restaurant’s website. It seems like this Neapolitan restaurant is missing a large piece of the Neapolitan tradition—its dessert!
Bottom line: Take your latest Tinder right-swipe to Pastoral if you’re already in the Fort Point neighborhood and in the mood for traditional Neapolitan pizza (in flavor, not price. You’d be hard-pressed to find any pizza in Naples as expensive as this, but at least Pastoral lets you save the money on the plane ticket). Share a few pizzas, sip a beer cocktail, try the on-tap wine, and head somewhere else for dessert. But please, leave your souvenir Revolutionary War hat at home.
Pastoral Artisan Pizza Kitchen and Bar – 395 Congress St., Boston, MA, 617-345-0005
Mimi DelGizzi is a dual degree MS/MPH student and expects to graduate December 2014. Admittedly, she had to Google, “How does Tinder work?” for this review.