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Enjoy pizza with a view at Niantic Boardwalk Pizzeria

It seems impossible, but thus far in 2022 I have yet to review a pizza place. I came close in February with a few visits to Surfridge brewery, which happens to offer wood-fired pizza, but fresh pies aren’t necessarily Surfridge’s main thing. Then I noticed Niantic Boardwalk Pizzeria (NBP) on a Google map. The universe had spoken, so off I went to downtown Niantic. 

Now, getting to downtown Niantic is one thing, but parking there is quite another. Be prepared to park in a nearby lot and walk over to NBP, because there’s pretty much no parking at the restaurant proper. Once inside, though, all is well because most tables offer a view of Niantic Bay. (The people-watching must be fabulous come high summer.)

Like many of its pizza-place peers, NBP’s menu is long and varied. From standard pies to specialty creations, plus dinner entrees (Chicken Francese, anyone?), apps, grinders and much more, I needed a minute or three to figure out a representative order.

One given: Pizza. A slice of cheese pizza ($3) proved NBP’s claim of “New Haven-style” pizza correct. Thin and crispy crust meets with bright tomato sauce and good-quality mozzarella. It was hot and fresh and a generous size (read: foldable) and even better with a dash of the crushed red pepper flakes on hand at the table.

Choosing a specialty pie from a list of two dozen options took some thought. Though tempted by the Philly cheesesteak pizza ($16 for a small; $20 for a large) and the Penne Alla Vodka gourmet pizza ($19), I opted for a type of pie that I sample often, and that was the Buffalo Chicken pizza ($14 small/$19 large). It was a wise choice and it is now the Buffalo Chicken pizza to beat, in my estimation. For me, I think it scored so well because NBP lets the buffalo sauce do the talking, with no red sauce applied. Just great mozzarella, tender, fresh sliced chicken, and tangy Buffalo sauce — on an OK crust. (Somehow my single slice had a much better crust in terms of flavor and texture.) Still, the fresh and zippy toppings made it very easy to not get hung up on crust details. My co-taster also enjoyed it quite a bit.

We discovered two more hits in the Chopped Pasta Salad ($10) and Tortellini en Brodo soup ($6; one size). Before you balk at a $10 pizza-shop salad, be aware that this dish could easily feed two people. Whether that’s due to the abundant chopped penne pasta atop the fresh greens, (good) cherry tomatoes, and cucumbers or the handfuls of chopped bacon that you’ll unearth throughout, this is a hearty salad that doesn’t necessarily need the accompanying balsamic dressing because it’s just so packed with flavor. In the name of science, I tried after a few sans-dressing forkfuls and then added some dressing, which brought a nice, mellow tanginess that woke up many of the flavors within. The salad technically comes with olives, onions, and gorgonzola, but I requested the salad without them and received it as such.

As for the tortellini soup, it’s a tasty tomato-based broth packed with pasta and very enjoyable indeed. In many cases, the tortellinis in such soups don’t tend to taste like much, but NBP renders them super flavorful. (The secret: Cooking them in the broth versus pre-boiling.) I would love to stock up on this soup when fall rolls around. Bonus: It was even better the next day when I gleefully re-discovered my leftovers in the fridge.

Alongside NBP’s long list of hot and cold grinders, one also has a choice of a few types of stromboli and calzones. The Boardwalk Stromboli ($9) looked promising: baked dough stuffed with green peppers, onions, chopped meatballs, and cheese, with marinara for dipping. Somehow, it got a mild “meh” rating from both of us, although it was greatly improved after some dips in the very good marinara. The dough was baked to perfection, golden and crispy, and all the ingredients tasted just fine, but the sum of the parts didn’t add up to much for us. Caveat: We know it’s wrong, but we would not have minded a bit of cheesy-greasiness throughout, so take our assessment with a grain of salt, so to speak.

But of course, the best tends to come last, and when I spotted cannoli on the short list of desserts, I had to investigate. When I was told they are prepared in house, two of them came home with me, and holy moly: delicious. From the cinnamon-tinged and crisp pastry shell to the uber-creamy filling and generous application of chocolate sprinkles, we loved everything about them and they are hereby among the best we’ve had in the region. Also, they’re very big, so the price tag of $6 for two cannoli was a lovely bonus.

Maybe because of their ubiquity, our friendly neighborhood pizza shops tend to be full of surprises. With its great view, courteous service, and many, many good options on the menu Niantic Boardwalk Pizzeria stands out in a crowded field. Slices and cannolis for dinner? Yes, please.

 

Niantic Boardwalk Pizzeria

211 Main St, Niantic 

(860) 415-8015

nianticboardwalkpizzeria.com

Cuisine: Per the website, "New Haven style pizza and pasta"; plus hot and cold grinders, salads, entrees, and much more.

Atmosphere: Very casual dining with a view of Niantic Bay. More spacious than it appears from the outside,

Service: Welcoming, courteous and efficient

Hours: Monday-Thursday and Sunday, 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m.

Prices: Pretty standard pizza-shop pricing; specialty pizzas start at $14 for a small; grinders range from $8.50 to $11; entrees, pasta dishes, and other specials run from $14 to $18.

Credit cards: Accepted

Handicapped access: Parking on busy Main Street is pretty spotty, and what looks like a parking area in the rear of the building appears to be private. I parked in the nearby shopping center and hoofed it the short distance to the door. Also, there is one step to get in the front door.

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