Regina Pizzeria North End Boston

Boston’s Oldest Pizzeria: A Slice of History

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The year was 1926. Boston Red Sox fans were only seven years into the long-running Curse of the Bambino, the 85-year championship drought long attributed to bad juju stemming from the 1919 decision to trade Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees. Adding insult to injury, Ruth — now in a Yankees uniform — was setting a new world record, hitting three home runs in the fourth game of the 1926 World Series. Meanwhile, back in Boston, Luigi D’Auria was opening Regina Pizzeria, the city’s first-ever pizza parlor, and introducing what some pizza lovers claim ranks among the best pizza in America.

The then-45-year-old Italian immigrant had arrived in the United States four years earlier. Details about what prompted him to open a pizzeria and what he did before arriving in the U.S., are sparse, but we do know that D’Auria ran the successful North End eatery for decades before either selling the business or, by some accounts, dying and leaving the restaurant to a close relative. Even the year of the turnover is up for debate. Some sources claim D’Auria’s grandson inherited the business in the 1940s, but that timeline doesn’t work given that D’Auria died in 1955. Others claim D’Auria himself sold the business in the 1940s. Whatever happened, we know for sure that Regina Pizzeria ended up in the hands of the Polcari family — the same family that ran the neighborhood grocery where D’Auria bought supplies — and it’s been operating under their ownership ever since.

Do one thing and do it right

Regina Pizzeria exterior

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The restaurant Luigi D’Auria established 98 years ago is still open and is still selling some of Boston’s best pizza. The Polcaris haven’t changed much about the operation. The company opened a second location in 1975 and currently has a roster of 12 New England pizzerias, including one at Foxwoods Casino Resort in Ledyard, Connecticut, but the original storefront at 11½ Thacher St. in Boston’s North End remains true to its roots.

Patrons pass through a corner entrance leading to a wood-paneled dining room where they either grab a booth or take a seat at a Formica-topped table. In the kitchen, pizza chefs turn out mouthwatering Old World-style pizza pies (up to 900 per day) baked to perfection in the original circa 1888 oven — D’aurio switched from coal to gas fire in the 1930s.

The most popular pizza on the menu today? Traditional cheese and tomato. Pepperoni, the No.1-ranked pizza topping in the U.S., comes in at a close second. What’s the secret to success? Some pizza connoisseurs say Regina Pizzeria’s proprietary blend of cheese sets it apart from the pack. Others point to the dough, which is aged for seven to 10 days. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the iconic pizza parlor sticks to the basics, specializing in only pizza; you won’t find any soups, salads, or sandwiches on the menu. Regina Pizzeria does pizza and they do it right.

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