The space on Somerville Ave. between Union and Porter Squares is something of a no man’s land. While there is a grocery store (and what a grocery store) and a confusing number of Crossfit studios, there are few foot traffic-generating storefronts. If you have an auto that needs repair or dirty clothing that needs coin-op laundering, Somerville Ave. has got your back. If you’re looking to kick back and get dinner and a drink without hoofing it down to one of the squares, sorry pal. We don’t got that.
Cambridge-born A4 Pizza (445 Somerville Ave., areafour.com) is a sign that good things are coming to fill this interstitial space that once housed the ephemeral Bearded Pig. A4’s menu is a little more spartan than its big sister, Area Four in Kendall, and focuses almost exclusively on pizza.
Pizza is frequently seen as a commodity good. It is ever-ready and fungible, its provenance is less important than how goddamned quickly I can get pizza into my pizza hole (DUDE, PINI’S HAS LIKE AN HOUR WAIT). The naysayer may point out there are more pizza shops in Somerville than Dunkin’s and ask, do we need another? True: there are plenty of places to find great pizza in Somerville but unfortunately they are vastly outnumbered by the more disappointing varieties. Even purveyors of superb pizza are not necessarily the kind of place where you want to actually to eat pizza. You know the scene: harsh fluorescent lighting, two tables shimmied up next to the large plate glass windows as an afterthought, no evidence of a bathroom for customer use. A4 has the best of both worlds, delicious pizza and a welcoming ambiance. Takeout is available, delivery is not.
The pizza itself is served on a hearty sourdough crust, which is substantial and toothy enough to hold up to the fairly powerful toppings. The basil-walnut pesto, for example, is pesto for days. The wellfleet cherrystone clam and bacon pizza almost completely redefines bivalve-porcine relations and the exotic mushroom pizza may simply confuse amateur pizza eaters. That being said, the non-pizza portion of the menu is slim but just as appealing as the pizza. Those not in the mood for an entire 12” pizza may find the smoked bluefish or prosciutto salad to be a delicious smaller meal.
The interior space of A4 is cozy (not a byword for tiny; actually cozy) and the pizza oven is visible from every corner of the restaurant. A wide selection of classic Nintendo games (up up down down left right left right B A start) are available for anyone to play, but please remember that you are not as good at Tetris or Super Mario Bros. as you remember. A bar with limited seating is available, but I’ve only seen the stools filled with hungry, hungry patrons. The beer and wine selections are both fairly broad and well-curated. In addition, A4 has a short list of whiskies and bitter spirits, both of which help us forget that we are the only animal which is completely aware of its own mortality.
All in all, A4 is a solid establishment with excellent food, pleasant waitstaff and a comfortable environment, making it a welcome addition to an ever-expanding list of dining choices on Somerville Ave.