Students navigate Medford pizza scene

Pizzerias on Boston Avenue are pictured on Sept. 29. Rachel Hartman / The Tufts Daily

It is certainly no secret that there are a wealth of options for students to eat pizza around campus. Whether a student is navigating Tufts dining halls, sauntering around Davis Square or strolling down Boston Avenue, pizza is an omnipresent force. A rich pizza culture has evolved around the school, driven by the prevalence of popular family-owned restaurants in Medford and Somerville.

Students have developed detailed opinions about which pizza they prefer. After surveying 87 Tufts students, there were 21 different establishments named as favorites, ranging from restaurants like Semolina Kitchen and Bar or Posto to more classic parlors like Espresso Pizza and Nick’s House of Pizza to Tufts’ dining halls Dewick-MacPhie Dining Center and Carmichael Dining Center.

When students were asked to rank their top three pizza places, Espresso Pizza, Pizza Days, Nick’s House of Pizza, Oath Craft Pizza and Lisa’s Family Pizzeria all received double digit votes. Boston Avenue, which has been dubbed “Pizza Pie Row” in a pizza-themed rap by Tufts’ own The Institute Sketch Comedy group, certainly lived up to its nickname. The Medford street is home to four of the five most popular destinations.

Espresso Pizza dominated the poll, receiving 28 first place votes, followed by Pizza Days (16 first place votes).

“If I am walking on Boston Ave, I will likely go to Espresso’s because of their variety, but if I am ordering from home [I will get] Pizza Days because it’s the cheapest,” one respondent to the survey wrote.

Espresso Pizza owner Patty Moore, who has worked at the shop since she was 17 years old, expressed how much she has enjoyed serving Tufts students throughout her tenure at the restaurant.

“There are a lot of nice students at that school,” Moore said. “It’s always special when during graduation, students come to say goodbye.”

Although it easily earned first place, Espresso Pizza has experienced its share of adversity since opening. Moore’s brother Anthony Salvato Jr., who bought the store in the late 1970s, passed away in September 2010. After he passed, his wife decided not to renew the business’ Board of Health permits and considered selling the store. Espresso Pizza therefore closed in 2011.

After being closed for more than a year, Moore decided to reopen the store and obtained the necessary permits. Espresso Pizza opened again in December 2012. She feels that the stability since then has been a critical reason for Espresso’s popularity among the Tufts community.

“I think people like the consistency here,” Moore said. “There’s consistency with the hours, consistency with the workers. You can always see the same faces here.”

Nick’s House of Pizza, which came in third place in the poll, also has the benefit of being an established option around campus. Owner John Kermanidis said his family moved from Greece in the mid-70s and opened up Nick’s House of Pizza in Huntington, Mass. 

“That’s where my family perfected the recipe for the dough and the sauce,” Kermanidis said.

In 1988, Kermanidis’ grandfather moved Nick’s House of Pizza from Huntington to Medford, due to the proximity to a major university. 

“Initially it was slow and we kind of took it step by step,” Kermanidis said. “My grandfather definitely took a leap of faith.”

He noted that at first, Nick’s received primarily Tufts faculty and staff orders, but eventually the name trickled down to the students. Kermanidis was able to shed some light on what he thought students look for in a pizza.

“I think students are able to recognize the quality of our pizza, as we make everything on site,” Kermanidis said. “We try to do it right.”

According to the survey, when students were asked to pick the two factors most important to them in deciding on a pizza, taste (80%) and cost (52%) were the clear top two, followed by convenience (30%).

Senior Ethan Sorkin, who feels that Espresso Pizza is the number one option around campus, represents these survey results well. 

“I look for the best combination of quality and price,” Sorkin said. “If I am paying more than $12 for a large cheese pizza, it’s not worth it.”

While Oath Craft Pizza suffers from being on the other side of campus, it still managed to garner the fourth most votes, partially due to its variety of options.

“As someone with [Celiac disease], Oath is the only place around with gluten free options, and [it is also] the most expensive option,” one student wrote in the survey about the Davis Square shop.

Senior Andres Bolanos said he felt that being able to sit down and enjoy the meal is a priority when seeking out a pizza establishment.

“I look for a comfortable space with affordable prices,” Bolanos said. “I enjoy Lisa’s because of its chill atmosphere. Plus for $4, you can get two slices and a nice soda.”

Although it came short of first place, Pizza Days has garnered quite the cult following at Tufts. First-year Brendan Hartnett is one such avid supporter.

Pizza Days is easily the best spot near campus,” Hartnett said. “You can’t beat what they have in culture and price It’s a great experience.”

Pizza Days employees echoed this sentiment from Hartnett.

“I think students like coming to Pizza Days to see the friendly faces,” Kaan Elmas said, who has been working at Pizza Days since 2015.

Another employee, Asis Rai, noted how he thought students appreciated the hours of the restaurant.

“I think we were the first pizza place around to stay open really late, as we are open until 3 a.m. every night, which students enjoy,” Rai said. “Then other places started doing the same.”

While the competition to be the best pizza option near Tufts is as competitive as ever, it is clear that the students are the ones benefiting. As one student wrote in the survey: “I just love pizza. I don’t like to limit myself; we live one life and if I’m not filling that life with cheesy, delicious pies, then I’m not here for it. Therefore, all pizza [is] good pizza.”