Old friends. New digs. Not quite the same, but much nostalgia remains.
We walk in the door of Jinny’s Pizzeria in Newton. Paul, our favorite bartender from Bergamot (R.I.P. 😢) walks up and says hello and gives us a huge hug. It’s been over two years, and the world is a new place. We marvel at Jinny’s Pizzeria, the new pizza joint opened by Chef Lydia Reichert (Paul’s ”better half” as he would say), Chef David Punch and and Shane Smythe (Sycamore, Big Little Diner).
The next thing you know, Bryan‘s enjoying a new version of his old favorite cocktail (the Elisabetta), now in bottled form called ”Dear Elisabetta.”
Jinny's Specialty: The Pizzas
We’ve heard amazing things about the pizzas, so we go ahead and order several. Chef Lydia tells us she spent weeks perfecting the dough, trying various different flour combinations. She was trying to achieve a particular dough quality using local Vermont flour (not Italian flour, which would have been more straightforward).
Though the flour is not from Italy, their massive wood-fired 700° Valoriani oven certainly is. They ordered it from Tuscany right in the middle of the pandemic when (apparently) these ovens were in hot demand all around the world. People wanted their authentic Neapolitan pizzas! If they couldn’t go enjoy it at a restaurant, then they wanted to make their own . . . in their backyard(!). Thankfully, Jinny’s Pizzeria was able to receive their oven in time before the restaurant opened.
Authentic Neapolitan pizza or not, I think Chef Lydia has succeeded, and so do the hundreds of other diners who order take-out or dine-in on a given week.
Lydia tells us that business has been booming. They have done quite well during the pandemic. Sure, pizza is very pandemic-friendly (i.e. delivery friendly) food. But that’s not the only reason. Chef Lydia’s pizzas are genuinely delicious. The crust she has developed is slightly chewy, slightly toasty, and has a really nice flavor. Her weeks of research paid off. Furthermore, the toppings are also spot on.
The Other Stuff - Jinny's Side Dishes
The sides are excellent as well. After all, Chef Lydia is an incredibly talented cook (we know from the days she was executive chef at Sycamore), so it’s no surprise she’s a genius with flavors.
“We have to get the chicken meatballs,” our friend Peter tells us, “they go incredibly well with the Margherita pizza.” We usually trust Peter, who dines here regularly. In some ways, it’s the new reincarnated Bergamot for us, though it’s not quite the same.
Challenges: The Pandemic, Economy, and More
Business has been very good, but they’ve had to make some tough decisions too, as inflation has hit recently. Chef Lydia refuses to jack up prices, and instead has had to make creative changes at times. The shrimp scampi pizza we are enjoying? (which is absolutely delicious, by the way). It was supposed to be a lobster scampi pizza, until the price of lobster shot up to ridiculous amounts.
“I’m not charging $30 a pie.” Lydia’s firm about that. Jinny’s is not that type of restaurant.
”We can find very good wines at all price points.” Paul adds, ”If a wine becomes too expensive, we just swap it out for another one.” I trust Paul. He knows his wines and is extremely talented at scouting out little known producers who make fabulous wines.
Mini Backstage Tour
After we finish eating, Lydia offers to take us on a mini kitchen tour. The back isn't big, but there's a massive mixer for the dough and a huge pile of pizza boxes, ready for the day. When things are busy, they blow through stacks of boxes FAST. It's quite resourceful how they make use of every small space.
We see various bins of dough at different stages of their life journey towards becoming a pizza. Chef Lydia also keeps meticulously labeled bins for all the different raw ingredients. And yes, there are many huge bags of Vermont flour.
We didn't expect to see Dave Punch there as well, which was a pleasant surprise. Dave used to be executive chef at Ten Tables Cambridge, which was just a few minutes from our old Cambridge home.
What an amazing reunion!
We've realized that the restaurant world is a dynamic place, and things can change very, very quickly. The pandemic has exacerbated this phenomenon, ravaging through cities and destroying a swath of restaurants in its path.
Yet what we've also realized is that friendships remain even after the restaurant is gone. Of course, we miss Bergamot dearly and will always look fondly back at those memories. But there are new memories to be made, and new stories to tell!
So we're thrilled for both Paul and Lydia. We're thrilled they are working together at the same restaurant, and that the restaurant is doing really, really well. Despite Bergamot closing, we're thrilled there's another amazing restaurant we can visit, time and time again, where we are greeted warmly with a hug, a smile, and an Elisabetta.
Epilogue: Back Again, 2022
Yep, that's right. When we returned in the spring of 2022, Paul had the foresight to prepare several flasks of Bryan's favorite Elisabetta cocktail, even including the orange peel on the side. It was such a thoughtful gesture. Bryan took the keepsake bottle and carried it all the way back to Hong Kong.
We'll keep it displayed as a reminder of our dear friends in Boston.
Jinny's Pizzeria Newton
1231 Centre Street
Newton, MA 02459
Wed - Sun, 4:30 - 9PM