East Side Cafe
378 Newell Street, Pittsfield, Mass.
Pizza, pasta, full bar, takeouts
Thin and crispy, charcaol oven-baked pizza from East Side Cafe.
So, it’s Thursday night and you’re looking to get a pizza and a beer. There are probably more pizza places in the Berkshires than any other kind of restaurant but they’re not all created equal.
Many are pitched as "family restaurants” some are just plain ugly and the pizza is all over the place too. To be fair, I think we in the Berkshires have more than our fair share of decent pizza joints for take out and most of them are pretty good but there’s something special about the East Side Cafe.
The place is cheap. Not inexpensive — cheap. For under $25 you can stuff yourself on pizza and beer. I'd describe the decor as 70’s funk. Brown vinyl upholstery covers the soft-to-saggy benches on either side of tables topped with a thick, syrupy layer of varnish so old it looks like cracked amber.
There’s nothing much on the walls but the pizza is the real deal. If you want to have pizza, you have to come on Thursday, Friday or Saturday night. Otherwise, no pizza. They’ll make you a burger or a hot dog but no pizza. If you want to try their house made pasta your window of opportunity is even smaller; on Thursdays for lunch, you can choose from ravioli, gnocchi or ziti, Fridays you can have linguine with clam sauce. Only on those days and only until they run out.
The pizza itself is New York style, thin crust with a bit of char on the bottom, made in a charcoal burning oven, it’s tasty and slightly smokey which makes even a plain cheese pizza a little special.
We were feeling zen so we ordered a large one “with everything” and a small cheese pizza (to really taste the sauce) on the side. Pizzas are on the small side, 12 inches is a large but that’s enough for two for dinner and the most you can spend on it is $13.
Young families do show up here with their kids but the kids seem to know the place is not about them. While we were there families with babies, toddlers and school aged kids all came in, ate their pizza or took it out and socialized with a minimum of fuss. We were not subjected to someone’s children running roughshod over staff and patrons alike, there was no shouting, there are no crayons. It’s more of a pub than a restaurant, after all.
The East Side Cafe offers gluten-free beer and pizza as well as their more typical offerings. You can have anchovies on your pizza if you want them. Service was fast, friendly and no-nonsense.
Our pizzas were hot, fresh and tasty, covered in bubbling cheese with a tasty sauce serving as their foundation (East Side Cafe won best sauce in this year's Berkshire Pizza Competition, and it was deserved.) Toppings are traditional, you can't have goat cheese or fresh sage or pine nuts or anything like that - if you want that stuff, you're in the wrong spot. It was good, fresh, no-nonsense pizza and on a Thursday night, in my book, that's hard to beat.
We took the opportunity to try their pasta specials the following week. Gnocchi was fine, in a good, rich tomato sauce, the ziti was nothing special. Both dishes would have benefitted from a layer of melted cheese. (If I could ask this place to do one thing, it would be to retire the shakers full of powdery-dry “parmesan”) But the ravioli was excellent. Hand made pasta enveloped some very tasty filling, we were told the ravioli was meat-filled but we had both meat and cheese filled ravioli in our take out dish which was just fine with me. If you have the choice, the cheese filled ravioli is really a standout.
All three dishes were priced under $10 for a generous serving of pasta and bread. (I’m told they serve salad if you stay but we had ours to go, there was no salad offered.)
Unpretentious, totally local and old school, this is great comfort food for a night that’s not-quite-the-weekend yet.
We’ll be back.
A Summer Place
Stephanie Farrington On: 03:54PM / Tuesday September 11, 2012
Perigee's mussels siam, mussels in a lovely coconut curry broth.
I first noticed Perigee last winter. It's between Lee and Stockbridge, its parking lot was usually full and it seemed pretty down to earth to me. Plus, according to its website, it has pasta delivery.
This summer, I noticed they had a $7 burger on the sandwich board outside.
Like many Berkshire residents, we don't have a huge disposable income, so I am pretty careful about where we choose to eat when we eat out. A place that delivers pasta and has a $7 burger seemed about right to me. So, on a recent Thursday night, my husband and I made a reservation and went to Perigee for dinner.
Perigee is a good place to take your grandparents when they come to visit. Your grandpa can have the steak and, if you check with them before you go, whatever your grandmother chooses off the menu might be half price (but I would be sure to check in advance).
As for the burger special? They don't mention it inside the restaurant and there really isn't anything else on the menu that gets close to that price so if you want a $7 burger from Perigee, call them first and confirm that the special is available before you go. It is not available on weekends.
On the positive side, we really enjoyed the mussels siam, a small serving of mussels in a lovely coconut curry broth. The sauce was, as promised, wonderful when soaked up with the bread provided. The calamari, as our server suggested, was also very good. It was perfectly cooked, tender inside, with a crisp, light golden crust coating it evenly.
The house side salad was pleasant and very reasonably priced at $3 for an appetizer but it arrived at our table without dressing, and asking for the dressing to be brought to the table seemed to confuse our server. We had to be quite assertive and explain that the salad was supposed to be served with a dressing and it was dry so ...
The host was very friendly and charming. She explained her favorites on the menu and encouraged us to give her feedback. Unfortunately, this was the place where we learned, if someone says they don't like duck but they like this duck because it doesn't taste like duck and you like duck — don't order the duck.
It was pretty apparent from the happy diners that the restaurant caters to an older crowd, and proudly so. One of their desserts: "The Brooklyn, just as you remember — yellow sponge cake in a paper push cup, topped with whipped cream and a cherry, served with a pretzel rod and a minature egg cream 'shot.'" I've never met anyone old enough to remember this and my husband lived in New York City for 30 years.
If you go to Perigee, the way to have a good time is to remember to double check the specials, be firm with your server, remember that they cater to a much older crowd, and stick to the steak.
Baba Louie's Facebook Special
Stephanie Farrington On: 11:13PM / Saturday February 04, 2012