You know the food is going to be epic when a spot stays open for less than four hours each day, doesn’t take credit cards, and may not have updated its décor since the ‘70s—but still manages to boast a daily queue that spills out onto the street. And not because it’s a fad or a tourist trap; the visiting masses flock to legendary pizza joints like Santarpio’s and Regina Pizzeria, likely passing off Galleria Umberto as a private club or a never-open obscure storefront. (Indeed the shop’s sign, with its Coca-Cola logo and simple “Rosticceria” label, isn’t exactly conspicuous.) Instead, head to Galleria Umberto to line up with locals who have been lunching here for decades.
This is no-frills food at its finest, one of the last remaining places in Boston where you can eat lunch for under two dollars. And it’s damn good; so good, in fact, that after years and years of churning out the same small menu, Galleria Umberto won a James Beard “American Classics” award in 2018. The foundation’s description of the spot—which was founded by Umberto Deuterio in 1974, and is now run by his sons Paul and Ralph—says it all: “Much has changed in the North End, but $1.85 here still buys you a slice and a taste of the old neighborhood.”
That’s a Sicilian-style slice, to be exact, and don’t expect toppings; Umberto perfected its sweet-tomato-sauce-and-salty-cheese combo long ago, and it’s here to stay. As the line moves forward, those square slices dwindle quickly until the next steaming, melty tray comes to the rescue. Toward the front, you’ll begin to see the outlines of Umberto’s other ready-to-eat treats amongst the orange glow of a hot display case: golden calzones stuffed with spinach, cheese, and flecks of sausage; ovular crispy potato panzerotti; and the locally famed arancini. When it’s your turn, a friendly Deuterio family member will slide your selections onto a tray. Set up shop beneath hand-painted wall murals of a gladiator fight or a map of Italy, and dig in.
Two o’clock is already an early closing time, but be forewarned: When the pizza runs out, it’s done for the day—so arrive on the early side to be safe.
You can skip the long line by ordering takeout. Even better, call ahead. Just don’t eat your takeout in-house (it’s forbidden). Also, make sure to bring cash.
Don’t count on this spot being open mid-summer; the family usually closes up shop to spend some QT together.
While this is our preferred Galleria Umberto, it's not the only Galleria Umberto. It's also the name of the historic covered shopping mall in Naples, which is modeled after Milan’s famous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.
Tastes of Galleria Umberto
So good we can't stop writing about it. Read more about Galleria Umberto!
- Charlestown · New American · Pizza · $$
- East Boston (+) · Italian · Pizza · $