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Phantom Gourmet: A4 Pizza In Somerville

SOMERVILLE - At A4 Pizza in Somerville's Union Square, the pizzas go well beyond ordinary, because owner Michael Krupp and his team transform simple dough, sauce, and cheese, into delicious culinary alchemy.

"It's really just full of flavor, full of magic? I don't know, it's just one of the most incredible pieces of pizza I've ever had."

Obviously the ingredients are a big part of what makes these pizzas great. The dough comes from a 14 year old sourdough starter. The sauce is made in house from a closely guarded recipe, and the fresh mozzarella is homemade every day.

But how these pizzas are cooked is just as important, because they are fired up inside a custom built beauty of an oven.

"It's a Ferrari of ovens. It's 100% wood fired, and that is literally our only piece of cooking equipment. We did that because we really wanted to reconnect with food at its most primal level. It's a guy; it's some food; it's some fire; put it all together, awesome time."

A4's pizzas are personal sized, about 12 inches in diameter and each one is made with care: from the sublimely simple Margherita to the Fennel Sausage and House-Pickled Banana Pepper.

"So you have this nice combination of the sweet and savory from the fennel sausage, the spiciness and the acid from the pickles, mixed with our fresh mozzarella. It really just creates this incredibly complex, spicy, but really wonderful, wonderful tasting pizza," Krupp explained.

If you'd like a little sopressata and bacon along with your sausage, the Carnivore is a pie you've got to try. If you'd prefer no meat at all, the Shiitake Mushroom pizza is a must order.

"We finish it with a farm fresh egg that's cracked right on top. So it comes to your table, it's just set, you can crack the egg and smear it around your pizza and oh, it's so good."

Another combination that is making mouths water at A4 is their Clam and Bacon pizza. Inspired by the classic versions made in New Haven, Michael decided to come up with his own, and he thinks this rendition improves on the one coming out of Connecticut.

"We thought we could do it better, and I think we have. What we've done is, we created a clam sauce. On top of that, we add the Wellfleet clams, and of course the Niman Ranch bacon, some pecorino cheese, a little bit of red pepper. It is just out of this world. It's salty, it's savory, it tastes like the ocean, but it's still not over powering."

Even for first timers, from the second you step into A4's narrow 36 seat dining room; it's the kind of place that makes you feel like you've been here before. With weathered walls, lots of wood, and fun old school records covers hung for decoration, that's exactly what they were going for.

"Everyone's got that memory of that place they'd go to on a regular basis that they would get pizza as a kid," said Krupp. "We wanted to bring back that feeling of sort of your local pizza place. Just a place where you walk in and you immediately feel comfortable. You might not know why, but there's something familiar about the place you're about to have your dinner."

Of all the choices you could make for that dinner, none are more popular than the Buffalo Chicken and Gorgonzola pizza.

"Our Buffalo Chicken pizza starts with a sauce that's made of cream cheese, Frank's Red Hot, green tabasco, a little spicy. On top of that we've got some gorgonzola cheese, our roasted chicken with Niman Ranch bacon, and if that isn't good enough, on the side we give you a little dipping plate of our housemade bacon blue cheese dressing. So you really get the full combo of the Buffalo Wing experience on a pizza."

A4 is certainly a pizza-centric kinda place, but there is a little more on the menu worth tasting.

Appetizers include a crock of Green Olives and Almonds, warm, fluffy, baked to order Pita Bread with Baba Ganoush, and addictive Garlic Knots with plenty of Pecorino.

For dessert, there are just two options, and they're both old school awesome.

"We got two desserts: Italian Ice. Hoodsies. That's it," stated Krupp. "For anyone who grew up in New England, seeing the Hoodsie cup, which was such a part of anyone who's grown up in New England's childhood, it's just all of a sudden you see the memories flooding back, and the joy. Then when you give them the wooden spoon, the stick to eat it with, done, seventh heaven. It's like they're back in their childhood."

Whether they're bringing back tasty memories or helping create new ones, you're pretty sure to be smiling at A4 because their pizza really is feel good food.

"I've never met anyone who says they don't like pizza. Nobody's ever said, 'I don't like pizza.' And really, it's hard to find anyone who's said, I don't want pizza. Even bad pizza is still pizza. But to be able to serve a really, really excellent pizza, something that beats anyone's expectations of what a pizza could be or should be, it makes it all worthwhile."

You can find A4 Pizza at 445 Somerville Ave in Somerville, and online at areafour.com.

Watch Phantom Gourmet on Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30 and 11 a.m. on myTV38.

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