|As its name would suggest, Bill's Pizzeria offers a variety of delicious pizzas to choose from. (JODI HILTON FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE)|
Pizza is only half of it
It calls itself a pizzeria, but Bill's is much more than that. Since it tripled its space last fall with a dining room that includes local artwork on its exposed brick walls, Bill's has been also spreading the gospel of pasta, house "dinners," and specialty sandwiches.
But first among equals is the pizza. There are about 20 signature pies, which you can get "dressed" (traditional sauce), "naked" (ricotta or Alfredo sauce), "green" (pesto sauce), or "red" (no cheese, just sauce). In addition, you can mix and match from 44 different toppings, ranging from homemade falafel to white clams with lemon and garlic.
Everything is homemade, from the dough -- which yields a crispy crust -- to the sauces. Bill's also makes the thicker Sicilian pizza, so popular a generation ago, but harder to find now.
There's no Bill at Bill's Pizzeria, but there is Dino, whose parents bought the place from the original Bill in 1976 and retired in 1991. Dino Chronopoulos runs it and had help from his younger brother, Taso. But two years ago, Taso was seriously injured when a car failed to yield and crashed into his: He was left paralyzed. Last fall, Dino organized Bill's first 5K run, raising $10,000 for spinal-cord injuries. After the race, about 500 runners repaired back to Bill's for pizza on the house. (I'll be there next year for a good cause and great pizza.)
Speaking of pizza, the meat lover at our table chose the Carnivore ($10.99 small, $16.99 large). It was "dressed," in traditional red sauce, and loaded with seasoned hamburger, marinated chicken and steak strips, pepperoni, salami, sliced Italian meatballs, sausage chunks, and bacon strips. Every crumb disappeared, and I felt like taking my husband straight to the doctor for a cholesterol check. For a lighter choice, try the Nude Veggie ($10.99, $15.99), with pesto sauce, sun-dried tomatoes, marinated artichoke hearts, and chopped garlic.
The restaurant is casual: Order at the counter, find a seat, and they'll call you. The menu is written on blackboards and includes dozens of sandwiches. We tried the classic Greek wrap ($5.79), figuring we couldn't go wrong (and we didn't) because the owners are first-generation Greek. The sandwich is basically a Greek salad rolled up in pita bread. There's marinated chicken strips, lettuce, onion, tomato, feta, black olives, and green peppers -- lots of it -- all held together with a tangy "Emilia's Greek Dressing." Emilia is Dino's mother, whose homemade dressing was so popular with the customers that they began bottling and selling it for $3.99.
Many of the recipes Dino uses come from his parents, John and Emilia, who grew up in Greece during World War II when there wasn't much available. As a result, they constantly stuffed their family with all sorts of food. "You know that movie ('My Big Fat Greek Wedding')? That's us, always eating, always cooking," he says.
One of those recipes is the marinade for the steak tips ($8.29), a signature item here. They're soaked a day or even two in a house blend of seasonings and then charbroiled for a smoky flavor. They're tender and delicious and come with fries and a salad. From the pasta selections, the blackened chicken with broccoli over Alfredo penne ($7.69) is a terrific choice. There's a generous amount of fresh broccoli and chicken that has a Cajun kick to it. For dessert, there's a gelato case with several flavors, as well as baklava baked by Dino's mother-in-law.
Bill's offers "comment cards" and asks customers to write on them. Some of them are displayed under glass tabletops; others fill a bulletin board. Recent remarks include: "Bill's Pizza is Scandalous!" and "Melanie the Pizza Chick Rules." One guy, Eric, wrote: "Bill's Rocks." He added a P.S. about President Bush, which had more to do with politics than pizza. Wrote another customer: "Who the heck is Bill?"