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What is beach pizza and where can you find it in New England?

New England beaches, USA

First leaf peeping, now beach pizza – I can hear you rolling your eyes at all this New England nonsense. But hear us out, because this is the delicacy you never knew you needed. Hailing from Massachusetts, beach pizza is an institution that has managed to fly under the radar of many food-related debates in the US. Well, we’re here to talk about it now.

You’ve heard of New York style slices and Chicago deep dish pizzas, but now it’s time for New England to shine. So, here’s everything you need to know about this little piece of heaven.

What is beach pizza?

Great question! Well, beach pizza is a square-shaped thin crust pizza (to add some nice crunch). It’s slathered in a slightly sweet marinara sauce – which this style of pizza is known for – and on top of that goes a sprinkling of mozzarella cheese and a slice of provolone. It’s then cooked on a baking sheet, cut into squares, et voilà!

For anyone other than a born and bred New Englander, beach pizza really isn’t anything to write home about. But for locals, beach pizza is a thing of legend. The local lore surrounding it is hallowed, and any Bay Stater worth their salt would hoist a sword to defend this square pizza’s honour.

There’s better pizza than this one, but beach pizza is warm and nostalgic.

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A post shared by Tripoli Pizza and Bakery (@tripolipizzabakery)

Where was it invented?

So, beach pizza isn’t actually a Massachusetts-wide thing (I lied earlier, sorry!) – it’s local to the North Shore (the coast between Boston and New Hampshire). And even more specifically, beach pizza is a creation of a bakery called Tripoli. It was created by Angelo Zappala in a small town called Lawrence in 1944 and it’s become a big hit ever since!

Beach pizza quickly became Tripoli’s signature item, and not long after, in 1946, another bakery opened two shops down and they started offering beach pizza too. This other bakery is called Cristy’s, and a friendly rivalry between the two was born. 

We say friendly rivalry because if you head to Salisbury Beach you’ll see both bakeries with heaps of people in line inside and out, exiting with sweet tomato-y pizza in hand. There’s no business lost between the two of them.

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Which bakery is the best?

Well, that depends who you ask, but the rivalry runs deeper than the shop owners themselves. Nearly anyone you ask in the North Shore will have a favourite: Tripoli or Cristy’s. Switching your loyalties is unheard of and would be viewed as equivalent to wearing a Yankees hat near Fenway Park (Red Sox’s home stadium): BIG no-no. You pick one shop, you marry the person who likes the same shop, you raise your children on that shop, and you eat that beach pizza until you die. Simple as. 

Both pizzas are pretty much exactly the same. The only real variation is the marinara sauce: Cristy’s is slightly less sweet than Tripoli’s, so depending on your palette you’ll prefer one over the other and stick to it.

Note: ‘sweet’, when it comes to beach pizza, is NOT a bad thing. In fact, it’s the sweetness that makes beach pizza what it is. Without sweetness, there is no beach pizza, and then where would all the New Englanders be?

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A post shared by Mike Pouliot (@mike_pouliot)

Why is beach pizza called that?

The name ‘beach pizza’ has nothing to do with the pizza or its flavours at all – there really isn’t anything ‘beachy’ about it. As described above, it’s really a very normal, almost boring, pizza. But Tripoli Bakery is located on the edge of Salisbury beach and when locals took to the style they nicknamed it ‘beach pizza’ because slices were bought and enjoyed on the shore. 

That’s it really: a colloquialism that caught on.

Can you only eat it at the beach? Or in summer?

Nope! Beach pizza is a year-round anywhere-you-want kind of thing. Summer is when Cristy’s and Tripoli will be at their busiest as summertime is when the non-coast residing New Englanders will migrate east for some ocean time. But both bakeries remain open all year, so even in the frigid East Coast winters you can huddle up at home, or in your car, with a box of fresh beach pizza and daydream of the sunny months to come. 

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How to eat beach pizza

Oh, you didn’t think you needed a pizza eating tutorial? Yes you do. There is only one way to eat beach pizza and here it is:

And there it is! Now you know everything there is to know about beach pizza, and you can wow all your friends with this exciting discovery. If you ever find yourself in Massachusetts, make your way to Salisbury beach and try this iconic food for yourself. 

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