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CHEAP EATS

Pizza with Zing!

(Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff)
By Sheryl Julian
Globe Staff / May 13, 2009

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The 6-month-old Zing! Pizza and Roti is most unusual. It's a few steps up from street level, so it's almost hidden. There's no paper menu because the pizzas change so often (up-to-date information is online). There are about two dozens seats, so you expect the place to be geared up for carryout. But if you buy a slice, it's covered with two very takeout-unfriendly plates, which don't really fit into the nice brown shopping bag you're given. And the roti - well, they're terrific and ample - but they're often sold out.

Overlook these and any other idiosyncrasies. This is extraordinary pizza, especially Blue October ($15.50 whole, $3.50 slice), which is named for the mild blue cheese on the thin, crisp crust, along with butternut squash puree, mozzarella, caramelized onions, and spinach. The combo sounds silly, almost amateurish, until you take a bite. Squash and blue cheese are brilliant together, everything tastes better with caramelized onions, and the garnish of spinach is in perfect proportions.

Cambridge photographer Mark Ostow owns Zing! He has a successful coffee shop around the corner inside Porter Square Books, open for three years. He decided to take the pizza plunge. Instead of rounds, Zing! makes long, thin rectangles He thought that since most pizza shops also have a sub menu, his sandwich offering would be the Trinidadian roti.

Sundance Kid pizza ($16.50 whole, $3.50 slice), is made with sun-dried tomatoes, turkey sausage from the Vermont farm Misty Knoll, caramelized onions, and mozzarella. Like Blue October, the crust is thin but not cracker like. It's substantial and can hold these toppings, which are applied in spare proportions.

We did get to taste the roti, which are large rectangular wraps made from all-purpose flour, with a layer of split peas inside, because we called to reserve them early in the day. Now that I'm telling you to do this, I'll probably never get to eat another. A vegetarian version ($7.50, pictured below) contains chick peas, potatoes, squash, lots of raw spinach leaves, and pleasantly hot curry sauce. A thick apple chutney (25 cents) acts as a dipping sauce. Chicken roti ($8.50) is rolled with morsels of wonderful Misty Knoll poultry and the pleasing curry.

Very fresh salads ($6.50 and $4.50), especially one with sheep's milk feta, dried cranberries, and walnuts, are in a refrigerated case.

Ostow is a little surprised by his quick success. "I just figured that if we made inspirational pizza, we could be a few steps up," he says. "Someone could walk by and not even notice us. When we're filled, everyone stops to look."

Watch for a crowd with eyes pointed skyward.

SHERYL JULIAN