How a legendary pizza was reborn in a secret location
By now it’s pretty obvious that the pandemic has taken its toll on restaurants throughout the Greater Boston area and beyond, but one interesting sidebar to this is that people in the business have been doing some inventive things throughout it all, including bars collaborating with restaurants in order to stay alive, places using QR codes (which many had written off as obsolete years ago) to help with contactless ordering, and dining spots selling everything from groceries to household goods as ways to boost cash flow.
And then there are food spots that are turning up in the most unlikely of places, including one in Arlington that has a connection to a long-closed working-class joint in Somerville that was known for its outstanding pizza. The old La Hacienda hasn’t completely returned, but its crust lives on for now—served out of a spot that you’ll probably never, ever find on your own.
Back in 2016, many hearts broke when La Hacienda left its home on Medford Street in an industrial part of Somerville near the Cambridge line. The classic old watering hole, whose roots dated all the way back to 1939 (its name changed to La Hacienda in 1964), was often full of characters, people from another era when the city tended to be a bit of a rough-and-tumble place. But La Hacienda was also a family restaurant of sorts, offering the type of Italian-American food still found in such neighborhood joints as the Newbridge Café in Chelsea, Café Venice in Norwood, and Greg’s in Watertown.
In particular, many folks came for the La Hacienda pizza, which had a foldable thin crust with delicious charred bubbles, a rich sauce with a slight kick, and plenty of greasy cheese on top. It wasn’t all that different from what you might find at Regina’s in the North End, Pleasant Cafe in Roslindale, or perhaps the Paddock, another old Somerville watering hole that closed years ago and is still missed by many.
When La Hacienda said its final farewell to Somerville, it appeared that its beloved pizza would be history as well, but the pizza and other foods from the place have lived on via a company from the family behind it called DiCecca Brothers Catering, which delivers tasty dishes to all kinds of events, functions, and parties in the local area. Their home base is currently ALOSIA Function Hall inside the Arlington Sons of Italy lodge, and it is this space that quietly became home to what amounts to a takeout restaurant when the pandemic took hold this spring. The best part: its sole focus is on the same type of pizza that was served at La Hacienda for so many years, albeit only on Thursday and Friday afternoons/evenings as of this writing.
The question by now might be: Where exactly is the Sons of Italy lodge in Arlington? That’s a solid question because if you don’t know Arlington well and you don’t know people who are in the know, you might never find it on your own. The facility is located about halfway down Prentiss Road, a narrow, bumpy dead-end street off Mass Ave that is home to apartments, a nursery school (which is housed in the same building as the lodge), and some commercial/industrial property. It’s unlikely that you’d ever travel on this street unless you were turning around; its location, between Grove Street and Brattle Street on a mostly residential stretch, doesn’t make it look like the kind of place where you might find some of the best pizza in the northwest suburbs, which is pretty much what we’re talking about here.
The ordering system for getting takeout pizza at the Sons of Italy is pretty straightforward; it is best to call in advance to place your order (choices include plain or pepperoni), then find a place to park on Prentiss Road or Mass Ave and walk over to the right side of the building where you’ll see an entrance for ALOSIA Function Hall and further back, a door that opens up to a prep area for the catering company. This is where the pizza ovens are, and you may see people from the business and/or the Sons of Italy hanging outside the door, leaning against pickup trucks and shooting the breeze. Go up to any/all of them, tell them your name and order, and they’ll grab your pizza and you’ll soon be on your way after paying them in cash or by credit card. In some ways, the setup has a vaguely NYC/NJ/Long Island feel to it, as you can find endless odd setups for grabbing takeout food in the New York metropolitan area, which gives this a strange sort of charm.
The takeout shop for La Hacienda’s pizza at the Sons of Italy in Arlington plans to remain open through the winter and beyond, which is great for Arlington residents and those nearby since it’s just such a unique concept—and one that gives the term “hidden gem” new meaning. The pandemic has certainly been an incredibly difficult stretch for the restaurant industry, but there have been some fascinating stories that have come from the ashes of it all, and this offbeat little business in the middle of nowhere is definitely one that might bring a rare smile to people’s faces.