Every year, the Hippo asks readers to pick the things they like best about life in southern New Hampshire. The results of the 2013 Readers’ Poll were published back in March, but this year, the Hippo is giving some extra love to certain categories that deserve a little more attention. This week is a look at the best take-out pizza and the best wings, so whether you’re looking to devour some wings at the bar while you watch the Patriots (see page 24)or shovel in some pizza from the comfort of your couch, you won’t go hungry. Our annual look at your 50 Favorite Restaurants ran in the April 17 issue, and you can find all of the winners of the Best of 2013 in the March 21 issue, both available at hippopress.com.
1. Alley Cat Pizzeria 486 Chestnut St., Manchester, 669-4533, alleycatpizzerianh.com
Alley Cat Pizzeria has been a favorite in Manchester since it opened 12 years ago, with good reason. Chefs make the pizza dough and the sauce in house, and, according to manager Archie Syrene, they use the best cheese on the market as well. “Between the sauce, the dough and the cheese, we’re probably the best,” Syrene said. Alley Cat has topped the Hippo Readers’ poll each year since the poll began in 2002. “We cook it on the stone so it’s not pan pizza,” Syrene said. “It comes out like New York style.”
Top pick: The Aristocrat, which features spinach and feta, or the Aztec Cat, which features buffalo chicken and blue cheese.
Most unique: El Gato, which features hamburger, corn chips, onions, green pepper, black olives, tomato and hots.
2. Vinnie’s Pizzaria 200 S. Main St., Concord, 224-7727
For 55 years, Vinnie’s has been a staple in Concord. “We’re kind of a Concord institution,” said Ginger Salerno, one of the owners. Salerno said the pizza shop has long had a cast of regulars, even from out of state. Vinnie’s makes the dough and the sauce fresh on the premises. Customers like the down-to-earth, informal atmosphere, Salerno said. “Normally, if you come once, you’ll come back,” Salerno said. “It tends to make an impression on people.”
Top pick: The Works, which comes with eight toppings. “It’s a loaded pizza,” Salerno said.
Most unique: “Nothing exotic,” Salerno said. “We’re pretty much your basic Italian pizzeria.”
3. Portland Pie Company 786 Elm St., Manchester, 622-7437, portlandpie.com
Portland Pie Company, which launched in 1997 in Portland, Maine, has become one of the most popular pizza joints in Manchester since it opened a few years ago. Patrons choose between basil, garlic, wheat and beer-flavored dough — which is what the establishment is known for, said General Manager Charlie Clement. “It’s just not something you’re going to get everywhere,” Clement said. “It’s all unique. All of our 18 specialty pizzas are named after places in Maine.”
Top pick: Moosehead, which features red sauce, sweet Italian sausage, pepperoni, red onions, green peppers and fresh mushrooms, in a three-cheese blend, or the Harbor Master, made with red sauce, sliced chicken, barbecue sauce, caramelized onions and smoked bacon in a three-cheese blend.
Most unique: Red Claws Pie, which features a base of spinach and artichokes, topped with fresh Maine lobster, and finished with Italian artisan shaved cheese and diced scallions.
4. Constantly Pizza 39 S. Main St., Concord, 224-9366; 541 W. Main St., Tilton, 286-2229; 108 Fisherville Road, Penacook, 227-1117, constantlypizza.net
John, Dave and Skip Constant opened Constantly Pizza in Tilton in 1990, and later expanded to locations in Concord and Penacook. At Constantly Pizza, it’s all about the freshest, highest quality ingredients. They make their own dough and they cut their own fresh veggies every day. “[Customers] love that they can tell it’s homemade,” John Constant said. “Every pizza is made to order.” Constant said his family appreciates all the support they’ve received. “We really take pride in taking care of our customers,” he said.
Top pick: Chicken Caesar, which features marinated chicken with caesar dressing, tomatoes, garlic, oil, feta and mozzarella.
Most unique: Buffalo Chicken, which features breaded chicken tossed in a buffalo sauce, grilled onions, ranch dressing for sauce and mozzarella cheese, or the Steak Bomb, which features steak, sauteed onions, peppers and mushrooms, and American and mozzarella cheese.
5. Checkmate Pizza 41 Washington St., Concord, 228-0555; 66 Gilcreast Road, Londonderry, 537-0005; 288 N. Broadway, Salem, 890-2345, checkmatepizza.com
At Checkmate, which recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary at its Concord location, it starts with premium ingredients, from toppings to cheese, sauce to dough. Cooks make the sauce fresh each day. “They like the sauce and the consistency of our pizza,” Manager Ken Dobrow said of Checkmate customers. “Every time, they get the same thing.” Barbecue and buffalo chicken pizza has become increasingly popular.
Top pick: Checkmate Ultra, which features all the meats with green pepper, onion and mushroom.
Most unique: The Pawn, which has a ranch-based sauce, with cheddar cheese, grilled chicken and broccoli.
6. Pizza 9-1-1 108 Webster St., Manchester, 625-2201, pizza911nh.com
“We do everything different compared to the others,” said owner John Roy. “We have unique items that you’re not going to see on the everyday menu.” Roy also points to the staff’s overall experience. “The menu is fantastic, the service is great and the execution getting the food out the door is fantastic,” Roy said. The shop also recently opened a location in Hudson at 142 Lowell Road.
Top pick: Greek, which features extra virgin olive oil as a base, oregano, tomatoes, fresh baby spinach, garlic, onions, feta and California ripe olives.
Most unique: Boys in Blue, made with a bleu cheese base, hand-breaded buffalo chicken cutlets, steak, buffalo sauce and provolone cheese (it also comes as a sub), or the Junior Cadet, which features fried macaroni and cheese balls, french fries, fresh cheddar cheese and a blend of mozzarella and cheddar.
7. Portland Pie Company 14 Railroad Square, Nashua, 882-7437, portlandpie.com
The popular pizza shop and restaurant opened its doors in Nashua in 2012. In just a short while, it’s made its mark on the local pizza scene. “All the ingredients are top notch,” said Manager Anthony Ventresco. Patrons choose between basil, garlic, wheat and beer-flavored dough. “It’s all about the dough,” said General Manager Frank Gioffre. The shop also offers a seasonal dough, which now is multigrain, as well as a gluten-free option in the “personal” pizza size.
Top pick: Nor’Easter, made with bleu cheese dressing and boneless buffalo chicken, Frank’s RedHot sauce, in a three-cheese blend.
Most unique: Chamberlain, which features a base of General Tsao’s sauce, topped with roasted, pulled pork, green and red bell peppers, carrots, toasted sesame seeds, a three-cheese blend, and fresh cilantro.
8. Brookside House of Pizza 151 Manchester St., Concord, 224-6905; 930 Laconia Road, Belmont, 267-6968; 563 Route 106 North, Loudon, brooksidepizza.com
“What stands out here is the detail,” said co-owner Shawn Colarusso. “We have a great attention to detail and that really helps us. It’s not just about how many of the finest ingredients you use, but about finding the right balance of those ingredients that work well together.” Brookside has been making hungry patrons happy for more than 20 years in Concord. Cooks make their own dough and sauce in house. Colarusso hears a lot of compliments on the crust and the sauce.
Top pick: Chicken, bacon and ranch. “On a pizza, and in this combination, it’s amazing,” Colarusso said. “I love it.”
Most unique: Spaghetti pizza, which is made with red sauce, spaghetti and feta, and most people add either sausage or meatballs.
9. 900 Degrees Pizzeria 50 Dow St., Manchester, 641-0900, 900degrees.com
At 900 Degrees, they do things a little differently to make their tasty Neapolitan-style pizzas, which cook in 90 seconds in the restaurant’s wood-fired oven. “Every single bite has a little bit of everything in it,” said chef Ben Goodno. “It’s all hand-stretched dough, too.” While it might be pizza, Goodno said 900 Degrees treats its offerings like art, carefully piecing together and garnishing pies.
Top pick: Bellacosa, which features a garlic cream, spinach, rosemary ham, caramelized red onions, and fresh mozzarella cheese, garnished with parsley and sliced prosciutto.
Most unique: Newton’s Revenge, which features red pepper pesto, figs, caramelized onions, chicken, goat cheese and fresh mozzarella and is garnished with a balsamic glaze and chiffonade basil.
10. Bob’s Pizza 115 E. Hollis St., Nashua, 821-4093, bobspizzanh.com
For quality New York style pizza, Bob’s has customers covered. “It’s all hand-tossed and cooked right on the brick,” said owner Kenny York. The shop has been cooking up pizzas since 1966. “It’s all good stuff,” York said.
Top pick: Pepperoni and cheese pizzas are the most popular, but York said ham and pineapple pizza tops the list as well.
Most unique: Steak and cheese