It is damned difficult to run a successful food truck in Boston: There aren’t enough places to park, hours in the day or months of good weather for most operators to sustain a profit. So it has been gratifying to see a few plucky entrepreneurs graduate from the streets to brick-and-mortar locations, as Clover, Mei Mei, Roxy’s and Bon Me have done. To this list of winners, add Stoked Wood Fired Pizza Co., which got its start as a wood-fired pizza oven on wheels, but recently added a lively, casual storefront space in Brookline’s Washington Square.
Proving that their truck’s product was no fluke, chef/owners Scott Riebling and Toirm Miller turn out beautiful 10-inch Neapolitan-inspired thin-crust pies from a huge wood-fired oven in plain view behind the restaurant’s bar, the rotating deck of which can bake eight pizzas at a time. The foundation of each pie is a bubbly, chewy, lightly charred crust from dough that develops a complex, yeasty flavor over two days of fermentation. This fantastic crust forms the basis of nine pizzas: four white pies and five topped with a fine, slightly sweet tomato sauce, all with aged mozzarella. Diced artisan pepperoni ($14) is a classic table-setter with its quality salume; its savory/salt snap is further improved with a drizzle of chili-infused Mike’s Hot Honey ($2). Italian sausage and onion ($15) benefits mightily from richly caramelized, long-roasted onions and tangy pecorino. Ingredient overload is always a risk with thinner-crust pies, a limit that Stoked pushes with the Porky ($15) of excellent bacon, pepperoni and Italian sausage, but uses just enough restraint to avert collapse. Likewise, smashed meatball and ricotta ($15) avoids sogginess by judiciously applying its ricotta with a squeeze bottle atop excellent crumbled meatballs (more on these later).
Among the white pies, BBQ chicken ($14) of chicken breast, squiggled-on BBQ sauce and pecorino lands a tricky balance of tang, sweetness, umami and salt. This is neatly echoed in the vegetarian Buffalo Brussels sprouts pie ($14), which substitutes baby Brussels sprouts halves and leaves plus roasted onions for the BBQ chicken. Not everyone loves a white pie, but mushroom and onion ($14) ought to make some converts with its luscious mix of mushrooms, more of those great roasted onions and a drizzle of porcini oil.
The short list of appetizers includes fried chicken wings in either of two sauces and heat levels: Calabrian sweet chili wings ($10) served with cucumbers and housemade ranch dressing (a surprisingly welcome touch) and outstanding, meaty Buffalo wings ($10) with carrot sticks and ranch (Gorgonzola dressing optional and recommended). A skillet of charred Brussels sprouts ($8) is ably punched up with maple syrup, tamari and whole-grain mustard, with bacon ($2) a worthwhile addition. Fabulous meatballs ($10) of beef, salami and roasted vegetables are a highlight, topped with a vivid tomato sauce, Romano and a shower of shredded basil. The Stoked salad ($8) dresses up pedestrian greens and crisp vegetables with shallot vinaigrette, intriguingly fruity, sharp little Peruvian peppers and a johnnycake-like crouton of warm cheddar and chives.
Echoing its neighborhood’s growing sophistication as a drinking destination, Stoked boasts an exceptional bar program from opening manager Gabe Bellegard Bastos, beginning with a beer list—five pint pours on tap ($6-$10), eight bottles ($3-$9), seven cans ($5-$8) and one cider ($8)—that neatly straddles the needs of beer geeks and more conventional types who favor mild macro pilsners with their pizza and wings. Thus, one friend can enjoy the fiercely tart “Imperial” gose style of Deciduous Cumulation ($10 for a pint draft), another the hop overload of Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA ($7 for a 16-ounce can), still another the familiar refreshment of Miller High Life ($3 per 7-ounce “pony” bottle). The wine list focuses on a handful of quaffable, affordable options, all $10/glass and $35/bottle. Particularly notable for a pizza joint, even a tony one, is a cocktail program built around a tightly curated list of quality spirits (many from local distillers), cordials and amari. Three nightly draft cocktails include a simple, perfectly executed daiquiri ($10) and the smoky Avivado ($10) of single-village mezcal with fresh lemon juice and crème de cacao. Specialty cocktails ($11) balance classics like Negronis and martinis with craftier entrants like the Toronto (rye, Fernet-Branca, bitters and simple syrup). Soft drinks include Real City cane-sweetened sodas ($2.50) and juice boxes ($2) for the kids.
The sunny basement space frames 42 dining room seats and seven bar seats in retro-hip accents like groovy starburst chandeliers and Warholesque pop art on the walls. A cool soundtrack of classic punk and post-punk plays at just-comfortable decibel levels. Service is appropriately friendly, unpretentious and attentive to the all-ages crowd. Customers can pick up orders to go but not get delivery, a smart move considering how thin-crust pies suffer in a steamy pizza box. In the end, Stoked offers a textbook example of how to build brilliantly on a food-truck success: Add just enough menu extras and service to make a proper restaurant, throw in the kind of quality drinks that build after-work and late-night audiences and, above all, don’t mess with the award-winning product that put you on the map.
-Buffalo wings with Gorgonzola sauce
-Artisan pepperoni pie with Mike’s Hot Honey
-The Porky pie
-Buffalo Brussels sprouts pie
-Mushroom and onion pie
Stoked Wood Fired Pizza Co. 1632 Beacon St. (entrance on Washington St.), Brookline (617-879-0707) stokedpizzaco.com
Hours: Sun.-Mon., 11 am-9 pm; Tue.-Wed., 11 am-10 pm; Thu.-Sat., 11 am-11 pm
Parking: A few spaces in a private lot behind the building after 6 pm, metered street parking
Liquor: Full bar