Review: La Befana

Authentic pizza that respects its roots
By LINDSAY CRUDELE  |  May 18, 2011


One of the nice things about hating blasphemous BBQ-chicken nonsense pizza is that when you really want to throw down in the name of authenticity, you can look to the European Union, which granted protected status to traditional Neapolitan pizza in 2009. Defenders of other foods are rarely so lucky — though maybe members of the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council would beg to differ. According to the standards, most pizza doesn't make the slice, since it is a rare pizzaiolo who delivers the certified synergy of crushed San Marzano tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, and grade-00 flour cranked through an 800-degree wood-fire oven.

Allston's La Befana will not prevent you from applying poultry to your pie. But they do acknowledge their roots, which means something — including a few appealing touches. Crusts come New York–style (chewy and thick) or Neapolitan (thin but rigid), spread with uncooked, crushed tomatoes ($12.25/medium and up). That's an ordinary metal pizza oven you see from the communal table — but La Befana turns it up to 650 degrees, so there's some black mottling around the cornicione and across the bottom. The spirit is willing, even if the oven is weak. You'll get to know those tomatoes pretty well as a laid-back marinara that appears on or beside nearly everything on the menu, dappled with diced onion and garlic, slicked with olive oil. A vegetable calzone ($8.75) is a sloppy bundle of tasty roasted zucchini, mushroom, spinach, and sweet onion folded with ricotta and mozzarella. The eggplant Parmesan sandwich ($6.75) lands a typical, thin-sliced cutlet in a crusty toasted torpedo roll. La Befana swapped gorgonzola for gouda in the Mighty Migi burger ($6.75); the crumbled cheese with caramelized onions is probably an improvement over the original. The charred patty is blush-pink in the middle and served on a soft, white roll. A few unusual homemade items include irregularly shaped, pan-fried meatballs ($6.75/sandwich; $8.75/with pasta) and boneless chicken wings ($5.95), slender fried tenderloins served in a soupy bowl of mild, vinegared sauce.

Extras find their way across the counter regularly: a man picking up take-out won a slice to tide him over for the trip home, and we enjoyed a test recipe for a gooey double-chocolate cookie. We wondered what to do with all these surplus garlic knots ($3.25), doughy twists painted with olive oil and crushed garlic, dusted with Parmesan. That marinara comes in handy.

La Befana, located at 15 North Beacon Street in Allston, is open Monday–Friday, 4 pm–12:30 am, Saturday–Sunday, 12 pm–12:30 am. Call 617.987.0086 or visit

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