When the popularity of candlepin bowling waned in the '90s, Somerville family keepsake Sacco's Bowl Haven seemed destined for the gutter. Last year, the alley was bought by Flatbread Company, a local artisanal pizza chain originating in Amesbury. They renovated the space, but not without inciting some expected local indignation. Luckily, the folks at Flatbread have managed to seamlessly commingle the grit and glory of "old Somerville" Sacco's with the locavore leanings of Davis's boho transplants and a scrappy student ethos. The refreshing result is an all-in-one pizzeria, bar, and candlepin bowling alley — a trifecta of night-on-the-town possibilities.
Inside is an airy space that opens onto 10 lively lanes abutting a cozy, low-lit dining area and a long bar offering a trove of local craft beers ($4-$5.50). Adjoining the dining area is the open kitchen. The centerpiece is two wood-burning ovens, around which kids cluster to watch the pizzas get tossed, topped, and toasted. These ovens are the key — while a standard pizza oven runs about 500 degrees, these hand-built earthen ovens heat Flatbread's pies to a piping 800 degrees, making for a crispy outer crust that gives way to a light, wispy interior.
The flatbreads come in both personal ($7.75-$10.75) and whole ($13.75-$18.75) portions and vary seasonally, but there are a few delicious mainstays including Jay's Heart ($8.75/$14), a classic three-cheeser baked with organic dough, tomato sauce, garlic oil, and herbs; and Jimmy's Free-Range Chicken ($10.25/$18.75), an off-the-wall crowd-pleaser topped with black beans, cilantro, tomatoes, roasted corn, mozzarella, Parmesan, and a little "sour cream lime drizzle" for good measure. Especially delectable is Mopsy's Kalua Pork ($10.75/$18.25), a filling pie boasting smoked free-range pork shoulder, homemade barbecue sauce, red onions, beans, Vermont goat cheese, whole-milk mozzarella, and imported Parmesan. For dessert, you won't be lead astray by Matt's Maine Root Beer Float ($5.25); but it's hard to pass up the house favorite, Barbara's Homemade Brownie Sundae ($6.25), warmed in the ovens and served with ice cream, chocolate sauce, and whipped cream.
A choice selection of ingredients — tradition, craftsmanship, community spirit — went into making the Sacco's Flatbread hybrid the success it is. Though let it be known, pizza purists: Flatbread's is no by-the-slice joint, nor is this the pizza you used to eat back in Jersey. And that, perhaps, is the point.
Flatbread Company at Sacco's Bowl Haven, located on 45 Day Street in Somerville, is open from Monday-Thursday, Sunday 10 am-11 pm, and Friday-Saturday, 10 am-12 am. Call 617.776.0552, or visit www.flatbreadcompany.com.