Man Food: The Atomic Meatloaf Pizza at All Star Pizza Bar

Toppings take priority over crust here, and we’re totally fine with that.

All photos by Katie Barszcz

How fair is it to judge a pizza solely upon the dough? Is pizza perfection achieved by the toppings or the crust? In a perfect world, you have a balance of a chewy yet tender dough, and flavorful toppings that complement the pie without compromising its structural integrity. At All Star Pizza Bar in Inman Square, it’s clearly a toppings driven kind of place—and I’m completely fine with that. An offshoot to the ever popular All Star Sandwich Shop, the owners have created a playful and creative menu that is all about the pizza.

The iconic dish of All Star Sandwich shop is the Atomic Meatloaf Sandwich, which conveniently finds itself in pizza form at All Star Pizza. There are also combinations showcasing atypical toppers like duck confit, chile relleno and ricotta grits, as well as the optional plain-Jane toppings for the less adventurous. The pizzas are on the pricier side at $19 – $21 a pop, but it’s 16 inches of pure bliss, more than enough for two with a couple of slices for cold leftovers later on. (Cold leftovers passed the test, an important merit for any great pizza).

The Atomic Meatloaf Pizza arrives with a generous piling of sliced meatloaf, caramelized onions, and a hefty dose of the famed Inner Beauty Hot Sauce. The meatloaf is great as always, but once sliced it takes on more of a sausage feel than the familiar meatloaf vibe. The caramelized onions are a dominant flavor, edging it back into sandwich territory, and the whole thing is rounded out by the hot sauce. The Inner Beauty sauce gives it just the right kick; the mustard-and-scotch-bonnet-pepper-based concoction is spiked with plenty of citrus and acidity, which brings the rich pie all together. It’s just at the point of my ideal tolerance for heat; more than enough so you know it’s there, but not so strong that it kills the other flavors.

The crust, cheese and sauce are all present, but not the focus either, and while a heavier dose on the sauce and cheese would have been appreciated, it’s seemingly unnecessary. The dough is respectable. I imagine ordering a cheese pizza would probably result in disappointment, but it’s a better version of your average run-of-the-mill pizza shop. But there are some positives: the crust has the right amount of chew as it crumbles upon impact, and it’s thick and sturdy enough to withstand the onslaught of toppings. Anything less than what ends up being the optimal thickness and it would quickly become a pizza nightmare.

All Star Pizza is a terrific spot for those who seek out something different to top their pizza. In this case, a serviceable dough and crust gets the job done, but the real star of the show is a unique array of ingredients that keep it interesting and delicious. The Atomic Meatloaf, in pizza form, is cleverly balanced between paying homage to the great art of the sandwich and putting a new spin on the beloved ‘za. Tradition and normalcy are all well and good, but in the world of pizza, the folks at All Star Pizza do enough to make it a more than worthwhile option.

All Star Pizza Bar, 1238 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, 617-547-0836, allstarpizzabar.com