A pizza bust?

How bad could it be?
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If the NFL's powers that be conclude that New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, recently busted for unauthorized reconnaissance of other teams' signals, needs a more stinging punishment than a large fine, might I respectfully suggest that he be sentenced to eat a pizza at Figs, the Todd English restaurant on Boston's posh Beacon Hill?

I mean no calumny against Boston, a jewel of urban sophistication and civility and a city full of all sorts of interesting restaurants and farmers markets, including a big one in the Back Bay's Copley Square. But I don't think I've ever had a more miserable restaurant meal than the one we endured on a recent weekend night at Figs — a place with a big-name chef! In a neighborhood full of rich people who, whatever else one might think of them, surely know good food from bad, especially when bad means really bad.

Begin with a native heirloom salad, more or less a Caprese, with various colorful orbs sliced into quarters and served with chunks of soft mozzarella under a basting of basil vinaigrette. While I would be willing to cut New Englanders some slack on the matter of growing seasons, I don't think it's too much to ask that a reputable restaurant should be able to find late-summer tomatoes that are at least reasonably ripe rather than hard and crisp as autumn apples. I had to cut them up with a steak knife. For the first time in my life, I considered sending back a salad on the ground that it was inedible.

Then the pizza arrived, looking like a small magic carpet. In a moment of inattention, I'd let my companion order a "crispy calamari" pie. How bad could it be? Even bad pizza is usually edible, with some flavor. But not this one. This pie — a square of dough, swabbed with tomato paste and arugula, then topped with a shower of calamari batter-fried separately — defied being eaten. Perhaps we should have taken the hint. The calamari bits rolled around and off the crust like barrels of wine on the deck of a storm-tossed sailing ship, while the Kevlar-like crust itself resisted even the sharp teeth of the steak knife. Our server wisely did not ask what we thought of the pizza. I was thinking of a word, and it was worse than bust.

Paul Reidinger

› paulr@sfbg.com

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