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[Cheap Eats]

Veni, vidi . . .
By Ruth Tobias

on the cheap

" Real authentic Neopolitan, " read the take-out box. But given the redundancy of the first two words (as opposed to fake authentic?) and the misspelling of the third (it’s " Neapolitan " ), I had doubts about Vici, the new pizza place in Brookline’s Coolidge Corner. Still, the gutsy renovation of the space itself (formerly occupied by Au Bon Pain), which opened the storefront’s large windows onto an exhibition kitchen, initially caught my eye. If my trust wasn’t fully inspired, my curiosity was piqued.

As it turns out, on many counts Vici won my trust. It was a good sign that, when my pie-purist companion sampled the thin, crispy crust, even though he hardly swooned, he also didn’t spit it out and mumble, " I told you so. " Topping things off (literally), the red sauce was truly fresh — light and sweet rather than inch-thick and sweetened. The sticking point (almost literally) was the mozzarella, which was indistinguishable from the rubbery average; the white pizza especially suffered as a result, leaving the ricotta to languish in garlic. Good thing the toppings had flavor to spare. Striking a delicate balance between the uncommon and the classic, they ranged from nicely caramelized fennel and onions — adding, for contrast, fresh julienne leeks — to a rich smoked bacon and fennel-spiked sausage. Cheesewise, Vici redeemed itself with its specialty toppings: the blue had great attitude, the chèvre unusual zing. Among salads, the More Complicated Salad was a risk that paid off: combining roasted veggies with mesclun spicy enough to hold its own in a champagne vinaigrette created a smooth and sophisticated effect. Though he’s no Luigi or Agostino, owner Leonard Adelson knows a thing or two about authenticity after all.

Vici, located at 286 Harvard Street in Brookline, is open Monday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; on Friday and Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m.; and on Sunday from noon to 10 p.m. Call (617) 734-4900.