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Best of Massachusetts Pizza Destination: Nashoba Club Pizza Restaurant in Ayer

Nashoba Club Pizza in Ayer, Massachusetts has some of the best old school pizza in Massachusetts.

Nashoba Club Pizza Restaurant, Ayer, Massachusetts. Photo by Eric Hurwitz.

Story by Eric Hurwitz. Article created on 10/31/2017

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Nashoba Club Pizza Restaurant in Ayer, Mass., not only offers some of the best slices of pizza in Massachusetts, but it also stands as a slice of classic old school Americana.

There's something so timelessly endearing and likable about a family-owned and operated pizza restaurant and bar sticking to what works best. Old Ayer locals love the place and are always present with diner-like conversations going on all over the place, while millennials, the business community, soldiers and civilians from the nearby U.S. Army's Fort Devens, families enjoying a night out and pretty much all walks of life come here, mostly for the amazing pizza. This is the ultimate townie place for lunch and dinner with a sense of community within a close-knit Ayer community.

Bar area at Nashoba Club restaurant in Ayer, Massachusetts
Bar area at Nashoba Club.
Photo by Eric Hurwitz.

The greatest rock hits from the past play in the background without any trace of music that's trending. Photos of community and family, as well as retro pop culture pictures (someone here seems to love The Three Stooges) saturate the walls so prominently that it's hard to see the actual panels.

Walls lined with photos and collectibles at the Nashoba Club Pizza Restaurant in Ayer, Massachusetts.
Pictures line the walls at Nashoba Club.
Photo by Eric Hurwitz.

Outside, there are many good signs that Nashoba Club Pizza Restaurant is going to be a fantastic, unpretentious dining out gem -- signs literally and figuratively, that is. Approach the old-fashioned front-porch with vintage wood spindles and you'll find beer signs in the window, Pepsi logos alongside the main Nashoba Club Pizza Restaurant sign,
a worn red "PIZZA" sign, and a "Nashoba Restaurant Proudly Supports Its Troops" banner all setting the tone for a restaurant steeped in tradition and patriotism. Inside, older carpets, drop ceilings, card-like tables with checkered tablecloths, menus with 1950s style font and a pizza photo await each party at the tables, and handwritten food specials as well as drinks are posted in the dimly-lit, wood-paneled dining room in the back. 

Nashoba Club Pizza Restaurant, Ayer, Massachusetts
The dining room at Nashoba Club.
Photo by Eric Hurwitz.

While baby boomers and ensuing generations know the Nashoba Pizza Club restaurant as a local go-to place to eat, very few under 60 probably know that this 1920 building was once a paint store, school, dance hall, and Fraternal Order of the Eagles Nashoba Tradesman Association. The Nashoba Club Pizza Restaurant, however, has had the longest standing residency in this comfortable-as-an-old-shoe building with no signs of slowing down. It can even be crowded at 2 p.m. in the afternoon.

The feeling is upbeat, welcoming and like being in a close family member's home, courtesy of long-time owner Bob Rakip and sons Brian and Scott. And what could have been just another solid local bar and restaurant turns out to serve the most delicious pizza imaginable -- every bit as good as the legends in Massachusetts like Santarpio's, Regina Pizzeria and Pleasant Street Cafe in the Boston, Mass. neighborhoods. That Nashoba Club is located in a small north central Massachusetts town -- best known during the days of a much larger Fort Devens  -- should never undermine the fact that great pizza is not just relegated to well-known cities and suburbs.

The Nashoba Club Pizza Restaurant pizza recipe dates back to its beginnings as a restaurant starting in 1950. Bob remembers fondly his Uncle Harold "attending school" in New York City at "P.U." -- Pizza University -- and bringing home the mouthwatering recipe that locals virtually inhale, to this very day. The made-fresh daily pizza -- bridging bar and Italian-style pizza -- has a perfect crust and sauce, and a fabulous mozzarella and provolone cheese base, but the overall product goes well beyond those ingredients. The key is in the blend, created in proper balance of high quality ingredients.

Bob's Uncle Russell assumed the business in 1963. Bob and his wife Nancy, and Bob's parents Robert and Muriel Rakip purchased the restaurant in 1975. Today Bob Jr., at 66, energetically and passionately runs the restaurant with his sons (Nancy works in private industry). An Ayer native now living in neighboring Shirley, Bob clearly prioritizes family, friends, his profession, tradition, customer service and community.

And great pizza, of course! We, at VisitingNewEngland, included Nashoba Club Pizza Restaurant in the 17 Best Pizza Places in the Boston Area article.

"We use fresh ingredients, have a good sauce and make homemade dough every day," said Bob, in a most humble manner. "You don't want to make the pizza overly sweet.  You don't want too much oregano and don't want the cheese to overpower the sauce, and vice versa. Always be generous with toppings, which should always be fresh and never greasy. We have fresh broccoli, and cut our own spinach and dice our own peppers and onions."

Like many restaurants, Nashoba Club faced a challenge when Fort Devens closed in 1995. The installation remains at a much smaller level with private industry now dominating the Devens landscape. Nashoba Club Restaurant definitely had to make adjustments, but just enough to change with the times.

"My sons convinced me to go beyond a few beers, so we now have 24 beers on tap. We used to get a lot of soldiers, but now we see more of the business community and we see a lot of millennials stopping by here... We actually see people coming in from a 60-mile radius!"

Handwritten drinks, food menue at Nashoba Club Pizza Club Restaurant in Ayer, Mass.
Hand-written drinks and food specials menu at Nashoba Pizza Club Restaurant.
Photo by Eric Hurwitz.

Business, in fact, is booming with one local business, as an example, ordering between $2K and 3K in pizzas each month, according to Bob.

"The fact that Ayer has gone from an Army to a business community -- well, the transition was first a challenge but it has been nice and smooth for us," said Bob. "They are trying to make downtown Ayer more of a destination, too, so that helps."

Downtown Ayer, Massachusetts is making a nice comeback.
A revitalized downtown Ayer. Photo by Eric Hurwitz.

You can't go wrong with any of the homemade pizzas, but a few standouts are the "Nashoba Special" with onions, green peppers, pepperoni and hamburg, the chicken cacciatore pizza, and the "Pork U Pie" with sweet sausage, bacon, kielbasa, ham, hot sausage and pepperoni.

Nashoba Special Pizza from Nashoba Restaurant in Ayer MA.
Nashoba Special from Nashoba Pizza Club Restaurant.
Photo source: Nashoba Club Pizza Restaurant.

Nashoba Special pizza from Nashoba Club Pizza Restaurant in Ayer, Massachusetts.
Chicken cacciatore pizza from the Nashoba Club.
Photo source: Nashoba Club Pizza Restaurant.

The great comfort foods don't end with the incredible pizza, either. Locals also love the hearty chili (an old recipe from Bob's Uncle Richard in the 1970s), crispy flavorful wings, oversized subs (especially the meatball), half-pound burgers, pastrami and cheese on rye, the Swiss chili dog wrap, Italian sub, amazing fries and onion rings, daily homemade soups, and substantial Greek, antipasto and Caesar salads.

Italian subs with fries and onion rings from the Nashoba Pizza Club in Ayer, Massachusetts.
Italian subs with fries and onion rings from Nashoba Club. Photo source: Nashoba Club Pizza Restaurant.

Chef's Greek salad with grilled chicken from the Nashoba Club in Ayer, Mass.
Chef's Greek salad with grilled chicken from the Nashoba Club in Ayer. Photo source: Nashoba Club Pizza Restaurant.

Angus burger from Nashoba Club Pizza Restaurant, Ayer, Massachusetts
Angus burger with fries from Nashoba Club Pizza Restaurant. Photo source: Nashoba Club Pizza Restaurant.

With some employees having worked at Nashoba Club for around 20 years, a time-tested menu that still pleases big-time, and a home away from home-type atmosphere, Nashoba Club Pizza Restaurant is a true local dining out treasure. They prove that the best change is no change at all (well, maybe with the exception of the growing beer menu), as evidenced by more than six decades in business. As stated on its web site, Nashoba
Club Pizza started when The Beatles were in grammar school, Ted Williams was in his baseball prime, and Harry Truman was president. It's a beautiful thing to see a restaurant from that era still thriving in an industry that has seen countless businesses come and go through the years.

What truly keeps the customers coming back from Ayer all the way out to the Boston area, however, is that the Nashoba Club seems to hit a culinary home run every time by taking the familiar and finding ways to make it far better than the norm.

"We don't take short cuts and have always gone to great lengths to please the customer," said Bob. "We have always been about quality, and people know they are going to get a great, filling meal here."


Nashoba Club Pizza Restaurant is located at 14 Central St. in Ayer, MA. Tel. 978-772-2736. Web site: www.nashobaclub.com. Facebook fan page: https://www.facebook.com/pg/nashobaclub


Interested in your local business becoming part of our New England community? VisitingNewEngland business partnerships differ than feature articles previously posted on VisitingNewEngland. Businesses pay a small, one-time fee to have pages like this appear, and first must be accepted by VisitingNewEngland.com editor and publisher, Eric Hurwitz, as a business he approves as part of "real New England travel" to keep the integrity of the site. Businesses that sign up for business partnerships receive priority by receiving more social media exposure and link placement on VisitingNewEngland.com. Contact Eric if interested in forming a business partnership.

Explore Massachusetts travel! Read the Massachusetts Town Greens book -- Discover New England's first travel attractions: town commons. Includes chapters on nearby Shirley, Groton, Harvard, Fitchburg, Leominster and Princeton!


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Related article:
A visit to the historic Bull Run Restaurant in Shirley, Mass.


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