When Monica Wojnilo first started her Instagram, @pizzablonde, back in 2013, it was just a joke; a fun way to document all the pies she’d been eating since moving to Boston. But she soon realized that she was consuming enough pizza (and creating enough pizza-related content) to launch a full-fledged blog. On Pizza Blonde, she shares everything about her experiences with pizza—from what she likes and where she eats to how many new ones she’s tried. Here, Wojnilo shares her ‘za bucket list around Boston, how beer gardens & restaurant collaborations are the next big trend and her favorite outdoor dining spot to bring her Frenchie.
Tell us a little about yourself. How’d you end up in Boston, and what inspired you to create your Instagram account?
I moved to Boston nine years ago when I transferred to Simmons College going into my sophomore year. Growing up in Connecticut, most people gravitate towards either Boston or New York City, and my heart always pulled me towards Boston. During my freshman year of college at Albertus Magnus College in New Haven, I decided to give up my full scholarship and take the leap to transfer to a school in Boston. My only criteria was that I wanted to get my finance degree at a school that wasn’t too big, and I wanted to be as close to Fenway Park as possible. Simmons fit the bill. When it came time to go home for the summer after my first year, I decided to get a summer job at Fenway and sublet an apartment instead of heading back to Connecticut. My dad jokes that ever since I was in high school, he knew that one day I would move to Boston and not come back… I fell totally in love with Boston, and he was right!
Pizza Blonde started as a joke six years ago when food Instagram accounts were just beginning to catch steam. I thought it’d be funny to document all of the pizza that I eat on my personal instagram. But after two weeks or so, I realized that I eat enough pizza to sustain content for a dedicated blog, and while sitting at Santarpio’s in September 2013, Pizza Blonde was born.
My blog has grown with me throughout the years, which has been really cool to see. When I first started, my posts consisted mostly of frozen pizzas and take out places — par for the course for most 22-year-olds in any city. Now, more than half a decade later, I’ve taken the leap to making my own homemade pizza dough, cooking at home more, going out to restaurants a lot more selectively, and branching out to the suburbs.
Name the top five dishes on your Boston food bucket list.
Boston isn’t exactly known as an attraction for pizza lovers in the same way that NYC and Chicago are, but I still get a lot of out-of-towners asking me where they should go. I always point them towards Regina Pizzeria and Galleria Umberto in the North End because they’re classics, and wandering around the North End is the perfect way to spend a day.
For people catching a Red Sox game, I always recommend Max & Leo’s at Fenway Park. Their coal-fired pizza is supremely underrated and some of the best in the city, in my opinion.
Rounding out the bucket list is Santarpio’s in East Boston, another classic Boston restaurant, and Stoked Pizza, whose food truck can be found at various locations in the city.
What do you think the next big trend is for restaurants?
I think the next big trend for restaurants is expanding outside of their standard menu and dining experience. On The Greenway (where food trucks were once the hottest new trend), we now have a huge array of beer gardens to visit, where local restaurants team up with breweries to offer a limited menu. Restaurants are following their patrons outdoors for the summer to the beer gardens, festivals, and green spaces where people want to be. It’s a great way for restaurants to offset their naturally slower summer season.
Which chefs are your favorite to follow on Instagram and why?
Frank Prisinzano is a talented Italian chef out of NYC who is constantly posting videos while he cooks restaurant-quality meals at home. He’s an expert at breaking down the cooking process in a way that’s poetic and leans into the inherent sexiness of food. He won’t hesitate to point out mistakes that he makes along the way and how to correct them, which is so helpful for all of us aspiring home chefs watching his tutorials.
Adam Kuban is another great follow who took his pizza enthusiasm to the ultimate level: serving pizzas at his own pop-up events in NYC while exploring the city and eating as much pizza as I do.
Beyond chefs, what are your top three favorite food Instagram accounts to follow?
@bakingsteel who makes homemade pizza and develops recipes as part of his full-time job running the Baking Steel company, @wanderingbostoneater who pairs thoughtful writing with dining & travel photos and always keeps it real, and @bunsandbites who combines delicious food with body positivity and won’t hesitate to call a hater out.
Describe Boston’s food scene in three words.
Fun, collaborative, and classic.
Which restaurants haven’t you been to but you’re eager to try?
There just so happens to be a growing list of newer pizza places in Somerville that I haven’t gotten a chance to try yet, since life is hectic and I live on the southern end of the Red Line. Hot Box, Avenue Kitchen, and Dragon Pizza, I’m coming for you!
What’s your food photography philosophy, and can you share your top tips for taking awesome food photos?
Take photos using natural light whenever possible, and learn how to shoot with different f-stops if you’re using a DSLR. I try to keep the setting as natural as possible. To be honest, I don’t love when photos have obviously been taken in a dark restaurant while using an artificial flash. The effect tends to be harsh, and while you can obviously see the dish better when flash is involved, it just isn’t natural and doesn’t convey the actual dining experience. Nothing beats going out of your way to take photos during the day when the restaurant is a little quieter and grabbing a table next to the window – it’s just better for everybody involved.
A Few Of Your Favorite Things:
Favorite brunch spot: Loco Taqueria and Oyster Bar in South Boston – my go-to order is their breakfast burrito and a Coco margarita.
Favorite place for outdoor dining: Worden Hall across from the Broadway T stop – I can bring my Frenchie!
Favorite BBQ joint: Curtis’ BBQ in Putney, VT.
Favorite late-night: Penguin Pizza in Mission Hill washed down with a last call beer at Flann O’Brien’s.
Favorite neighborhood for food: Dorchester – the neighborhood as a whole is undergoing a huge transformation, and Adams Village has truly turned into a dining destination.
Favorite new restaurant: My favorite new restaurant is my favorite pizza of all time, but it’s new to the Boston area with recent openings in Chestnut Hill, Burlington, and Warwick, RI – Frank Pepe’s. If I can choose, my last meal on earth would be a Frank Pepe’s large pepperoni pizza, well done.