Sometimes adventures can be culinary ones.
Take the epitome of Boston foodie adventure – Santarpio’s Pizza.
This home-style restaurant doesn’t bother with frills. The original building in East Boston is easily visible as you round the curve towards the airport on I-93, just past where the Callahan Tunnel deposits drivers on their way towards Logan International Airport. The tan lap siding and a brown retro sign are testament to how little this local favorite pizza joint has had to change since it first opened its doors in 1903.
And oh boy, people have a generational attachment to the casual atmosphere and awesome food at this place.
For years it’s been a family tradition, whenever I visit home in Boston, to swing by Santarpio’s (pronounced “san-TAH-pee-oh’s” by just about everyone in my family) on our way to or from the airport. As a result, the restaurant attracts hardcore (ahem, “HAHD-coah“) regulars as well as visitors from near and far.
Beyond the warm fuzzies this place imbues for nostalgic patrons, the pizza is truly a landmark for those looking for traditional East Coast, Boston-style pizza.
Many aficionados will sing the praises of other Boston eateries like Pizzeria Regina, but for me and many, Santarpio’s will always win my heart and my stomach, hands down.
When you walk in, the narrow paths between parallel rows of well worn leather booths are crowded with the few veteran servers, all white aprons and brisk, “how many ah ya?” demeanor.
Ask for Tony, he’s been a fixture for years, and you’ll receive a friendly welcome from the tall guy with the bright eyes, the pad of yellow paper and the shaven head.
No matter whom your server is, you will undoubtedly be asked whether you want a menu or not. There are a variety of great pizza choices, but the toppings are traditional and often people come in knowing what they want. My personal favorite is one cheese and one pepperoni, if you’re hungry and have a group of four or more. There’s only one size pizza, so it’s nice and simple. The pie comes out with a perfectly darkened crust, bubbly cheese with toppings baked underneath the surface, tangy sauce you can tell is purely Italian, and the pizza’s characteristic cornmeal-sprinkled underside.
Seriously guys, I dream about this pizza.
If that doesn’t sate your appetite, Santarpio’s is also well known for its simple but delicious barbecued meat plates. You have two simple choices: skewered, seasoned lamb, or house-made skewered sausage–the latter is my absolute favorite. Each is served with a hunk of crusty homemade Italian bread and a few spicy red-and-green cherry peppers on the side. The meat is well done and the sausages especially are crispy and juicy, with whole peppercorns stuffed inside the casing. Inquiries on just how the sausage is made, and whether it can be purchased, will be met with a sly but friendly zip of the lips–it’s a Santarpio’s recipe secret.
Santarpio’s recently opened another location on Route 1A in Peabody, Massachusetts to serve the larger community. The original location is at 111 Chelsea Street, East Boston, MA 02128, and is open for lunch until 11:00 or 11:30PM. Check out their website at: http://www.santarpiospizza.com/index.html
What restaurants should we visit in your home city? Do you have any nostalgic memories of down home places to eat? Unique characteristics of the clientele or staff?