Friday, July 26, 2013
Blue Collar Trumps the Blue Bloods in East Boston
111 Chelsea St.
East Boston, MA
Santarpio’s is a slice of blue collar Boston at its most sincere.
Gruff no-nonsense waitresses.
Heavily tattooed patrons in wife-beaters.
The grill man barking orders in an unvarnished Boston accent.
And Suit757 in a suit killing time at the bar before my flight out of Logan.
Yeah, I stand out like a guy in a Derek Jeter jersey in the Fenway bleachers.
But that’s okay. I’m used to it.
Besides, I had heard that Santarpio’s served the best pizza in Boston.
I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical. I mean, Italians run this city.
Tom Menino has been Mayor of Boston for the past decade.
Some of the greatest Italian restaurants outside of Sicily can be found in Boston’s famed North End.
And the blue blood refined palette of this city of the overly-educated demands all sorts of gourmet cuisine -- pizza being no exception.
So am I really to believe that the best pizza in the entirety of the Boston Metro area is served here?
At this dive bar located in what has devolved into a Third World neighborhood where the language on the street is more likely to be Spanish than either Italian or English?
But once I stepped into the dark interior of Santarpio’s it was like I was transported to another time and place.
The sweet smell of charcoal and grilling meat greeted me like an old friend.
Right next to the front door, an old guy was turning Italian sausages and lamb and steak skewers on a grill over an open flame.
Immediately recognizing me as one of those adventurous out-of-towners looking for Boston’s best pizza, he greeted me and invited me to find a seat at the bar.
The decidedly less friendly -- but efficient -- waitress slid me a Miller High Life while I perused the menu.
There wasn’t much to it.
Barbeque and pizza.
Of course by barbeque, they don’t mean Carolina pulled pork.
Barbeque at Santarpio’s is meat barbequed over that charcoal grill by the front door.
That smelled too delicious to pass up, so I ordered a link of sausage as an appetizer.
The perfectly char-grilled tube of meat came with some sinus clearing hot peppers on the side and a
big hunk of Italian bread.
Dense, peppery and soulful, the kiss from the flame made this one of the best sausages this self-proclaimed sausage connoisseur has ever tasted.
Unfortunately, the pizza only comes in one size -- large. Especially for one suit who just ate a quarter pound of grilled meat.
But there was no way I could come to Santarpio’s without trying the famous pizza.
My garlic, sausage and peppers pizza smelled like heaven.
Chewy in some spots and crispy in others, the crust was charred brown by the oven with bubbly pockets all around its circumference.
The garlic, oregano and green peppers packed a massive flavor wallop. So much so that the sausage seemed to disappear.
Buried under the cheese, garlic and peppers, it was hard to tell if the sausage was even there.
Being a meat-in-every-bite kinda guy, I was a little disappointed with the scarcity of sausage.
The other quibble I had with Santarpio’s pizza was the texture.
Limp and messy, this is the kind of pizza you have to eat with a knife and fork -- at least until you get within a few inches of the crispy outer crust.
That’s kind of a bummer.
Somehow pizza just doesn’t taste as good when you can’t lift the whole slice to your face as God intended.
But those are minor complaints. Overall, this is darn good pizza.
Apparently lots of people agree.
Within minutes of bellying up to the near empty bar, Santarpio’s began to fill up shoulder-to-shoulder with regulars sporting thick Boston accents.
George Zimmerman, lottery ticket strategy and the Red Sox (of course) were the primary topics of conversation.
One old guy in a plain white tank-top sat down next to me with his significant other.
Clearly, he was a regular.
Clearly, she was not.
“I’ll take a cranberry vodka” she said.
The waitress shot back in a thick Boston drawl, “We don’t have no cranberry juice. Or any juice, for that mattah.”
“Ok. I’ll take a screwdrivah.”
“Did ya heah me? No juice!”
When the waitress hurried away to take care of more decisive patrons, the wife beater guy scolded her, “I told ya, don’t piss hah off!”
Little miss prissy let out an audible sigh, “Fine. Just give me a watah then.”
The waitress was much friendlier to me.
Glancing at my half eaten pizza, “You wanna box for that, hun?”
“No thank you. Just take it away,” I said after I couldn’t take another bite. “Where I’m going, I can’t take it with me.”
It was a damn shame too.
Next time I’ll bring some help along with me so none of that pizza will go to waste.
So does Santarpio’s really serve the best pizza in Boston?
Not that I’ve tried every pizza in The Hub, but I kind of doubt it.
But Santarpio’s is still worth the stop on the way to Logan for good pizza, the best “barbequed” meat in the city and a true slice of Boston blue collar authenticity you sure won’t find on Beacon Hill.
Rating: Seriously Thought About Buying Shirt