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Friday, November 07, 2008

[Special Report] Santarpio's Pizza

Santarpio's Pizza (GoogleMap)
111 Chelsea Street
East Boston, MA

While on a recent trip to Boston for a wedding, my food-loving friends and 2 members of CPC decided to make a trip to Santarpio's Pizza in East Boston near the airport. Prior to my trip to Boston, I had never given thought to their pizza culture. If I had, I likely would have suspected that the overwhelming number of Irish descendants in this city would make for poor fare. This was not the case: East Boston has historically been an enclave of Italian immigrants. In recent years it has become populated by Central American immigrants, but there are still many signs of the prior Italian majority. Santarpio's opened in 1933 and has regularly been listed as one of Boston's best pizzerias by local publications. Today, it still remains a family business and in its original building. Frank Santarpio would be proud.

This is obviously a small restaurant with a local and outsider following alike. We had no wait when we arrived, but when we left an hour later there was a line 15 people deep outside the restaurant. As you can see below, the menu is not comprehensive. They serve two items: pizza and skewered meat. We opted for both. The servers seem way too busy to chit-chat and they expect you to order as soon as you take your seat. We ordered one special pie with hot peppers, garlic, pepperoni and italian cheese and a combination of Italian sausage and lamb skewers served with peppers.

The skewers were variable. The lamb was slightly overcooked and the sausage was just right. There was nothing particularly unique about each one with regards to seasoning, but the peppers were outstanding. They were mildly hot and acidic and were an excellent counterpoint to the skewers. One note about the skewers; I'm not sure how well tended they are while they sit over the fire. As I hinted before, I think this might cause a lot of variability in how "done" your meats are when they arrive at your table.

The pizza was very good, much to my surprise. As I mentioned before, I wasn't expecting much. The crust was probably the best part of the pizza. It was thin and the edges held up very well. The center had lots of loose cheese and toppings and mine actually kind of fell apart. The edges that were not weighed down with ingredients were like very good bakery-fresh bread: light but with good chew and perfectly baked. The pepperoni was outshined by the garlic and hot peppers, but the real star was the sauce and crust anyways. The cheese was, I think, a mixture of two cheeses that I could not distinguish. The sauce was slightly spicy with good acidity to it and in abundant quantities. For the chunky sauce fans, sorry, this place was more of a paste. And lastly, I should mention the oven. It is a brick oven, but sadly I did not venture into the kitchen to photograph it.

I think that when I next go to Boston, I would be interested in checking out other pizza places that are reputed to be excellent. They may or not be as good as advertised. But I would be even more happy to grab a table at Santarpio's where I know the pizza is good, plus I can also get a lamb skewer with those delicious spherical peppers.

The Menu with a nice picture of Frank...

Umm... THAT'S not pizza...but check out those peppers!

Ok, that's more like it...

El Presidente goes in for the kill...

Kate and El Presidente look dazed in the afterglow...

1 comment:

  1. Our trip to Santarpio's was a great meal and a great welcome to Boston. The lamb was definitely not cooked completely evenly, but I had a perfectly cooked bite that was tender and delicious. I am not the biggest fan of lamb when the flavor is really strong, but this stuff was just right for me. And the sausage and peppers were great.

    Of course, the main point was to try the pizza, and it was really good. The crust was delicious, though it got a bit soggy and floppy in the middle. But the hearty flavor and crisp outside mostly made up for that. I think I also detected a hint of bakery sweetness in the bread. The sauce was flavorful and present in generous amounts. The sausage tasted fresh and delicious, as did the other toppings. Nice and garlicky. The cheese melted nicely with a good density, and it had a nice salt level. I can't think of a place in Chicago that has pizza quite like this, so I'd be happy to visit Santarpio's again next time I am in Boston. Yum!