Each year, it seems that more and more old-fashioned neighborhood restaurants disappear from the Boston landscape, often being replaced with condos, upscale eateries, or other businesses. One spot that has continued to operate--and thrive--after many decades is Santarpio's, a dark and rather gloomy-looking East Boston pizzeria in the shadows of a bridge deck that leads to the nearby Logan Airport.
Known in part for its surly waiters and rather colorful clientele, Santarp's (as it's often called by locals) consists of a bar to the right, some tables in the back, a narrow area with booths to the left, and a separate room further to the left with a bit more space. This is probably not a place to go to for quiet conversation, a romantic date, or a business meeting, unless your dining companions like rough-and-tumble joints. What it IS about is outstanding pizza that is difficult to categorize; it isn't quite bar pizza, isn't exactly Italian-style thin-crust, and definitely not gourmet. The pies are dusted with a lot of cornmeal, with a good amount of very rich sauce soaking the crust and a messy mix of cheeses placed on top. Toppings are relatively limited, with the pepperoni being a favorite along with the rather intense garlic pie. If you're not in the mood for pizza, there aren't really any other options for a full dinner unless you want to fill up on steak tips, skewers of lamb, house-made sausage, and perhaps a garden salad. Beer and wine are available, but don't expect to see microbrews or high-end French wines (the house wine is very inexpensive here, by the way). Santarpio's, as you might expect, is cash-only, though its newer location several miles north in Peabody does accept credit cards.
Santarpio's might not be sleek or modern-looking, and it definitely isn't chic and trendy, but if you like gooey, greasy pizza that tastes about as good as any in the region, this is one spot that you certainly want to check out.
Marc Hurwitz is the founder of Boston's Hidden Restaurants, a website that focuses on lesser-known dining spots in the Boston area and elsewhere in New England.