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Santarpio's-- what don't I get?

Finally made it there last weekend. For reference sake, my pizza universe in Boston includes Armando's, Emma's, Regina, and Cambridge One-- various sorts for various moods. I'm always chasing the great lost NY pizza of my youth but have branched out to be an appreciator of any kind of decent pie.

The thing about Santarpio's is that is just seemed really dull- the crust is undersalted, the sauce sweet-- mostly tomatoes and not a lot of herb, and the cheese was fine. Is there something I'm missing here? Seems like I should have gotten a sausage pie?

The lamb skewer was fine but fattier than I thought it should be.

Go ahead-- fire away, Santarpio's lovers. Help me understand.

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  1. The Garlic pizza is the best.

    1. I love the skewers. I like the pies, but I don't think they're the tops the way I used to. It seems like the crust has a more biscuity crumb than I recall from my youth. The weight of one ingredient is all that crust can sustain; I usually get sausage and eat it quickly before the crust has a chance to sog. Tastes to me like they season with garlic powder, not my favorite. Atmosphere is a big plus.

      2 Replies
      1. re: MC Slim JB

        Yep, this sums it up for me. I think the skewers are terrific, especially the sausage. The pizza is good-ish, but it's as much about atmosphere as food. It's also one of the few places in the world where I enjoy getting a carafe of red wine on tap.

        I seem to recall having read somewhere that Jim Leff avoids places that are overcrowded with locals, citing inferior chow. By that rationale, I'd imagine he would abhor Santarpio's.

        1. re: finlero

          This is my experience too. I think the pizza is merely "meh" but the lamb and sausage skewers and the red wine from a tap are priceless. Ahh ... the memories of a group of hounds ordering yet another carafe of red one cold afternoon is one of the best.

          I'd rather go to Regina's any day over Santarpio's for that style of pizza. Now that I've tried Gran Gusto it's a little harder to decide, even though GG is such a different animal.

      2. I don't think your missing anything, but I sure feel like I'm missing something if I don't get a taste of Santarpio's once a month.
        I'm convinced that most people who didn't grow up eating Santarpio's pizza just don't like it that much. Just about every person I have brought to try Santarpio's to try for the first time does not understand my passion for their pies, which are usually either just sausage or pepperoni.
        I agree that the pies must be eaten right away, and the crust is not the same as it was, or I remember it being from years ago. I've never had a problem with the sauce which is nothing other than canned crushed tomatoes and dried herbs simmered for a while.
        The lamb skewers, peppers, and bread make ordering easy. The hardest decision for me is sausage or pepperoni (7 out of 10 times it's sausage).

        1 Reply
        1. re: Infomaniac

          I completely agree with Infomanic. I was a Monday night regular at Santarpio's for years, actually to the point of hanging out in the kitchen with Rocco and the gang, talking sports or whatever while waiting for takeout pizzas, which we occasionally did when we didn't have much time. And for those of us who went there literally hundreds of times, there was no better pizza. But lately I've been bringing "newbies" to Santarp's, and while they mostly like the pizza, they don't quite have the passion for it that the rest of us do.

          And yes, it needs to be eaten right away, though the ones I took home either to eat later that night or to freeze for another day weren't all that bad.

          For me, the 'roni pizza is as good as it gets, while the garlic pizza is nearly as good, though folks around me the next day usually aren't took happy, as the garlic really does seep through the pores...

        2. There's only three good pizzas in Boston that I know of and Santarpio's is not one of them (a step above Regina but that's not saying much):

          1) Iggy's
          2) Figs
          3) Cambridge One

          18 Replies
          1. re: joebelt

            Like them all...I'll add Armando's and Gran Gusto in Cambridge too.

            1. re: Sal Monella

              I need to try Gran Gusto. It's on my short list of pizza places to try.

            2. re: joebelt

              Cambridge One???
              That could be one of the worst representations of "grilled" pizza I have ever experienced, never mind pizza in general.

              1. re: Wursthof

                I don't know what you mean by "grilled" pizza but yes, Cambridge One has a lot of fans in town. If you like your pizzas not dripping with grease, topped with quality ingredients and a good (not sweet) tomato sauce, they are a very good option. Their crust is very good as well unless if you like soggy crust.

                1. re: Wursthof

                  My issue with Cambridge One's crust is that it's essentially a cracker. If I wanted to eat my pizza on matzoh, this is the place I'd go.

                  1. re: gini

                    It's a thin crust. I don't know why you would call it a cracker unless if you've been served a subpar pizza there on a off-night.

                    1. re: joebelt

                      The most recent pizza I had there literally shattered like a Carr's water cracker when I bit into it. I really hope that was an off night.

                      1. re: gini

                        I would day that it was an off night. Cambridge1 has a firmer crust to be sure, however I have dined there many times and never had crist as you describe. I have never experienced anything as crisp as say even Emmas at C1.

                        1. re: joebelt

                          I have to agree wtih gini on this one. My husband and I tried Cambridge One one night (based on recommendations here) when we were in the mood for pizza. While it was tasty, our comment at the moment (and ever since when we recollect our experience) was that it was like eating a cracker. We left still hungry and actually ordered pizza elsewhere on our way home (since we had been in the mood for pizza).

                          1. re: mocooks

                            i've only been there one time, so who knows. but i remember the crust being pretty crisp. i don't know about cracker-thin/crisp, but thinner and crisper than usual. i actually liked it quite a bit, though like mocooks, i left hungry b/c it's a less substantial meal as a result.

                            but as often noted on the board, it's really a very different beast from other pizzas, and kind of hard to make meaningful comparisons as a result.

                            1. re: autopi

                              I haven't been there in a couple of years, but I don't really ever recall getting anything cracker thin/crispy. One potential thing to watch for is that the pizzas that are going to be less oily might be more prone to ultra-crispiness?

                              Put me down as another vote that their 'pizza' probably should be considered as a separate food item than what most people think of when they say 'pizza' though ... I like it a lot, but if someone says, "Man, I really want a pizza", Cambridge 1 is probably not going to hit the spot.

                              1. re: jgg13

                                What I didn't like about Cambridge 1 pizza was that the tomato sauce wasn't cooked, it tasted stewed, apparently because the ovens were too hot and the crust started burning. I like the location and atmosphere though, despite the lousy pizza, and do stop by for a beer or wine sometimes.

                    2. re: gini

                      How does Cambridge One's crust compare with Za in Arlington?

                      I like a thin crust with good flavor. But as much as I love the salads and toppings at Za, their crust just doesn't do it for me. Kind of thin and tasteless.

                      If it shatters like a Carr's cracker AND taste like one?

                      1. re: poptart

                        Aren't they owned by the same people/group? I guess I assumed that because I've eaten at both and think they're virtually identical. The menu at Za is way better than Cambridge One though, as are the salads.

                        1. re: bobot

                          Interesting! I didn't realize that. Thanks.

                          1. re: poptart

                            I don't think this is true - pretty certain that Za is owned and operated by the folks behind EVOO -- I think Cambridge 1 is part of the Miracle of Science empire. Za is consistently better than Cambridge 1 in my experience, but I like both.

                            1. re: rlh

                              Cambridge 1 is indeed own by the Miracle of Science crew (to my knowledge it also includes Middlesex, Audobon Circle & the new Cambridge 1 - but there might be others. Also heard tell that they're taking over the greenhouse space in harvard sq)

                        2. re: poptart

                          Za's crust is definitely not a Neapolitan style like crust. Their salads are much better than their pizzas.

                  2. I don't get it either. I guess I fall into the category of not growing up eating pizza there. However (quick aside),I do remember visiting places I thought were great when I was younger and came away being dissapointed.
                    I don't like their pizza. The first time I had it , how does that song go?..... "is that all there is?" But for those who like it, what the heck, it's your choice. I'm not going to tell anyone what to like, it's all subjective. But for me, their dough, sauce and prep doesn't make it.