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Santarpios - You've got to be kidding me.

We made a small journey into East Boston to eat a pizza at Santarpios. I was psyched because of all the chatter about the place.

The neighborhood is kind of dirty and slummy. Not a big deal but still a little distracting.

About 15 minute wait outside to get in, no big deal. Over an hour wait for a pizza once inside. Meanwhile the place is over run with little kids with no supervision. It was like a little like a daycare. Majority of eating adults on cell phones. Talking about what, who knows.

Pizza was crispy on the edges and soggy in the middle, and SALTY. Did I say it was SALTY? I just wanted to mention it was SALTY. Reminded me of a chef boyardee pizza kit in a box.

Wife got the lamb and sausage plate. Lamb was not special at all, but the sausage was good.

I know people love the place, but for me not only was I disappointed, I kind of hated the place and hated the experience.

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  1. I don't want to start the new year on a sour note so I'll just say I'm not a fan of Santarpio's but I respect the opinion of their followers. What works for some won't work for others. The neighborhood is what it is. I've had better food in more sketchy areas but so what. It is what it is. A lot of places are not consistant, but if you like the place you give them a pass.
    I'll give them a try again someday if I'm out that-a-way, and who knows, maybe I'll like it.
    Let's keep positive in'09, we got a big big mountain to climb. Cheers everyone..............

    2 Replies
    1. re: catspercapita

      I agree with catspercapita. I've never been impressed with Santarpios. It's just not for me, but I can respect that other people like it. Obviously they're doing something right if so many people like it, but I'll take (the original) Regina's over Santarpio's any day. I might go if it was close to me, but I certainly wouldn't make a special trip there, as I know many people do.

      1. re: catspercapita

        Santarpios is a throw-back to another age.

        It used to be one of the only thin crust pizza places in Boston. Wine is served in juice glasses.

        It is legendary because it seems it has always been there. In context, it serves a very decent slice of pie.

      2. Really sorry to hear you were disappointed -
        Sounds like the OP was a victim of too high expectations. Based on the comment about the neighborhood being distracting, not sure what was expected, but Santarpio's is similarly distracting on the inside, which is why lots of people like it - for the distraction. ;)
        Sounds like they were slammed and that will effect things - it can take a while - Tho' I thought cell phone usage inside was strictly verboten.

        Anyway, maybe I am drinking the Kool Aid or maybe it just takes someone like my friend from Rev-eeah to introduce it properly, but I love the pizza.

        1. Having differing opinions on a restaurant doesn't bother me (I personally like Santarp's), but I wonder how the people who live in that neighborhood feel about it being called dirty and slummy....

          4 Replies
          1. re: hiddenboston

            I take your point, really. (Living in Billerica, I've heard my share of barbs about the town!)The neighborhood a place is in, however, can be important to people. I am usually with my 10 yr old when we go out to eat and if an area looks rundown but is safe, that's good for me to know. Likewise, if an area is okay during the day but not so much at night or someplace to be on-the-alert, that is important data for me and will influence if I go to a restaurant in that neighborhood.

            1. re: three of us

              Billlerica, Heck that is N.End North, what is shady 2 u guys anyway, a strip joint on the main drag is upscale ? Eastie is and never was anything but run down But what do or did you expect ? Santarpios you go for the pie ( no one mentioned the convoy of vehicles picking up takeout) . They take double parking to new extremes in Eastie. Santarpios, is almost under an over pass . Yet they are known for one of the best pies in Boston , Baby your not the Best but in the top 10
              Reginas ! I moved to CC & After visiting friends or Biz in town.
              I would stop by the N.End and pick up a few so people on the Cape could taste a decent pie, found a few decent ones but noting like the Best Regina's in The North End !

              1. re: 1mikeyob

                I need to run that post through a translator...

              2. re: three of us

                There's a big difference between looking gritty and "don't walk alone, and watch your valuables". I find that too many people from the suburbs (and even some who live in the city!) can't tell the difference between the two.

            2. Nobody goes to Santarpio's for the atmosphere or service (which respectively redefine gritty and unfriendly). And the part of East Boston where it's located is a little on the scruffy side, though there's worse. Have had one of the best pizzas locally when I've been and also liked the lamb and sausage skewers. There are folks who don't like the pizzas there, though -- could be either inconsistency on the part of the place (which I haven't experienced thus far) or customer expectations about what constitutes great pizza (which can be a real wild card). With caveats above, I like the place a lot.

              1. I'm in the camp that find Santarpio's pizza good but not great; it used to be one of my favorites, but our local thin-crust options since those days have really expanded. It helps to get no more than an ingredient or two and eat it fast. It gets soggy quickly.

                I love the skewers, though: lamb and housemade sausage cooked over charcoal. As for the atmosphere, it's one of the last of those frozen-in-amber working-class saloons — like the New Bridge — that you really should visit before they vanish and take their little specialties with them. When one of those kinds of places closes, its unique flavor is gone forever.

                3 Replies
                1. re: MC Slim JB

                  MC, your last point really hits home with me, as I am still lamenting the news that the Highland Cafe (a regular haunt of mine for years) in Malden has likely closed its doors forever. Beyond just looking at the food, I really hope that old-Boston joints such as the New Bridge, Santarpio's, Doyle's, Pleasant Cafe, and even Greg's in Watertown ("WHADDYA WANT, HONEY") remain open for a long time to come.

                  1. re: hiddenboston

                    I'm a huge fan of Reginas in the North End....always wanted to try Santarps...walked in one day, went to order Pizza, was told the oven wasn't on yet but we could get BBQ. Left there and never returned....15 years ago.
                    The Highland Cafe will be missed....the OLD Highland Cafe that is.

                    1. re: hiddenboston

                      You forgot to mention the Lynwood Cafe in Randolph. "Preserved in amber"is how I've long described it, and you should all try to get there before it closes (hopefully never). Great authenicity, great bar-style 'za.

                  2. Sorry you didn't like it. Sounds like you didn't have the real dl - that the "charm" of Santarpio's isn't for everyone. But the neighborhood is fine - I'm not from EB, but I feel a little offended to hear it called "dirty and slummy" . And the pizza is usually great, never had one that was too salty or soggy, it seems like the stars must have been aligned against you that day . . but there's a pizza for everyone, somewhere.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Penrosej

                      "....there's a pizza for everyone, somewhere."

                      No truer statement has ever been said.

                      1. re: Penrosej

                        Yes I apologize, slummy is not what I was after "gritty", is more what I was thinking.

                        The wife wants to return to go to "Ellos" I think it was down the street. We looked in, no customers inside. It looked like a desert place for women,

                        1. re: dave_chis

                          Hopefully the wife will go out with you again, and sample some of East Boston's best new arrivals. Peruvian ,and more.

                          Hopefully the wife will go out with you again, - East Boston has some of the most interesting basic restaurants.

                      2. I agree that the service at Santarpios is consistently the pits (disinterested and slow at best, rude and obnoxious at worst) and the pizza is not worth the hype it gets (I have no issue with the folks who eat there regularly nor the neighborhood - it feels perfectly safe to park and walk around there (once you find that rare spot).) Nonethess, I end up there every 3-5 years and always wonder why it would be a recommended destination for pizza (or kebabs, actually - they are always overcooked regardless of how I order).

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: rlh

                          The service at Santarpios is fine, as long as you don't ask for a menu. ;)

                          1. re: Bob Dobalina

                            And do not....I REPEAT, DO NOT.....ask what kinds of pasta they have there. I witnessed a young couple doing just that across from our table and believe me, the waiter was not happy with the question. :-b

                        2. The schtick and the red wine in juice glasses are my favorite things about the place. I don't like the pizza that much at all. However, a crusty waiter told us the secret to doctoring the lamb skewers last time -- drizzle with a little pickle juice (you have to ask for a glass of the juice) which cuts the grease and really complements the lamb. For pizza, I'd pick Regina's every day of the week.

                          2 Replies
                            1. re: yumyum

                              you ask for a glass of pickle juice at Santarpios you might be asked to leave...

                            2. i really like the place. although i go during off-peak times and always sit at the bar.
                              good pizza, great grill items.....

                              1. i really like the place.
                                but i always go during off-hours and sit at the bar. i like their pizza (the toppings are underneath the cheese!) and the real charcoal grill items are yummy, not NewBridge yummy, but still good.

                                1. The neighborhood is fine, but certainly trashy looking.

                                  The pizza can be inconsistent. I've found that much as I love pepperoni, there's is mediocre - I think they switched to a new, saltier brand a couple of years ago.

                                  Their crust is ok. Their sauce, however, is superb.

                                  Probably all in the best pizza in Boston (though sometimes I think Regina). But I'd take New Haven any day.

                                  1. On the way to the airport, I stopped in yesterday for the first time in a few years.

                                    The service, as always, was gruff. I don't mind so much - you get what you pay for, and as long as she was attentive, I don't need Miss Congeniality.

                                    The pizza, however, was a disgrace. It was burned, absolutely burned. And I don'r man properly charred in places - this ain't my first pizza rodeo. This pizza was absolutely nuked. All the cheese was brown or black, and the outer crust was so brown and crunchy as to be inedible. It was like trying to bite into a 3 day old baguette.

                                    Look, things happen. The pizza was obviously left in the oven for an extra minute or two accidentally. I noticed other pies at other booths which were properly cooked. The problem is that they served it to me. Any decent pizzeria would have dumped that pie,and made us a new one. Top 25 in America? Let's get real. This place is resting on its laurels and its disdain or apathy for its customers is embarassing.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. IMHO - Santarpio's is good but indeed overrated much like Pizzeria Regina's. I think whether you think these places are the greatest (instead of above average which is my opinion) depends on your experience. If you're used to your local "House of *" pizzeria, Domino's, Pizza Hut, etc... and you don't have experience baking pizzas, Santarpio's and Regina's will be the best pizza you've ever tried. That said, I think Regina's (Thatcher St.) is better than Santarpio's.

                                      1. So I went for my first time, after a flight back into Logan. Wow, I was totally underwhelmed! First, being from Somerville, I certainly understand the appeal of "gritty" but was it really necessary to paint every inch of the restaurant institutional brown? I bet this is not how the owner's home is decorated. The color was ugly and depressing. Secondly, the pizza sauce was moderately tasty but other than that, the food was truly unexceptional. I get better pizza at the turkish-owned pizza place in my 'hood. Maybe it's true that Santarpios was the first thin-crust pizza in Boston, and was an antidote to the unfortunate Chicago-pan-pizza craze, but 30 years later, it's time to pack it in if this is all they can offer.

                                        13 Replies
                                        1. re: somervilleoldtimer

                                          I, too, recently went when I had to pick someone up at the airport on a Saturday night and couldn't get into Rino's. I have been in the past, albeit not frequently, and had always enjoyed the pizza and lamb/sausage grill. This evening the pizza was very poor, average flavor and below average crust. In addition, the waiter forgot our order of sausage and lamb. It's almost worth to drive to New Haven for decent pizza.

                                            1. re: somervilleoldtimer

                                              Rino's is an old school Italian restaurant in Eastie, it's excellent and very reasonable, they offer homemade pasta's, go beyond somerville it's a wonderful world!

                                              1. re: treb

                                                Hey Treb, SHHHHHHHHHH - it's hard enough already to get into Rino's past 5PM on a Saturday! Then again, I just gave away my "secret" to get there early! : )

                                                1. re: southie_chick

                                                  Rino's is hardly a secret on this board. Late to the party, I reviewed it in the Phoenix a year ago, based on Jose Duarte, chef/owner of Taranta, raving about it in Boston Magazine (must say, first tip I've gotten there). It has since been covered by Schaffer at the Herald and the Phantom Gourmet. Sorry for contributing to the lid being blown off that one, but it's often nice and slow at lunch, and the food is every bit as good.

                                                  Comments about the neighborhood kind of stick in my craw. Have you ever eaten anything decent in Weston or Sherborn? That kind of talk is beneath Chowhounds, in my opinion.

                                                  I agree with the notion that Santarpio's has lost its specialness in the wake of many other more artisanal thin-crust pizzerias opening around town. I can remember thinking it was amazing 15 years ago, but not now. Still like it for the atmosphere and the skewers, and I think a pie with two toppings or fewer, eaten quickly on the spot, is pretty good. I think the recent Food Feud arrived at the right verdict.


                                                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                    Rino's is definitely no longer a secret, at least temporarily, as Guy Fieri featured it on last night's "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives."

                                                    1. re: hiddenboston

                                                      And here I was thinking of going to Rino's for the first time in a long time later this week. Thanks, Guy Fieri.

                                                      How Rino's fits into any of those three categories sure beats me.

                                                      1. re: erwocky

                                                        Both hiddenboston and I were approached by Fieri's producers for suggestions on New England venues, and we both named Rino's among our candidates. Neither of us got credit on the show, no surprise.

                                                        I can only take Fieri in small doses (Bourdain's "Poochie" insult always struck me as hilariously spot-on), but I'd watch him more often if his show stretched the DDD definition with more restaurants like Rino's. (My other suggestions included places like Angela's Cafe, Cafe Polonia, and Speed's.)

                                                        As a friend noted, Fieri's usual blowhard schtick seemed genuinely muted by his awe for what Dicenso is doing there.


                                                        Cafe Polonia
                                                        611 Dorchester Ave, Boston, MA 02127

                                                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                          MC, I wasn't clear in my earlier note about this--I sent them a short list of places on my own, including Rino's (they actually hadn't gotten in touch with me). Sorry about the confusion!

                                                          It was nice that Fieri dedicated two segments to Rino's. He did seem in awe of the place, though granted he seems to be in awe of lots of things.

                                                          1. re: hiddenboston

                                                            Well, if they reached out to me, they likely would have contacted you if you hadn't taken the initiative. How many people read your blogs now: tens of thousands? A big day for my blog is a few hundred hits.


                                                            1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                              Perhaps Guy doesn't like it when I make fun of his odd sayings. Or when I call him out for things like Rino's being on "the East Side of Boston."

                                                    2. re: MC Slim JB

                                                      On Friday night around 7pm, I was driving around the neighborhood for a parking spot near Angela's Cafe and Rino's looked like they had a couple of tables still open. (Angela's did too.)

                                                      I imagine there are a few people who read the Herald and the Phantom and will actually try a place in East Boston, but among those few, I imagine fewer are repeat customers.