A bigger piece of the pie

This is not your father’s Santarpio’s. The new location on Route 1 North in Peabody is slated to open today and the owners held a private party Monday to showcase the famed 100-year-old pizzeria’s new digs.

Unlike the original location in East Boston, with its gritty unapologetic simplicity, the new location is sleek and modern with plush booths, a solid wood bar and open fire pit for the homemade sausage and lamb. There’re also flat screen TVs and, hold on to your hats folks, they take credit cards — a luxury you will probably never see at the local location but that’s how we like it over here.

But like the original Tarp’s (North Shore residents will have to get use to calling it that) the food is exactly the same as here. For over 100 years Santarpio’s has been serving up quality no frills grub from its location on Chelsea Street and the family’s Peabody location is no different.

“It’s the same menu as the one here in East Boston,” said owner Carla Santarpio. “We’ll start with the three items that made Santarpio’s pizza famous — lamb and sausage.”

While the famous local eatery has gained the reputation of being an unpolished oasis that has refused to age with the time, Santarpio said it would have been impossible, if not sacrilege, to try and replicate the original in Peabody.

Santarpio’s father, Frank, who made the pizzeria famous with minor tweaks during the 1960s joked he would have moved right into the new establishment — broken tables and all.

“I told my kids not to buy any new furniture because the furniture in there was great–the chairs were banged up, the tables were wobbly, it had the Santarpio’s feel,” said Frank. “The kids did a lot of work and if everyone’s willing to work I’m sure it will be a success.”

And if the success in Peabody is anything like Santarpio’s success here, the family should be proud.

On any given night during the week the line to get into Santarpio’s can sometimes stretch around the block. Inside the cozy joint, the walls are covered with wood paneling and pictures of boxing legends.

The jukebox plays mostly Sinatra, Dino and Tony Bennett and the veteran waiters sing along to “Strangers in the Night” and “That’s Amore”.

The bill of fare has always been simple and since it was turned into a pizza place in 1966 there’s only been a few deviations from the main staples of pizza, grilled lamb or sausage and beer.

“I think keeping it simple has worked this far,” said Frank when the pizzeria turned 100 in 2003. “I can’t really cook anything else so you get what you get.”

Santarpio’s has come a long way from an Italian bakery that opened in 1903 on the corner of Chelsea and Porter Streets.

In 1933, Frank father, Joseph, one of six children took over the establishment in 1933 and revamped the building, turning the bakery into Santarpio’s Café, a popular bar among residents and sports fanatics.

Every once in a while patrons of Santarpio’s Café could expect a visit from one of their favorite boxers.

From Rocky Marciano to Jack Dempsey, legendary fighters would pop in for a cold beer and a quick photo opportunity throughout the late 40’s and early 50’s.

It was during this time the food started to catch on.

“My father use to make the tripe on Saturdays and they had the pizza and grill,” said Frank. “I guess it just sort of caught on from then.”

In 1966, the restaurant went through another facelift when Frank took over, ultimately bearing the name Santarpio’s Pizza.

“We put the sign up with the last $700 I had and that’s when it really caught on,” said Frank.

Along with the sign came a wave of success that hasn’t stopped for nearly four decades.

“It’s my grandfather’s pizza recipes and it hasn’t changed,” said Frank. “The only thing that has changed is we got rid of the old brick oven that was used for the bakery.”

Frank said that everything is handmade; from the sausages to the pizza dough, there’s no cutting of corners.

“We even cut the lamb,” said Frank. “We get the same lamb as Grill 23. They get the tenderloin and ours is a little chewy, tasty but chewy. So I tell people to get a lamb and a sausage then they’ll be half full before their ready for a pizza.”

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