By John Lynds
An online food magazine has told America what East Bostonians have known for decades—Santarpio’s Pizza has one of the best pies going in the U.S.
In the Daily Meal’s annual ‘101 Best Pizzas in America’ list that was released last week, Santarpio’s was named #31 on their best pizza list.
The Daily Meal named Santarpio’s mozzarella, sausage, and garlic pie a must have.
“The local favorite spot has already seen its fair share of fame after winning various best-of-Boston pizza lists over the years. Santarpio’s, which opened in 1903, sticks to their traditional roots when it comes to the famous slightly chewy and satisfyingly wet slices,” wrote the magazine. “Their menu consists of a variety of options, but includes a list of customers’ favorite combos, like a pie that pairs sausage with garlic, ground beef, and onions, and even “The Works”: mushrooms, onions, peppers, garlic, sausage, pepperoni, extra cheese, and anchovies. First-timer? Order Santarpio’s most popular pie — mozzarella, sausage, and garlic — to establish a baseline.”
To compile the list, the Daily Meal said it turned to a panel of experts to narrow the list down to America’s 101 best.
The Eastie landmark and its awesomely chewy, cheesy, sweet-sauced pizza has received the coveted ‘Best Pizza’ prize numerous times by Boston Magazine over the years. Barstool Sports recently brought New England Patriots receiver Julian Edelman to Santarpio’s to rate the pizza. Edelman gave the pizza a solid rating.
“It gives me great pride to be listed as one of the best pizzas in the country,” said Frank Santarpio. “This is what my children and I strive for, and we make every pizza the best we can for our great customers, many of which have been coming here (to Santarpio’s) since they were children.”
For decades Santarpio’s, or ‘Tarps if you’re an Eastie resident, has gained the reputation of being an unpolished oasis that has refused to age with the time.
A status that Frank Santarpio says gives the popular pizzeria character and charm.
“When you first come here, you’re either going to love it or you’re never coming back,” said Santarpio.
However, on Friday and Saturday nights the line to get into Santarpio’s stretches around the block so Frank can be unapologetic about the ambiance.
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.
However, Santarpio’s has come a long way from an Italian bakery that opened in 1903 on the corner of Chelsea and Porter Streets.
“My grandfather, Francisco, came to America in 1900,” said Santarpio. “He bought a couple of buildings in Eastie, one was this building, which he made into Santarpio’s Bakery in March 1903.”
In 1933, Santarpio’s father, Joseph, one of six children took over the establishment, and revamped the building, turning the bakery into Santarpio’s Café, a popular bar among Eastie 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 40s and early 50s.
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 Santarpio. “I guess it just sort of caught on from then.”
In 1966, the restaurant went through another facelift when Santarpio 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,” he said.
Along with the sign came a wave of success that hasn’t stopped for decades.