Santarpio’s Pizza

EricS.

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Baseball-loving Joseph Santarpio gave up a shot at playing for the New York Yankees to run his dad’s bakery—and Red Sox pizza fans are forever grateful.

Pizza might never have been introduced at Boston-based Santarpio’s Pizza (santarpiospizza.com) if Joseph Santarpio didn’t turn down an offer to play for the New York Yankees. His father, Francisco, owned a bread bakery he’d founded in 1903 and insisted that his baseball-playing son abandon his Major League dreams and work for the family business, hauling bread on his shoulder to sell in the streets of Boston. After Prohibition ended, the bakery became a bar that served lunchtime fare such as spaghetti and meatballs, and, by the 1940s, Joe Timpone, Joseph’s brother-in-law, came in to make pizzas at night while working as a mason in the daytime. A third generation inherited the business in the 1960s, when Joseph’s son Frank took over. “My father made the pizzeria what it is today,” says Joia Santarpio, daughter of Frank and current owner of the pizzeria with siblings Joe, Frank and Carla. “He was at the pizzeria six or seven days a week and just retired seven years ago!”

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Santarpio’s, says Joia, has always been “nothing too fancy”—a pizzeria with “grumpy waiters,” no windows, nonexistent parking, and a bare-bones menu with only pizza, homemade sausage and lamb tips. But people still visit from all over the world, and it consistently places on “best of” lists. The pizza itself is stripped down, with a thin crust, fresh-cut mozzarella, plain tomato sauce sans herbs or spices, and traditional toppings such as sausage, peppers and onions. It’s assembled “upside-down,” with pizza makers adding toppings, cheese and finally sauce, and then cooked until the crust becomes crunchy and crispy. This simplicity, Joia says, is key to the pizzeria’s success. “Try to keep it simple; you should do a few things really well,” she advises. “A lot of places you go to, everything is good, but nothing is great, and customers can find that anywhere. But where else can they get your one-of-a-kind grandmother’s secret recipe?”

Santarpio’s existed for more than 100 years with only one location. Then, in September 2010, the family decided to branch out and open a second, more family-friendly location in Peabody, Massachusetts, just 14 miles from the original. As the fifth generation gets involved in the family enterprise, Joia says, there might be room for additional pizzerias in the future. But, for now, she celebrates the melting pot that the original location has become. “There’s not just one type of person coming in,” she notes. “People can come in a limo, wearing sequin dresses, or they can show up in pajamas—everybody feels comfortable here.” —Tracy Morin

santarpiospizza.com

8 Comments

  1. JimReply
    June 6, 2019 at 5:48 pm

    Santarpios is a Boston icon. The BEST!

  2. Gabriel EscotoReply
    January 30, 2021 at 9:07 am

    Stupendous pizza….it is true – sometimes, you should do a few things really well

  3. DonReply
    February 10, 2021 at 6:33 pm

    What “style” of pizza would you call what you serve at your restaurant?

  4. MichaelReply
    July 31, 2021 at 9:52 pm

    I’ve had pizza all over the US. Santarpio’s is the best. Period.

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  6. Jacki GayReply
    February 8, 2022 at 11:34 am

    I grew up loving Santarpios. My grandparents took us once a month. While in college, I used to swing by, get a half-cooked pie, which the waiters would duct tape so it had a handle, and I’d take it to Florida with me to share with my sorority sisters. 1 sister was from Westwood, another from Norwood, and they were bickering over who got the bubble. In 2000-2001, my dad used to take me and my brother there every Saturday. We would sit at the bar, drink some beers, and eat the pizza, occasionally splitting and order of lamb. Our best day was when we walked in, and there were only two seats together at the bar, with an empty seat two down. Lefty looked at one guy and said “Can you move over there, so my friends can sit here?” The three of us looked at each other: LEFTY SAID WE ARE HIS FRIENDS! It was such an honor. 🙂
    Santarpio’s is one of the best parts of growing up in Eastie. I have yet to have a pizza as good.

  7. Linda TessReply
    February 13, 2022 at 2:11 am

    what can I say except I live 1.5 hours away from Santarpios and gladly take the trip for this amazing pizza. I come from Rhode Island where we have the BEST restaurants. Santarpios is second to none

  8. Karla O'DonisReply
    June 1, 2022 at 5:34 am

    I’m from California and I visited Boston a few times when my boyfriend now husband lived there. He took me to Santarpio’s and I fell in love. The staff made me feel like family and the food even more. I recommend anyone traveling to East Boston area to take some hours to go eat at this family owned Pizzeria. Loved the food, loved the people!

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