A quick look at the “other” Santarp’s
For those who watch reruns of Seinfeld, do you remember the episode in the bakery where it’s discovered that there is “another babka”? Everyone knows about the legendary chocolate babka, but when Elaine finds out there’s a cinnamon version as well, she shakes her head and refuses to buy the “lesser babka.” For some reason, this scene comes to mind when looking at Santarpio’s Pizza in East Boston. The original Santarp’s is a legendary spot, being an old-school joint with gruff servers, Sinatra cranking from the jukebox, and pizza that’s the focus of endless “best of” arguments. Well, did you know that there is “another” Santarpio’s? Many people do, but many others still do not even after eight years in operation in Peabody, and of those who do know about it, you’ll often hear a “Well, it can’t be nearly as good as the original.” Guess what—the second location of Santarpio’s goes against conventional wisdom, as its pizza is very close if not equal in quality to the original in Eastie, which flies in the face of the theory that second (and third and fourth, etc.) locations of a landmark spot are never worth going to.
The Peabody location of Santarpio’s is located near one of the most insane intersections in all of Massachusetts (and that’s saying a lot), where Routes 1, 128, 95, 129, and a few other roads intersect. Getting there from nearly any direction other than Route 1 north out of Boston can be an adventure, with even GPS systems briefly pausing to figure out exactly what to do. Once you get there—hopefully without incident—you’ll find a place that looks a whole lot different from the original, almost like a family-friendly chain, which makes sense since this was once home to a Bennigan’s. The interior of the restaurant is quite spacious compared to the Eastie location, with a bar in the middle, a dining and lounge area to the right, and a larger dining section to the left that includes a wraparound porchlike area with lots of windows. The staff at the Peabody Santarpio’s tends to be very friendly, which is jarring in a way when you think about the famously rude staff at the original, so don’t be surprised if you leave the place saying to yourself, “They’re just too nice here.”
By now you’ll have probably figured out that in some ways, the Peabody location of Santarpio’s and the East Boston location of Santarpio’s have absolutely nothing in common with each other, but remember, for at least some, it’s all about the pizza while the atmosphere and the service take a back seat. And the pizza at the Peabody location is almost eerily like that of Eastie, which makes a pizza that very few—if any—have been able to replicate anywhere east of New Jersey. (For the record, the pizzas at Santarp’s bear just a faint resemblance to some of the tomato pies found in and around Trenton.) The pies here are made nearly the exact same way as that of the East Boston location, with lots of rich tomato sauce and a mix of cheeses on a pliable, almost soggy crust with a good amount of corn meal on the bottom, and leftovers firm up nicely and make for a good next-day pizza whether served hot or cold. The rest of the menu at the Peabody location is pretty much the same as that of the original, with lamb skewers, steak tips, and house-made sausage offered, while beer and wine options are fairly limited, so don’t come expecting to get a double IPA with notes of mango and candied peach. One big difference between Peabody and Eastie is that this location of Santarpio’s does take credit cards, so if you’re short of cash, there’s no need to run to the ATM.
For a true “old Boston” experience, few places are better than Santarpio’s in East Boston. But if you’re just looking for some really good (and unique) pizza, the one in Peabody is certainly worth going to, especially if you like easy parking, places that take cards, and servers who don’t say “Whaddya want.” Not all satellite locations of restaurants are as good as the originals, but the other Santarp’s definitely comes mighty close.
SANTARPIO’S PIZZA. 71 NEWBURY ST., PEABODY.