, Salem, MA

January 27, 2010

Renowned pizzeria eyes site on Route 1

By Matthew K. Roy

PEABODY — A famous family-run East Boston pizza place is planning to expand to Peabody.

Santarpio's Pizza has set its sights on the shuttered Bennigan's restaurant on Route 1 north, Peabody Licensing Board Chairman Minas Dakos said. The pizzeria will be before the board on Feb. 8 to request a transfer of the liquor license held by Bennigan's.

Santarpio's opened in 1903 as a bakery, selling bread and baker's pizza, according to the restaurant's Web site. It evolved, under the stewardship of Frank Santarpio, into a pizzeria in 1933.

Last May, GQ magazine selected it as one of America's 25 Best Pizzas. Writer Alan Richman highlighted the homemade sausage pie.

"Santarpio's crusts are hearty, a little roughhouse, very much in the baked-bread family, and the homemade sausage comes crumbled, skillfully integrated into the tomato sauce," he wrote.

In addition to a variety of pizzas, Santarpio's also specializes in barbecue sausage and lamb.

The fourth generation of the Santarpio family is now in charge. After 107 years, the Peabody venture will be the pizzeria's second location. No one was available to comment yesterday afternoon at the pizzeria, according to someone who answered the phone.

Bennigan's closed after the national restaurant chain filed for bankruptcy. A court recently gave the Santarpios approval to buy the Route 1 location for $1.8 million, Dakos said.

It is good news for the city and Route 1, which has been bolstered in the last year by the opening of the popular Sonic restaurant and the expansive Latitude sports club.

"They're a good company," Dakos said. "Everybody raves about Santarpio's."