Boston, Massachusetts to Baltimore, Maryland: Life of Pie

Text: John M. Flores • Photography: John M. Flores

Pizza is the United Nations of food, the one dining option that a group of hungry riders can readily agree upon. Burger joints are for carnivores; salad bars are for rabbits. But pizza, ubiquitous pizza, can be customized for nearly everyone.

Chew on this for a second—on any given day, 13 percent of the U.S. population is having a slice of pie. That’s over 41 million people eating pizza daily in restaurants, pubs, at home, and for those with titanium-lined stomachs, at gas stations. Pizza has clearly conquered the New World, but its spiritual home is still in the Northeast where Italian immigrants at the turn of the 20th century brought their traditions and recipes. My father-in-law, a first generation Italian-American, has mastered the family recipe; who else continues their pizza lineage? During an October sabbatical, a 2015 Indian Scout brings me to the old Italian neighborhood of East Boston to find out.

I belly up to the bar at Santarpio’s and ask the bartender for their most popular pie. “Gah, lick, and sausage,” he says. Hmmm … I never heard of “gah” before and “lick” doesn’t make sense here. But if gah, lick, and sausage are what the locals eat, then I’ll give it a try. Then I remember—I’m in Boston. Gah+lick=garlic.

I chat with the couple to my right, who’ve been coming here every Friday for nearly 30 years, and I’m pretty sure it’s not for the circa 1963 basement den decor. The gah, lick, and sausage pizza arrives, and after just one slice I start making plans to come here every Friday even though I live five hours away. The pizza has a thin, crispy, and flavorful crust, as well as tasty red sauce, good cheese (enough but not too much), and great tasting sweet sausage. I’d grown up thinking that all the best pizza was within 25 miles of New York City, and here on the first bite I’ve been proven wrong. What other revelations would this trip bring?

College Pie Providence

It’s spitting rain as I leave Boston. My first stop is Provincetown on the tip of Cape Cod. I roll through eastern Massachusetts along quiet backroads and through mill towns, which over the decades watched the bottom fall out of their economy. Once thriving, these downtowns and brick mills are now shadows of their former selves; one can only hope that they find a new way forward. I watch the land flatten and the sand dunes grow as I make my way along the Cape.

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