Santarpio’s: the jewel in the pizza crown

Santarpio's Pizza has been serving up pies at its Chelsea Street location in East Boston since 1933.

Santarpio’s Pizza has been serving up pies at its Chelsea Street location in East Boston since 1933. All photos by Steve Daly.

In the shadows of the Route 1A overpass leading to Logan International Airport lies the best pizza joint in America – not Boston, not New England, America.

Operating for more than 110 years, including the past 80 in its current location at 111 Chelsea St. in East Boston, Santarpio’s Pizza has fed generations of pizza aficionados the tastiest pie around. It never disappoints.

A Santarpio's pepperoni and garlic pizza.

A Santarpio’s pepperoni and garlic pizza.

“I’ve been going to Santarpio’s since the early 1970s,” said John Toto, a former East Boston resident who now regularly drives into the city from his home in Wayland, Massachusetts.  “There is nothing better than a garlic, pepperoni and cheese pizza.  I have yet to meet a person that says Santarpio’s is not the best pizza in Boston!”

The line to get into Santarpio's on a recent Saturday night.

The line was out the door at Santarpio’s on a recent Saturday night.

The condition of the signature New York-style crust can be a bit of a wild card – sometimes perfectly done, other times just a bit charred – but I’ve never been disappointed during my 30 years of patronage.

Santarpio’s serves just two other dishes beyond pizza: Italian sausage or lamb, cooked over an open flame at a grill shoehorned behind a tiny bar at the front of the restaurant. The barbecue dishes are served with a hot cherry pepper and Italian bread.

Don’t go to Santarpio’s expecting an intimate, quiet dining experience – you’ll be sadly disappointed. The place, located on the first floor of a triple-decker, is loud and festooned with boxing posters affixed to wood paneling. They have an odd collection of mismatched silverware – many years ago, my wife and I used utensils bearing the Eastern Airlines logo – and, until recently, the crushed red pepper flakes were shaken from baby food jars whose lids were probably punctured by a screwdriver.

But, ah, the pizza.

“Santarpio’s has an atmosphere that is a throwback to the 1960s and 70s, when Boston was more gritty and just neighborhood Italians only ate there,” Toto said. “Since I’m an Italian, that atmosphere is like an old comfy slipper.”

Santarpio’s, located about an eight-minute walk from the MBTA’s Blue Line Maverick Station, is always busy on weekend nights, especially Saturdays, when the line often stretches out the door. But, believe me, the wait is entirely worth it.

Santarpio’s is open 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and 12-11 p.m. on Sundays. For directions and more information, visit


Flyover has Boston all ‘aTwitter’

Cameras and smartphones were pointed toward the sky across the Boston metro area on Thursday morning as a quintet of F-15 Eagles from the 104th Fighter Wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard flew over on a training and media mission. The flyover, rescheduled from Wednesday because of overcast skies, included passes over the State House, Fenway Park, Gillette Stadium and Cape Cod, among others.

From all accounts it was a pretty awesome – and loud – spectacle. I, unfortunately, was underground, trapped in a slow-moving Green Line train making its way toward Northeastern.

Twitter was littered with shots of the flyover. The Boston Globe (via @aaron_kravitz) had a nice wide-angle shot:

WBZ Boston News had a pretty cool aerial shot from its news copter:

And Jeff Monk captured the fighters passing over the State House’s golden dome:

But by far the best photo from the flyover involved the ultimate photobombing of a shot by veteran Boston Herald photojournalist Mark Garfinkel, who was stationed near the Boston University bridge.

More of Garfinkel’s photos will be in Friday’s Herald but it will be tough to top this one.

* * *

UPDATE: WBUR 90.9-FM, Boston’s National Public Radio Station, is publishing some great photos of the flyover on its website.

Final project: The Evolution of the Photojournalist in the Digital Age

Long gone are the days in which photojournalists shot spot news and waited to see the play their photos got in the next day’s newspaper. Today’s photojournalists still strive to be first on the scene, but are also in a race to be first to post their pics online and on social media, first to record and release raw video captured with their DSLRs and smartphones, and first to tell the story if reporters aren’t on hand.

No, these are not your father’s photojournalists.

Given the ever-changing landscape of photojournalism – and journalism in general – the final project for my Fundamentals of Digital Journalism class will be titled: The Evolution of the Photojournalist in the Digital Age.

I’ve already spoken with Don Himsel, a former co-worker of mine at The Telegraph of Nashua who has worked at the paper since 1989. Don’s been a member of the National Press Photographers Association and has served on the board of directors of the New Hampshire Press Association. He has received state and regional photojournalism awards, including one of the first ever New England Newspaper Association Publick Occurances awards for documentary photojournalism.

And he’s a kickass shooter and all-around great guy, too.

Mark Garfinkel, a staff photographer at The Boston Herald, has also agreed to take part in this project. Mark also runs the great Picture Boston blog, a treasure trove of some of his best work. Mark was a guest speaker at a class earlier in the semester and I knew that, with his experience, versatility and adaptability, he would be a great source for this project.

I’m also thrilled to have already spoken with a pair of Boston-area Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalists for this project. The Boston Globe’s Stan Grossfeld has won two Pulitzers, the first in 1984 for Spot News for his coverage of the effects of war on the people of Lebanon. The following year he won the Feature Photography Pulitzer for his coverage of the famine in Ethopia and illegal aliens along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Former Boston Herald-American photographer Stanley Forman, now a videographer at WCVB-TV, has won three Pulitzers, including two consecutive in the mid-1970s, the first photographer to do so. He won the 1976 Spot News Pulitzer for his series of photos of a fire escape collapse during a Boston fire the summer before, then was awarded the Spot News Pulitzer in 1977 for capturing perhaps the most iconic image from Boston’s busing crisis: an African-American lawyer being assaulted by a white man using an American flag as a lance. Forman was also part of the Herald-American photo staff that won the 1979 Feature Pulitzer for its coverage of the Blizzard of ’78.

Finally, I’d like to speak with a couple of freelance photographers who are relatively new to the industry but have made their mark thanks, in part, to social media.

Given my own interest in photography coupled with 25 years of experience as a journalist, this should be an exciting and fun project to pull together.

Class presentation: Top photography sites

Much as I did with the sports section of The Boston Globe nearly every morning when I was a kid, the monthly delivery of National Geographic magazine inevitably ended up within my grasp long before my father – the actual subscriber – had a chance to look at it. Even if it was dogeared and creased by the time my dad got around to looking through it, the beauty of the photography was still clear – and breathtaking. It represented the best collection of photography you could find in the pre-Internet dark days.

Today, with National Geographic’s Photography website, it’s like having every issue ever printed right at your fingertips. The stunning shots are taken to a new level, however, thanks to high-definition laptop screens and computer monitors.

The home page includes a rotating introductory section of its top three features followed by a Photo of the Day section and a Best Of collection from the previous months. An Editor’s Pick section highlights galleries that are chosen by the magazine’s editorial staff and include everything from a collection of overhead drone shots to a picture story on a three-legged canine war hero.

It’s most engaging and interactive area of the site is the reader-submission “Your Shot” section. Each month, NatGeo hosts a three-week “assignment” in which reader-photographers post shots following certain criteria. The submissions are curated by editors and photographers, who also elaborate on why they chose certain photographs. The recent “Unexpected Discoveries” feature – highlighting surprising images found in your photographs – featured more than 15,500 submissions and thousands more “love/favorite” and comments.

Additionally, there’s a Your Shot blog, and the Your Shot Community features portfolios and work from new and longtime members.

Readers can also view sections on photo tips, NatGeo photographer biographies and the Proof blog, which covers a variety of photography-related issues. There are also opportunities to purchase prints, view galleries and download wallpaper.

The interactivity is phenomenal, with comments on virtually every photo as well as an opportunity to share on Facebook and Twitter. Commenting is activated via a Facebook login or by registering on the NatGeo site.

It was hard to find something I didn’t really like about the site, but the fact that the 2014 Photo Contest is still a prominent piece on the home page – despite the entry deadline having passed on Oct. 31 – was a bit strange. You can’t really “Submit Your Best Shot Today” if it’s no longer eligible.

That being said, National Geographic’s Photography site stands apart from the other two sites I chose to examine.

The recently upgraded The Big Picture has moved from to, and that’s a great thing. The photos are much larger than in their previous incarnation and beautifully displayed against a black background. Each of the 16 images currently on the home page leads to galleries that range from 10 to 31 related photographs. Each gallery can be shared on social media and via email but there are no counters to indicate how often that occurs. Additionally – and very surprisingly – there are virtually no comments on the photos.

Another surprise: when you click on the link to the archive, any galleries posted prior to the Oct. 9 migration to the Globe site are still in the old format. Still great photos, just in a far less appealing package.

Rare Historical Photos satiates two of my biggest interests in one site: photographs and history. Each of the iconic photos is accompanied by a back story as well as comments from the photographer who took the shot. Many of the photographs also include a related “interesting fact” related to the photo or an element of the story.

There are opportunities to share photos on social media and there is a fairly active comment section for many of the photos, accessible via Facebook login, but the site’s design is a huge drawback. The images on both the home and category pages are little more than thumbnail-sized and the text accompanying each image is simply the first few sentences of the post on the landing page.

But despite the substandard design, the site accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do: provide background on some of the most recognizable images in history.

The Merrimack Canal

Fall colors along the Merrimack Canal in Lowell. Photo by Steve Daly.

Fall colors along the Merrimack Canal in Lowell. Photo by Steve Daly.

Sometimes the best photos you capture aren’t always the ones you set out to get.

I recently headed into downtown Lowell to get some shots of the historic St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, a house of worship built by Kirk Boott and consecrated in 1825 in what was then a section of Chelmsford – Lowell was incorporated a year later.

It wasn’t long before I noticed the brilliant autumn colors reflecting off the abutting  Merrimack Canal.

As much as the mill buildings constructed by Boott, Nathan Appleton and Patrick Tracy Jackson remain part of the city’s architectural landscape – given new life in the past 20 years as residential and commercial condominiums – the 5.6 miles of canals that snake through the downtown are what kept those mills humming at the height of the Industrial Revolution.

The Lowell Power Canal System is the largest of its kind in the United States, and it provided the textile mills with 10,000 horsepower through eight canals: the Merrimack, Pawtucket, Hamilton, Lowell, Lawrence, Western, Eastern and Northern.

The Merrimack, pictured above, is the second oldest in the city, and was completed in 1822. It runs from the Pawtucket Canal through the downtown before emptying into the Merrimack River near the Boott Cotton Mills. The Merrimack was the first major power canal built in Lowell, and it provided the water power for the Merrimack Manufacturing Company, the first major textile mill built in the city.

Today, the Merrimack Canal is nothing more than a tranquil, picturesque waterway that flows between Lowell High School’s two largest buildings. And when the leaves turn, it’s also a place to get some great fall foliage shots, even on an overcast day.

The Big Picture’s new look

After clicking on an old link on for The Big Picture, the following message appeared:

Six years and 966 entries after this blog launched, it’s time for some updates. We’ve got a new design. The pictures are bigger and you can enjoy them on your phones and tablets.

Check us out at our new home on But, don’t worry! All our old entries will remain archived here on If you have any feedback on the changes, please let us know.

— The Big Picture team


Unsure of what to expect, I clicked on the “new home” link and was bowled over. The site is stunning and far more engaging than the previous iteration. It’s solid black background lends a striking contrast to the beautiful photos arrayed on the site. The colors absolutely pop, far more noticeable than they formerly were on a white background.

The photos are indeed much larger and the captioning seems more robust, with explanatory text standing with the main image and more succinct, descriptive captions available after clicking through to the individual galleries.

I loved the gallery on Times Square, which featured a great shot of Indian-Americans watching a live-stream of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaking at Madison Square Garden, a reenactment of the Times Square Kiss and a group of people dwarfed by a giant advertisement in the background.

I also really enjoyed the Slivers of Light at Fenway Park gallery, which featured some fantastic shots using shadowing and odd angles of sunlight in an around the old ballpark. The extreme closeup of the baseball “tattooed” on the Green Monster is amazing.

It had been a while since my last visit to The Big Picture – the site officially moved on Oct. 9. But the Globe has certainly succeeded in making an already great feature stunning.




Video: Reporting on Mill City Grows

Two weekends ago, howling winds on an unseasonably brisk Sunday morning torpedoed by planned video project on the Mill City Marathon and Half-Marathon in Lowell, Massachusetts. Thankfully, a better and more original storytelling opportunity arose with a video about about the Mill City Grows organization, also in Lowell.

Mill City Grows has enjoyed tremendous success in its three years of existence. Hundreds of gardeners tend to their own four-foot by 10-foot plots while donating their time for general upkeep, help at mobile markets and other events throughout the year.

Co-founder Francey Slater eloquently described the organization, its mission and its goals during a nearly 20-minute interview. She also directed me toward two colleagues – volunteer Kathy Frechette and intern Alexander Desrosiers – who were equally thoughtful and enthusiastic about the cause.

The interviews were conducted with my Nikon Coolpix P510 camera. I’ve been impressed with the video quality of the camera and it’s been a recent discovery – I’ve had the camera for about three years and never used the video feature before embarking on this project for my Fundamentals of Digital Journalism class.

During the interviews I stabilized the camera with a standard tripod, which worked out well. Unfortunately, the wind kicked up a few times during shooting and you can hear gusts in the audio. However, it wasn’t nearly as bad as the audio I collected at the marathon event which, at times, was completely cut out by the wind. Though I was very happy with the mix of video I got at the race, the audio rendered the project unusable, even after trying to run it through correction software.

In the final video, I think some of the transitions could be smoother. I also noticed at least three “uh-uhs” and “hmms” when editing – it’s a faux pas that an old newspaper reporter never had to worry about. But it’s a new world.

I did enjoy the project and received a lot of valuable experience. I will certainly utilize video more frequently now that I feel comfortable producing it.