Man Food: The Lamb Skewer at Santarpio's

Welcome to Man Food, where burger pro Richard Chudy steps away from his usual burger beat to explore food challenges, street eats, and other gut-busting delights. Ladies are welcome, of course.

Photo by Katie Barszcz

Before you even walk through the door at Santarpio’s, the smell of smoke, garlic and bubbling cheese will smack you in the face. Once you step inside of the Eastie pizza place, you know the drill: squeeze into a wooden booth with torn leather cushions, and make nice with the waiters who will greet you with more attitude than charm. It’s all part of the allure of the place.

Most know the spot for its trademark cornmeal-crusted pizza, but there’s another must-get here: the single skewer of lamb ($6.50). Just like the pizza, the skewer is fairly straightforward, and modestly seasoned. What makes it a noteworthy dish, however, is the charcoal flame that it’s cooked over, which yields a fantastic smoky flavor.

Five plump and fatty pieces of lamb are piled onto a plate with a couple of hot cherry peppers and a hunk of Italian bread. It’s the perfect amount to fill you up halfway (and get your appetite ready for that inevitable pizza). The bread, warm and crusty, seems too hard at first — but that just makes it perfect for mopping up the juice from the lamb. The meat itself is chewy, but in that same pleasing way as a great rib eye . The best part are those few extra crispy bits on the exterior of the meat, which give you an extra dose of smoke and charcoal to bring a taste of summer to a chilly winter day.

If the lamb had been seasoned a little bit more (it lacked salt) it would be out of this world. But if you can get past the grumpy waiters who may move you to another table mid-meal — not to mention more wood paneling than anyone should be comfortable with — then a trip to Santarpio’s is still worth it for more than just the pizza.

(Santarpio’s, 111 Chelsea Street, East Boston, 617-567-9871,, note: cash only)