Papa Gino’s: a Massachusetts pizza that defies substitution

Massachusetts can be a strange place. It took forever for the major national chains to work their way into the state. I didn’t see a Target or Wal-Mart in my area until I got out of the army in 1999. Tastes and attitudes tend to be more than a tad provincial, so even the chains are usually local. When I left Boston several years ago, I was able to find replacements for just about everything I enjoyed – and was usually able to upgrade. How could I not? I’d moved to Manhattan, which is famous for having everything … except what it doesn’t: Papa Gino’s.

Papa Gino’s is a New England pizza chain. Most of its restaurants are in Massachusetts, though it has a few outlets in northern Connecticut, Rhode Island and southern New Hampshire. It’s the quintessential local chain – it’s big in the area and virtually unknown everywhere else in the country. So, when I knew someone who was heading up to Massachusetts, I asked him to bring back a few slices, which I ate cold the morning after his return.

To the pizza connoisseur, a slice from Papa Gino’s would probably be a disappointment. It isn’t exotic and lacks the character of its local competitors. Ask a Bostonian if he’d walk to the nearest Papa Gino’s or brave the Callahan Tunnel for a pie at Santarpio’s in East Boston, and he’ll have his car keys in his hand. But, expats view the world through different lenses, and a slice from Papa Gino’s is something we just can’t get – making it all the more valuable.

Eaten cold, a slice from Pap Gino’s is at its finest – unless you’re eating it cold and you have a hangover. It may not be a cure for what ails you, but it’s sure as hell a great diversion.

[Photo by Svadilfari via Flickr]