While it’s thrilling to witness the Jamaica Plain restaurant scene evolve, it’s easy to take a joint like Same Old Place for granted. The family-owned pizzeria and sub shop on Centre Street has been a neighborhood mainstay for decades, and while revered by locals for its Italian pizza and sub sandwiches, the humble hole-in-the-wall spot fails to elicit much contemporary culinary excitement, let alone the hot press buzz reserved for the neighborhood’s newer, flashier restaurants. Still, the place never ceases to pack in the patrons.
An unfortunate gang-related shooting at Same Old Place put the eatery on the local news map in late 2010, and just last month, the passing of its founder and owner, Fred Ciampa, made neighborhood headlines. The latter story evoked nostalgic tales of the man—a kindly, familiar neighbor who achieved his childhood dream of owning his own pizzeria and sub shop. And his contribution to the JP collective food scene is undeniable.
Same Old Place pizza is aces for sure. Sparse sauce with a mountain of oregano-enhanced, gooey mozzarella atop a formidable crust makes for the “New York-style” pie often heralded as one of Boston’s best. Two mammoth slices will do on the run (and for less than a five-spot.) There’s little wonder why a perpetual crowd forms for take-out pies.
But then there’s the Same Old Place steak bomb sandwich. It’s the sub menu’s shining star. It’s the stuff of legend, the sandwich talked about in hushed, reverent tones. And it’s sublime.
A “steak bomb” sandwich is a common site on pizzeria and sub shop menus in and around New England. Typically over-stuffed, the sandwich consists of shaved steak (or steak tips) topped with melted cheese, sautéed onions, peppers and mushrooms on a sub roll. It's considered our region's offshoot of the famed Philadelphia cheesesteak sandwich.
Same Old Place’s steak bomb presents an airy, hearth-baked sub roll (courtesy of Malden’s notable Piantedosi bakery) packed with seasoned, shaved sirloin steak, white onions, mushrooms and bell peppers. American cheese tops by default, but those in the know request Provolone, which melts into the beef with the greatest—and creamiest—of ease. (If your tastes lean toward a wetter sandwich, order extra cheese.) Mozzarella is also an option, as is the addition of bacon or salami, mostly preferred by old-school patrons.
The belly-bending behemoth of a sandwich isn’t meant for frequent consumption of course, and most health officials would likely agree. The steak bomb is an occasion sandwich—it’s a massive, greasy, decadent affair. And it’s this perfectly pedestrian (and necessary) fare that balances out the growing culinary gentrification of our neighborhood, and keeps us securely grounded.
Thanks, Mr. Ciampa.