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Jamaica Plain's Newest Pizzeria Offers a Slice O' Hyde Square

At Slice O' Pie, a pizza veteran puts his work ethic on the line.

Some people have a dream to open a restaurant. They have a few special recipes or they know their way around a kitchen. They have a romantic vision of what it will be like. They're sure that they'll create the next great place. It usually turns out that they had no idea what they were getting themselves into. Most of them fail.

So when another pizza place opened up in JP, more than a few heads were scratched. Is he crazy? Doesn't he know that JP is saturated with pizza? Well, Slice O' Pie at 378 Center St. isn't one of those same old places destined to fail, and Eric Ciampa isn't crazy. He knows exactly what he's doing. He says that his style of pizza is special, everything they make is prepared fresh to order, they don't use any frozen food and they don't even put up salads ahead of time in the morning.

Apparently there's more than meets the eye at Slice O' Pie. Six weeks into the effort he's had to double his staff and still works seven days a week from 11am-midnight. According to Ciampa, sales began with a boom on Saturday, Feb. 5 with lines out the door and down the sidewalk. He says that the initial enthusiasm hasn't dwindled. As soon as the place opens in the morning, people are waiting. Some tradespeople in the area even wait for him to open to buy coffee. In conversation with nearby residents, there were a couple of comments about how good his burgers are. Ciampa says that his home-cooked meals and daily specials, as far-reaching as corned beef and cabbage for St. Pattie's Day, account for half his sales and people are streaming in at the rate of 100-120 a day. On top of that there are deliveries and drop-off catering orders.

At just 650 sq. ft., the former home of La Pupusa Guanaca is shoehorned into the corner spot beside the pub. Surprisingly, the cook Ciampa is also a licensed electrician with a pretty good grounding in the building trade. He did about 80 percent of the work himself, so the buildout cost him a lot less than it would the typical cook.

Next door, the Behan serves no food, but according to Ciampa, it encourages people to carry-in and is pleased to send its customers to him. Ciampa, who hopes to add beer and wine to the menu at some future date, says that the pub has even indicated they will support him in that.  

Planning for the long haul, Ciampa negotiated a 5-year lease with two 5-year options. He is happy with the lease, has a good relationship with his landlord and will pay a flat rate that only escalates at renewal.  It was signed before he or the public knew about Whole Foods' , when it appeared that Hyde Square might be in a little trouble.  Ciampa saw beyond that and it's beginning to look like he signed at the bottom of the market. That's lucky, but it's also the result of foot work and knowing his business.

When he was looking for a location he bumped into the owner of the building who asked him to take a look at the space. He stood at the doorway and realized that the spot was visible from all the different angles approaching Hyde Square. He also noticed that there were many nearby restaurants, something he figured indicated that the area was a food destination, a very savvy point of view. A more timid operator would be afraid of the competition. 

There's a reason for Ciampa's confidence. Although Slice O' Pie isn't the same old pizza place, his father is the owner of , a JP institution since 1978 where the 41-year-old Ciampa worked from the time he was 16. Some people have a dream to open a restaurant, for Ciampa, it's in his blood.

Slice O' Pie, 378 Centre St., is open 11am-11pm Sun-Thu and 11am-midnight Fri-Sat. 617-522-6022

Juliette Hannan March 26, 2011 at 04:34 PM
It's true!! the food is GREAT!! All of us at Fat Ram's have been eating there every day. A wonderful addition to Hyde Square- great job Eric! and thanks for opening!
Emilio Antares March 26, 2011 at 06:10 PM
Just more gentrification in Hyde Square -- another Latino small business pushed out by an Anglo landlord so they could get more rent.
Chris Helms (Editor) March 26, 2011 at 06:22 PM
I loved La Pupusa Guanaca and certainly miss them. They closed in fall 2010 after failing numerous health inspections. I don't know if Ciampa is paying more or less rent than the owner of la Pupusa was. Here's a link: http://tinyurl.com/6ad5ecx
jljp March 26, 2011 at 06:24 PM
Pizza by the Slice = gentrification? Really? What? The papusa place was shut down because they did not pay their taxes. This has NOTHING to do with race, it has to do with running a business and not evading taxes.
AV March 26, 2011 at 10:50 PM
jljp, I'm wondering if Emilio was being facetious, given all the hoopla about Whole Foods. I went to this pizza place and was surprised that the server put the slice of pizza into the oven using his bare hands and took it out again using his bare hands. Aren't there health regulations which mandate wearing of gloves when touching and serving food? Hope that was a one-off incident and not a regular occurrence.
David Hannon March 27, 2011 at 12:09 PM
There's been so much flaming on the Whole Foods issue (on all sides), it's difficult sometimes to tell if posters are being sarcastic or not.
rhea becker March 27, 2011 at 12:37 PM
It's true. I enjoyed La Pupusa Guanaca, too, but they were not pushed out. They were not running the business right.
Rira March 27, 2011 at 08:28 PM
Give it a rest people- let the guy try to make a living in these tough times
Rira March 28, 2011 at 02:06 AM
To stand out from all the other pizza places of which there are so many that are just average, - I do hope they'll use fresh ingredients, not canned and dried like so many of the low end places do. A really good pizza place on this end of town like Real Deal or Upper Crust would be amazing. It was sooooo nice when Pizza Oggi was making those incredible pizzas out of the Prince street caterers kitchen right here in Hyde Sq 10 years ago - I wish they still did - they were so worth the extra $$ !! I hate having to go all the way to JP center, to Real Deal for my pizzas - why does JP only have 1 decent pizza place?? Maybe this new guy will read this! FRESH ingredients - Fresh tomatoes,( not canned) Fresh herbs ( not dried), FRESH veggies (not nasty canned), good meats, (not gross fatty crap), Fresh dough made on site, (not commercial bread) - take a page from the real deal and upper crust play book and you'll have lines out the door! **** Better yet - ask Prince Street Caterers for their recipes!!!! They had the most incredible pizzas - but couldnt keep up with the demand - and keep up with their catering business - so they stopped making pizzas.
Rira March 28, 2011 at 02:10 AM
oh yeah .. and Pizza Oggi - drizzled EVOO olive oil on top of the pizza - and if my memory serves me correctly, they sprinkled sesame seeds on the crust before the tomato sauce - AMAZING - 10 years later and I still remember how incredible those pizzas were.
DirtySouth March 28, 2011 at 03:48 AM
Yet another example of how Boston knows damned little about pizza. Throw a salad on some whole wheat bread all you want, that's just not a pizza. Let Real Deal throw BBQ chicken, chicken and bleu cheese and some other nonsense and chicken all on its flimsy, non-supportive, half-baked "crust" and you still don't have a pizza. Do yourself a favor: Go to Back Bay, get an Amtrak ticket, go down to New York or, at the very least, New Haven, get a slice at Joe's, Patsy's, John's , Frank Pepe's, Mortorino, Grimaldi's or even any one of the 2,000 Ray's in the city and eat a real slice of pizza. All those commercial ingredients add up to great things when you cook them correctly. P.S. If you're averse to fatty prosciutto, capicola, or sopressata, you haven't eaten Italian food. Go Eat, Pray and Love on that Under The Tuscan Sun. P.S. If you want a pizza like Upper Crust's in the neighborhood, just open a shop, hire undocumented Brazilian workers, pay them below minimum wage, cheat them out of even those minimal wages and expand into other neighborhoods with your sad, flavorless pies. Voila! You're Upper Crust.
rhea becker March 28, 2011 at 12:21 PM
Oh, yes, Pizza Oggi. I've missed them for years, too!
Erica Lewy March 28, 2011 at 07:09 PM
Same Old Place is better than The Real Deal - that's coming from a New Yorker, so I'm totally willing to try his son's shop! I do miss Pizza Oggi but what can you do? They've been gone for a while - has it really been 10 years? Wow! Now, that's a pizza to remember. Are you reading this Eric? We want sesame seeds & corn meal on our pizza crust - THEN you'll really get people yelling at you for gentrifying the neighborhood ;) Welcome to wonderful warm and welcoming Hyde Square! Seriously though, welcome and good luck with the business.
Rira March 28, 2011 at 07:43 PM
I hope it is going to be better than Zesto's wonder bread, ketchup and government cheese - that is THE worst pizza in all of JP ... 7/11's new pizzer is better

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