Leone’s Subs & Pizza has been a Winter Hill fixture since 1954, when Victor Leone Sr. purchased the restaurant from Sam Santoro of the popular Santoro Subway restaurant chain family.
Today, the restaurant is run by Vic Jr. and his brother-in-law Nick Ruccolo in the same spirit as the four generations of family that have worked to make it the neighborhood icon it has remained. They are a friendly group of people who genuinely appreciate their customers, and will somehow remember your face for months after just one visit.
In keeping with tradition, there haven’t been many changes to the menu over the years. They’ve kept prices low by continuing to run a fairly no frills operation – cash only, no delivery, and no seating; just a counter around the perimeter for the regulars who stand around and chat while enjoying a slice or sub on their lunch break.
Leone’s is particularly known for their traditional square Sicilian pies, which they sell by the slice all day long. I love that they always ask which piece you want, giving you the option of corner, middle or crust. It’s usually not too difficult to overindulge on slices when calling out for a large pizza with friends, but at Leone’s one $1.75 slice of cheese pizza will fill me up for hours, and I don’t think it would be possible to eat two in one sitting without bursting. The blend of spices in the sauce and cheese is near perfect, and the crust is thick and spongy and almost melts in your mouth. It’s definitely worth stopping by sometime, but don’t forget to hit the ATM first.
DAILY TRIVIA:Davis Square was an undefined piece of land until it was named in 1883 after Person Davis, a merchant and member of the first town government who lived in the unofficial center at 255 Elm Street. Gradually the house was surrounded by commercial buildings, eventually changing the landscape from a few dusty crossroads to a major town hub.
This is my favorite local mural. It’s right on the Somerville/Cambridge line and may be technically in Cambridge, but I drive by it nearly every day and have always wanted a reason to pull over and take a picture of it.
Painted by muralist Be Sargent
Though this mural is a “wall of respect for animals” and sponsored by organizations including Massachusetts Network for Animals and Abolish Primate Experiments and Slavery, I like that there is also an infant in the painting. It sends a very powerful message.
Two more murals from around town are below; please click photos to enlarge:
There was once a train that went down Broadway... more about this in an upcoming post!
DAILY TRIVIA:General Charles H. Taylor, editor and founder of American Homes Magazine, the first 10-cent magazine in this country, lived in Somerville. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
If one day you happen to be driving down lower Broadway and find yourself, for reasons beyond my personal comprehension, tempted to make a stop at Taco Bell for lunch, I implore you to keep driving. Just a half mile up on the other side of the street is the best Mexican joint in town – Taco Loco.
Everything I’ve ever tried from their menu is fresh and delicious, not to mention very affordable. I usually try to sample different things when I go, but I have to admit I have a tough time forgoing the $2 tacos. There’s a small seating area downstairs, but it’s often full.
I don’t recall ever seeing another “gringo” there when I stop in; I almost always get a double-take from one or two of the Hispanic folks waiting in line. The people behind the counter are always smiling and friendly. If you’re nearby and haven’t checked this place out, the tasty food and pleasant vibe make it well worth the ride over.
DAILY TRIVIA:600-acre Ten Hills Farm, which spanned parts of present-day Somerville and Medford and was home to Massachusetts’ first colonial governor, utilized Native American slaves. Slavery in MA ended fairly unremarkably when slaves petitioned the courts for their freedom after the Revolutionary War, though it was never officially outlawed.
Lyndell’s Bakery in Ball Square has been open for business in its original location since 1887. A modest-looking place, they pride themselves for using old fashioned baking methods in keeping with their long-standing tradition.
Boston Globe readers nominated Lyndell’s one of the Boston area’s 5 best bakeries this month, and for good reason: they are one of the oldest scratch bakeries in the country and are revered for their honey-dipped doughnuts – along with their half moons, homemade cakes and other confectionery treats.
If there’s one thing plentiful in this town, it’s brunch options. And since I’ll be spending the next 361 days thinking of things to write about, for today I will keep this particular post to two of the most notorious spots: Sound Bites and Ball Square Cafe, located side by side in lovely Ball Square.
Everyone in Somerville has a preference for one over the other. On one hand, it’s only natural that the proximity of their businesses would lend to a healthy air of competition, especially when brunchgoers at both restaurants wait for their tables sipping coffee in outside lines that can’t help but brush against each other during peak hours.
But it goes a little deeper than normal competitiveness. The story as I know it is this: the owner of the property rented by Sound Bites kicked them out and opened a similar restaurant in its place – the Ball Square Cafe – and not before stealing one of Sound Bite’s head chefs, for good measure. Sound Bites then re-opened next door, and the breakfast wars had begun. If you’re the Gawker sort, you can read all about this somewhat tiring cat fight here. And here. And here.
Though I’d probably be amused to ever witness one of these outbursts in person, I really don’t care much about the drama. I do, however, have my preference: as you’ve probably already guessed, I’ve gotta go with Sound Bites. They get major props for having a savory breakfast option other than eggs (lox on a bagel), a full bar (sometimes it’s just a Mimosa kind of weekend), a more exciting ambiance, and superior hashbrowns (decadently creamy mashed potatoes fried into crispy patties – yum).
Hidden away in the dark recesses of a seemingly ordinary convenience store-slash- sub shop is one of the true culinary gems of this town: Vinny’s Ristorante, specializing in Sicilian style cuisine.
Vinny's on Broadway, East Somerville
I walked by this place for years on my way to Sullivan station without realizing what it was, and this was even after hearing that an elusive Italian restaurant with amazing food existed someplace in this neighborhood. I could post a pic from the inside, but really… that would ruin all the fun. Instead, it would behoove you to see it for yourself.
The restaurant itself isn’t large, but the ambiance is comfortable and date-friendly. The prices are very reasonable for the quality of the food you will be enjoying, which could easily rival any of the North End restaurants. In addition to several homemade pasta varieties, the menu features some interesting and hard-to-find dishes including ostrich, rabbit and tripe… indeed, there is something to delight (and gross out) just about everyone.
If you’re like me and want nothing to do with unconventional meat dishes, may I recommend the eggplant parmigiana? It is quite possibly the best I’ve ever had. And be sure to order the Arancini ( Sicilian rice balls) appetizer… it’s by far one of the tastiest things on the menu.