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.
A couple of years ago I stumbled across Somerville Local First on Facebook and “liked” it in an effort to be kept in the loop on local happenings. I was immediately impressed by what a useful community resource it was; so much information was being regularly collected and disseminated that I figured at least 10 or 50 people were working away behind the scenes.
SLF sticker on Sunshine Lucy's storefront, Holland Street
According to the SLF website, the organization’s mission was to engage “business and community leaders in building economies that are green, local, and fair.” Wanting to be a part of this exciting grassroots organization and having a professional background in nonprofit development, I arranged to meet with founder and executive director Joe Grafton to discuss possible volunteering opportunities. I was amazed to discover that most of the organization (and even the Facebook page!) at that time was being managed and run exclusively by Joe, who no doubt wasn’t getting much sleep at all, yet was still excited and enthusiastic for both the organization and town he was serving.
I’ll be talking about SLF in future posts, as there is so much to cover (their 10% shift campaign deserves an entry all to itself). But for now, I wanted simply to mention that THEY NEED YOUR POEMS. Yes, that’s right – as part of the application for a grant from the Community TechKnowledge Foundation, SLF must submit a 4-8 line poem reflecting their work and mission.
Please click here for more information, put on your writing cap, and help Somerville Local First win a much-needed tech grant by sending them your awesomely creative poem.
SLF coupon book, available at Dave's Fresh Pasta and other spots throughout the city
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).
The Prospect Hill Monument is important not only to Somerville’s history but to that of the birth of America. Though the monument itself wasn’t built until 1902, it marks the spot where on January 1, 1776 General George Washington raised the first true American flag at the beginning of the Revolutionary War. A more detailed historical account can be found here.
Prospect Hill Monument
Often referred to locally as “the castle” that overlooks Union Square, Prospect Hill is a familiar destination for families exploring the stone structure or visiting the adjacent park and playground. It’s also a popular spot for folks to congregate on July 4, in an effort to get a glimpse of the Boston fireworks while avoiding the Boston crowds. I did this on the last fourth of July, and in my opinion it’s not worth the trek. The view’s not too shabby in the winter, but once the leaves grow back on the trees it’s an entirely different story.
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.
Somerville, Massachusetts has been my home for the better part of the past 15 years. Truth be told, no place has ever felt more like home to me than here. I decided to start this blog as an homage to this bustling suburb of Boston with so much to offer.
Brasher Falls, NY
First of all, let me explain. I came of age in rural America during the 80s and early 90s far from any metropolitan area. I was also far from cable television, highways and civilization; the first indoor mall within a hundred miles’ drive wasn’t built until I was 16 years old. You think the pre-internet days were bad? I’m guessing that at least your family, unlike mine, didn’t have to share a ‘party line’ with several neighbors due to the limited phone lines available in your county.
One might be tempted to label me an easily impressible sap who just happened to land here on my stumble out of the North Country. (For the record, this is the third state I’ve lived in, and the sixth town in metro Boston I’ve called home.) I would have to respectfully beg to differ, and insist that growing up with such meager surroundings and little opportunity has made me appreciate the things that surround me now on a much deeper level than most folks probably ever even notice.
There are lots of things I appreciate daily about Somerville. It’s only miles from downtown Boston, yet possesses its own thriving economy and vibrant community. This hasn’t always been the case, as the colloquial ‘Slumerville’ nickname from the not-so-distant past reminds us. Things started to really turn around here in the 90s, beginning with the revitalization of Davis Square. The gentrification over the past decade or so has attracted many people who are interested in (among other things) sustainable living, eco-friendly transportation, composting, buying local, and of course, art. Freecycle is a way of life here, as is working on reducing the impact of one’s carbon footprint. And despite the gentrification, which comes with its own list of positives and negatives, much diversity has been preserved here. There are epicenters throughout the city that are home to Brazilians, Haitians, El Salvadorians, Indians and many other immigrant cultures. There are also folks working to preserve those diverse communities and engage those who live there, encouraging them to be a part of the ever-changing landscape.
So, as of this moment I do declare that beginning tomorrow I will write once per day about something I deem great about living here. Thanks for reading my first post, and stay tuned…