Santino’s Pizza Shack & Pub sits on the corner of Clinton and Bowen roads. “Shacklike” is the best way to describe this local hangout. It’s a rickety looking place with a small horseshoe bar and a dining area with tables and booths – really half tavern/half pizzeria – which means real drinks with food. A wall photo shows Santino’s was an outbuilding of a hotel that once stood on the corner circa late 1800s.
We visited on a Sunday afternoon and discovered Santino’s celebrated its 40th anniversary this past October. A few locals were hanging out watching NASCAR.
The bartender/server brought us drinks while we scoped out an extensive menu of pizzeria-like selections along with dinners. A huge amount of appetizers, ($2.25 for fries, $8.75 for a Hodge Podge combo), salads ($2.95-$7.75), soup/chili ($2.75), tacos/burritos ($2.75-$4.25) and something called Everyday Seafood (fried fish, shrimp or clams with fries $3.95-$8.50) comprised the first page alone. There are traditional Italian pastas ($6.95-$11.95), subs and sandwiches ($2.50-$7.25), and pizza and wings. Specials are posted everywhere on the walls: Irish Nachos, $6.25; Pot Roast Sandwich $7.25, Fettuccine Alfredo with Chicken, $9.95. Belatedly upon ordering we saw the intriguing Jalapeno Stuffed Pretzel ($2.95) and Homemade Taco Fingers ($8.75).
Our food arrived promptly, kind of. The char-grilled Italian Wings, recommended by the server, really lagged (we were the only ones dining). Was it cooking time or that our server left and didn’t tell her replacement?
Chicken noodle soup ($2.75) was decent, but could have been hotter. Mostly noodles, the broth was good with a few pieces of chicken but no vegetables. The so-so chili ($2.75) was darker, with a definite heavy tomato taste. It also had a little kick.
Two subs – Santino’s Royal Half ($5.25) and Santino’s Stinger ($10.95) – came on toasted Costanzo’s rolls. The Royal was fair, but it took awhile to find the Italian sausage at the bottom, and it seemed to only include ham, no capicola with its iceberg lettuce and tomatoes. The full Stinger was a combo of diced chicken fingers, sirloin steak and oozy melted mozzarella. It was good, if not bland despite being ordered medium. The leftover half heated up nicely the next day, however.
A good-sized beef taco ($2.75) in a 12-inch flour tortilla was just what a taco should be, full of meat and the fixings. However, the Curly Q Fries ($2.25) were not. The menu noted, “fresh cut” and maybe they were, but they were thin and dry. More potato sticks than fries.
Unfortunately the pizza was a disappointment too, and all it needed was more time in the oven. The 10-inch cheese, pepperoni and mushroom ($8.75) was enough for one hungry person, but could feed two. Cut into four, the fillings (plenty of sauce and mozzarella with generous pepperoni and mushrooms) went right to the edge. It looked great, but the dough under the fillings was undercooked, making it doughy. Other sizes include 14 inch, 18 inch and sheet, with daily pizza/wing specials.
The Italian Wings (single/$8.45) described by server No. 1 as “Chiavetta-like” were really not. Char-grilled, they were tossed in a more sweet-sour Italian dressing. They were quite tasty, despite what we expected. Other wings include Buffalo, garlic Parmesan, barbecue, honey mustard, teriyaki and battered.
We’d like to give Santino’s another try, especially to try the homemade taco or pizza fingers ($7.95) as we heard they are made like egg rolls.
Did we visit on an “off” Sunday? Maybe, because since it’s been around for 40 years, Santino’s has it in them to do a little better, and we’d like to see it.
Santino’s Pizza Shack
6629 Clinton St., Elma (681-1616/681-1617)
Hours: 11 a.m. to 11:45 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 12:35 a.m. Friday and Saturday; noon to 11:45 p.m. Sunday.
Wheelchair accessible: Yes.