Tom Papa has been to Boston plenty of times over the years for stand-up gigs, but thanks to his new Food Network series, he finally got a chance to fully experience the city’s amazing culinary scene.
Fans will get to see Papa indulge on all sorts of tasty treats from local shops and restaurants when the Boston episode of “Baked” airs on Monday night, which features stops at Pagu, Santarpio’s Pizza, Flour Bakery + Cafe and Maria’s Pastry Shop. Papa was particularly impressed by the North End bakery and its owner Maria Merola, even going so far as to say that “she makes the best lobster tails” he’s ever had.
“She’s one of the only businesses that survived during the Big Dig,” Papa tells Metro. “I had no idea that she threw a tarp over her place for a while and rode it out. All these other people left. She’s so tough and great and optmistic.”
Ahead, the comedian turned Food Network host opens up about his new show, his trip to the Hub and if his pal Matt Damon gave him any foodie recommendations.
Tom Papa on getting ‘Baked’ in Boston
Over the years, you’ve talked a lot about your love of baking, especially sourdough bread. Why take things to the next level and do a food show?
I wasn’t really looking to do it. I was literally just making [bread] and getting better at it and sharing it with my friends and family. As a comedian, I would travel the country doing my shows and I would always stop in at bakeries and meet people and learn what they were doing and see if I could get better at what I was doing. And, of course, eat all the stuff that they were making. It kind of caught on social media and then Food Network caught wind of it.
You’re in Boston a ton for stand-up shows. How was your trip to town for a foodie adventure?
It was great. It really is one of my favorite cities. It always has been from a comedy standpoint. When you do tour and you’re in these places, all you’re doing is performing and eating. There’s always this fantasy about going to museums and doing all that stuff, but it just comes down to making people laugh and finding something to eat. It was great. We had such a good time. It’s so diverse. We did that Pagu place over in Cambridge, [Tracy Chang] is just super talented at making all of these fresh, new twists on things. She’s super creative and super new. Then you go to a place like Santarpio’s which, for 100 years, has been baking bread the exact same way, and it’s just all these old Italian dudes making sausage in a coal-burning oven inside the place. There’s no way that gets approved nowadays.
Speaking of Santarpio’s, they are famous for their great pizza and for being curt with customers. How’d they treat you?
Yeah, but you know what, that’s the thing about these places. I find that, in a lot of the ethnic places, if they’re not teasing you, they don’t like you. Even with each other, they’re all busting on each other. It all comes out of love.
Did you ask your friend Matt Damon for any recommendations for your Boston trip?
No, I didn’t ask him for tips because he was working on a movie while I was doing it. But I sent him a picture of me outside Fenway. If you want to get a response out of him, he’s a very busy guy, all you have to do is put a picture of that up and he’ll text you right back.
Too bad you didn’t send him a selfie with Tom Brady. He would’ve given you a call.
Oh my god, yeah. He’d be jealous that I was hanging out with his boyfriend.
The Boston episode of “Baked” airs Monday, Sept. 10, at 10 p.m. on the Food Network.