Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Santucci's Square Pizza primed to lay down new roots in Wildwood

A legendary name in Philadelphia for over 60 years, Santucci’s Original Square Pizza has arrived in Wildwood!

Santucci’s Wildwood is located at 26th Avenue, where Surf & Ocean Avenues converge at the North Wildwood - Wildwood border. Hours are 11 am - 10 pm daily, with hours to be extended starting Memorial Day Weekend…


For about as far back as he can remember, Santucci’s Original Square Pizza and Wildwood have been major parts of Jim Burke’s life.

“I guess you could say it’s come full circle,” said the recently-retired Philadelphia police officer, who, along with his wife Erica, a radiation therapist, will open Santucci’s newest location at 26th & Ocean Avenues this week.

Some of Burke’s earliest memories come from times spent with family at the original Santucci’s on “O” Street in Philadelphia’s Juniata Park neighborhood, where he would later learn the ins and outs of the pizza biz.

“It’s in my blood,” he proudly noted. “It always has been.” Along with the sand in his shoes.

“My family has been coming down to Wildwood my entire life,” Burke continued. “Our grandparents had a place in Cape May, and we always spent our summers in Wildwood. Now we have our own place here. We figured, it’s our second home so why not open our own Santucci’s here?”

Among the motivations for Jim and Erica in embarking on this venture was a dream to leave their children a family business, just as
Joseph and Philomena Santucci had done decades earlier. 

According to the family’s official history, Joseph and Philomena opened the first Santucci’s Original Square Pizza in 1959 after moving to Juniata Park from South Philadelphia: 

“Their recipe for making pizza in a square pan with the sauce on top of the cheese was considered unconventional at first, but quickly became a pizza staple for lunch and dinner at restaurants in Philadelphia.”

Frank Santucci would take over the business from his parents in 1976, serving as proprietor of the “O” Street location for over 40 years. Today, third generation owners Alicia and Blake, Frank Jr. and Anthony continue on the tradition, which, in addition to maintaining the brand’s focus on quality, has included a great deal of modernization and expansion.

“A few years back, we decided it was time to franchise the brand,” explained Alicia Santucci, who has since overseen the addition of locations in Ocean City, Ventor and Washington Township, to go along with three Philadelphia pizzerias and one in Downingtown, PA.

“Wildwood will be our eighth location. We’ve been growing at a rapid pace, building off of the name that’s been established in Philadelphia. Jim and Erica are our Wildwood franchisees and we couldn’t be happier.”

Santucci noted the importance of offering employment and becoming a contributing member of every community the business moves into. The plan for now, as with Santucci’s other shops at the Jersey Shore, is for the Wildwood location to operate year round.

“Every one of our franchise locations is different, though we all have similar reasons for wanting to become entrepreneurs and becoming a part of the community,” Santucci continued. “For the Wildwood location, Jim and Erica have already been reaching out to local schools and charities. 

“They will make sure that Santucci’s, no matter what community we go into, we become part of that community. That’s always the goal and truly what our brand was built on. Whether we’re in Downingtown or South Philadelphia, we like to be known as the local pizza place for everything.”

As he continues to make preparations ahead of this week’s opening, Burke offered Wildwood 365 additional insight into what customers can expect, while discussing Santucci’s entry into the island’s storied and competitive pizza scene.

“Of course, our main attraction is in our name, our famous square pizza,” he said. “Santucci’s Wildwood will also offer a wide variety of starters and sides, salads, sandwiches and specialty platters, cheesesteaks, wings, all the good stuff. You name it.

“We’ll offer a casual dining experience, BYOB, delivery and catering service, just like the Philly locations.”

Officially located at 402 E. 26th Avenue, the new shop stands on the Wildwood side of the border with North Wildwood. The building itself, most recently occupied by
Munchie’s, has not housed a consistently-successful business in decades, often sitting vacant for long stretches.

“We think it’s a great location with a ton of potential, very strategic and fits with what we are hoping to bring to Wildwood,” said Burke. “It’s a busy, high-traffic corner in the summer, with motels and summer rentals, and the Boardwalk just a block away.” 

Yes, he acknowledged that the legendary Sam’s Pizza Palace is right down the block.

“Wildwood and pizza kind of go hand-in-hand,” he said. “We all know the history, the famous names. We’re ready to add Santucci’s to that list. We bring something special, something unique to the table, and it’s a proven success.

“We’re aiming for that old school, neighborhood vibe. Like ‘O’ Street back in Juniata, the classic family pizzeria transplanted from the city to the shore!”

Added Santucci: “Our brand is rooted from Northeast Philadelphia, so we have many of the same customers and followers as we do from our original location. That’s pretty much what brought us to Wildwood, the request for a Santucci’s from so many of our customers in Philadelphia. 

“It’s a continuation of the tradition. You will feel at home here, whether you’re one of our longtime friends from Philadelphia now living at the shore, on vacation or even those visiting us for the very first time.”

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