Arts & Culture Food & Drink

Lobstergate 2013: Neptune Oyster Chef Says “North End is a Joke”

Chef Michael Serpa of Neptune Oyster went on a Twitter rant this week after Salem Street neighbor, Pauli’s, promoted its USS Lobstitution giant lobster roll.

Serpa’s tweet said, “This is why the North End is a joke. Restaurants here are so sad.” A second tweet said, “Neptune succumbs to neighborhood competition and now offers a 42 oz lobster roll on a full brioche Pullman loaf for $162.

Pauli’s North End responded, “Just a big sandwich made to share w/friends. @michaelserpa we love your restaurant & the #northend.”

Neptune Oyster Entrance on Salem Street ( photo)

In a follow up with Boston Eater, Serpa defends his comments and further elaborates on his stance about North End restaurants.
“I fully stand by my comments and wanted to make clear that the North End is a great place to have a business, live, eat, and visit. I also believe the North End restaurant and food scene could use some work. The lack of inventive and creative places for an area that has so many restaurant spaces is a weakness for the North End.”

“I mentioned that the North End lacks pretty much any diversity in cuisine types, which some people thought would take away from our ‘Little Italy’. If 20 out of 100 restaurants (not sure how many North End spots there are) are not Italian does that mean the whole tradition of the neighborhood is gone? I think not. Also if 30 of those other 80 Italian restaurants are creative and distinct, who would argue that that is a bad thing.”

Serpa goes on to talk about how many places are doing lobster rolls now and turning into oyster bars because they’re trendy. He says that the owner of Rabia’s, now also a raw/oyster bar, threatened him by saying he was going to “break my face.”

Still, Serpa finds some worth in the North End … “Some of the things we have in the North End are amazing and unique, no doubt about it. The sense of neighborhood is like no other in the city.” And, ends on a hopeful note … “I hope that anyone who has a negative outlook on Neptune does give us another shot, but in case you don’t, I hope there are a lot more unique places for them to try in our city, and especially in the North End.”

Read the full article at Boston Eater.

7/12/13 Update from Rabia’s: The manager of Rabia’s, Malaz Hayek, reached out to respond to Serpa’s comment. He told us the owner of Rabia’s saw Serpa talking to potential customers looking at the Rabia’s menu on the street, telling them “not to try this place” and instead go to Neptune Oyster. Later, he saw Serpa walking by and confronted him about being “not professional.” He admitted it became a heated argument but had nothing to do with the lobster roll story. When asked about Serpa’s general comments about the lack of creativity in the North End, he said that Rabia’s expansion was first a mix of sushi and oyster bar, but the latter simply did much better. Hayek said he believes Rabia’s menu is very different from that of Neptune and has a long history in the North End, justifying its latest expansion.

25 Replies to “Lobstergate 2013: Neptune Oyster Chef Says “North End is a Joke”

  1. We are just moving into the North End and I must say the Serpa comments are dismaying. I am not likely to make Neptune Oyster our favorite hangout, if he’s going to be such a jerk.

    1. “Resolve to be tender with the young,sympathetic with the striving,and tolerant with the weak, because sometimes in your lifetime you have been all these” unknown
      Serpa is young,Serpa is striving,Serpa is weak…

      1. Do people really use Yelp as a trusted source? What makes those posters any more qualified than anyone else? Most people on Yelp think Red Lobster and Olive Garden are good places to eat.

        When I went to Neptune, it was nothing special…not bad but not a place I’m rushing back to. Same w/ a place like Giacomo’s, IMO. Good place but I don’t get why people are waiting in line or raving about it on Yelp.

  2. Chef Serpa should understand a few things:

    -He did not invent the concept of a lobster roll, raw bar, fried clams, or clam chowder. Those things have been New England staples for years, and yes, there were places in the North End that served them long before Neptune’s Oyster opened up. Is no one else supposed to serve those dishes simply because he serves them?

    -Pauli’s (sandwich shop and take out) and Neptune’s Oyster (sit down restaurant) don’t compete for the same clientele! There is room for both!

    -People do not come to the North End for “BBQ, Latin any kind, Spanish, French…Thai” etc. People come to the North End for Italian food. There is a reason it is called Little Italy. If you want more diverse cuisine, there are plenty of other places in the city to get your fix. I wouldn’t expect to go to China Town and find Italian, Latin, French, etc. there!

    -As far as calling the North End and it’s restaurants a “joke” (which I do not agree with), he apparently never heard the concept of “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.” Think what you want, in private, but don’t say it in public or put it out there on social media where the world can see it!

    -Many of the North End restaurants have been there for many years, and I am sure that many of them will remain long after the the raw bar fad (and Neptune’s Oyster) are long gone.

  3. If these North End restaurants are so bad…what does it say for the people who have frequented them and kept them in business for so many years?

    I’ve been to Neptune and I don’t really see what all of the fuss is about. Good food but I would not call the prices “affordable”…and it’s not a special event type of a restaurant. He’s obviously doing something right since there’s always a line but….the patrons who wait in line there are the same populace that have kept other places in the North End open for all of these years.

  4. I’ve been to Neptune a couple of times and wouldn’t exactly call someone who shucks oysters and steam lobsters a chef. Chef Serpa need to take a look in the mirror!! Needless to say I will never dine there again. I can get his food just about anywhere!! Chef Serpa if your not happy here GET OUT!!!

  5. I have lived in the North End for several years. To be honest, I only go to about 10% of the restaurants here and actively avoid the vast majority. Many really aren’t that good. People (mostly tourists) come because its a spectacle. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Restaurants need their business and people need to eat. The culinary standards of most tourists are near the bottom of the pasta pot. Neptunes is a high quality place. I am not sure why they are getting into Twitter wars, just keep making your high quality product. People will know. Let the market settle who is best.

    1. I completely agree. Very few places in the North End are appealing to the true “foodies.” The North End is and always be a tourist trap, so there will always been tons of mediocre restaurants targeting tourists that compete more on price and location than the food quality.

      The chef is just stating the truth that no one wants to hear, which he is probably regretting now. As a resident, it would be great to have some more non-Italian options in the area. I go to Paulis all the time when I am looking for some decent take out that is quick and affordable. However, I love going to Neptune for a great meal that will end up costing more. I’m not sure why everyone is bashing them but their food is amazing. They are also one of the only places in the city that wil have 30 people lined up before they open on a rainy Monday morning.

      Neptune is one of the best restaurants in the city without a doubt. Maybe it isn’t your favorite type of food, but just look at the reviews and the huge following they get from all the “foodies.” I have also seen a number of top chefs from other well known Boston restaurants eating at Neptune, which should tell you something.

  6. 1st and foremost, Neptune is an average place with nothing terribly exciting. The service is bad and rude. “Chef” Serpa, get off your high horse, or Donkey. Did you raise the oysters and clams? Think not. Any dummy can buy good oysters and clams and shuck them and serve them . As far as your cooked food goes? Over-priced, mediocre tourist food. Your Cioppino is bland and sparse and teh cassoulet offensive to any french home chef. And your Brandae rip-off is weak. How dare you criticize families that have owned restaurants for generations and built this neighborhood, so that a mediocre cook like you, in a mediocre restaurant like Neptune, can come here and take advantage of our hard work that has made the North End a popular place. Go back to where you belong you hash slinger. Legal Seafoods, the chain, wipes the floor with you and Neptune. If your boss wasn’t pay tons of $$$$$ to a publicist and paying off concierges, you’d be schlepping in a homeless shelter kitchen. Get out of the North End and go cook somewhere else.

  7. I have been to Neptune and enjoy the food but by no means do I find fried clams, lobster rolls,mussels in broth or even ceviche that inventive or creative . I don’t understand why Serpa cares about what other restaurants are serving it really has no effect on his business. Neptune had no problem opening there doors and staying in this joke of a neighborhood .

    1. Joke of a neighborhood? Thats why many of us dislike people like you. Don’t come back or move out, whichever it is.

      1. Jen is talking about what Sherpa said and how he still sticks around here, not calling the NE a joke herself.

  8. Full disclosure: I get delivery/take out from Pauli’s a couple times a week. I’ve never had a bad experience with them. The variety of the menu is great and I think it’s a great fit for the neighborhood in terms of a take out place.
    The fact that Neptune Oyster’s chef is “calling them out” over a lobster sandwich is beyond laughable. We’re talking apples and oranges here. Pauli’s is taking 0 business from the Neptune Oyster crowd.
    Neptune’s chef needs to grow up and stop getting hot headed and tweeting.. No wonder people are threatening to “break his face” as he said – perception is reality and he sure seems like an idiot.

  9. Sour Grapes. You did not invent the oyster bar. I don’t see the Union Oyster House worrying about a restaurant around the corner on salem street with an oyster bar. get real

  10. why don’t you just tell them how did the owner from Rabia’s cought you trying to convince his customers to try ur place while they where trying to read Rabia’s menu….
    Grow up and dont be so jealous.
    Just say it loud
    Rabia’s is much better now

  11. Rabia’s offers an inferior product to Neptune at about the same price. If Rabia’s were about 10-15% cheaper, I think it would be a no brainer to go to Rabia’s.

    1. Rabia’s is just not good – plus they are rude and love to occupy resident parking spots out front with chairs from the restaurant.

      1. Come on not good…???
        How come!!
        U just one of the Neptune insiders…
        If nit an employee lol
        Please say it right ir just shut up.
        Rabias speak for it self…
        Only reason that guy mentioned them because they are giving him a hard competition. Lol

  12. The No. End is a great place to live, we have access to everything. If you want to talk about restaurants,
    get out of the No. End where there is less chaos, and all these restaurants that I will be mentioning are in
    walking distance to the No. End. If you like Fish Oceanaire on Court St. in Boston, Davio’s on
    Arlington St., Toscano’s on Charles St., DaVinci’s on Columbus Ave., Umbria Prime on Franklin St.
    The best thing about all these Restaurants I mentioned above, they all have less RATS running around
    than the No. End. The No. End is heavily congested with restaurants, why would the rats want to leave,
    look at all the choices they have..

  13. After I clear up ur lies.
    All I can say now let the kitchens do the talk…
    All u guys is good for is advertising and media.
    “Buying customers”
    Here at Rabias we dont do no media my friend and u won’t hurt us by ur media games.
    May the best win…
    Ciao bambino

  14. Both Rabia’s amd Neptune do amazingly well. I’ve personally been to both and not been bowled over or amazed at either one. The tourist crowd makes them successful and I am happy for them, but why is this whole thing even an issue? Please, move on, – both of you, just STFU and just keep feeding the tourists and be happy that they are flocking to your respective venues..

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