Neptune Oyster chef Michael Serpa, noted for his way with lobster rolls and other fresh seafood, took to Twitter to declare his neighborhood a culinary joke after nearby restaurant Pauli's debuted a hulking $49.99 lobster roll called the USS Lobstitution. "This is why the North End is a joke. Restaurants here are so sad," he Tweeted. Agree or disagree, the honesty is downright refreshing. Maybe because it's a slow food-news week in July, Serpa was lambasted by residents and local media and actually moved to issue a statement about his Tweet. Yup. There's even a hashtag: Lobstergate2013.
He writes, in part:
Instead of noticing that a restaurant down the street is busy and popular and knocking off a dish they are known for, maybe think "Why is that place busy?" Because they decided to do something distinct that no one else in the neighborhood was doing and are passionate about what we do at Neptune...
...I was called miserable, elitist, and petty for no apparent reason by someone who doesn't know me at all? Perhaps a bit snarky I could agree with, but after watching Salem Street have place after place start doing lobster rolls and/or oysters and another spot in the North End revamp itself into an oyster bar very much in the Neptune vein, I can say I'm pretty tired of the lack of originality in what places are doing. If you can't make it doing what you do, try to do something better than knocking off what someone else is working hard to make work.
The revamped oyster bar he's referring to is Mare, which refashioned itself in February 2012.
My take: Serpa should be able to say whatever he wants without fear of being perceived as snotty or un-PC. Would Anthony Bourdain be mocked for such a statement? David Chang? Boston should embrace chefs who are willing to speak up and shake up the scene. Could his Tweet have been more diplomatic, more tactful? Absolutely. Did he invent the lobster roll? No. But he's a chef, not a media relations person. He was speaking honestly and, I think, in the spirit of innovation. As he later Tweeted: "Cuisine not represented in North End: BBQ, Latin any kind, Spanish, French, African any kind, German, British, Thai, Burger Spot, Indian..." If he thinks a $50 lobsta roll is gimmicky, well, that's his opinion, and he's welcome to it.
What do you think? As for Serpa, last night he was at Logan airport, ordering drinks. Hopefully he wasn't driven out of the neighborhood.