HBTC Destination: Stanza dei Sigari, Boston

By pure coincidence, my next “place to smoke” is a mere fifty-six miles from the location of my last review (Federal Cigar of Portsmouth, New Hampshire). Leave your Yankees hat at home because we’re headed to Boston.

Boston. Home of cream pie and a pretty famous marathon. North End. Paul Revere, a church steeple, and some pretty determined Colonials. Hanover Street. Italian restaurant after Italian restaurant. These are just a few things I think of when I hear about the capital of Massachusetts. Now I can add one more thing to my list: Stanza Dei Sigari.

About a block from Paul Revere’s house, nestled between the famed Mike’s Pastry and an old-world Italian coffeehouse sits Stanza Dei Sigari. Roughly translated, it means ‘Room of the Cigars’ and while they have a nicely stocked humidor, the old haunt offers a full bar and hookah as well. Though it sits beneath street level, the entrance is difficult to miss. Marked by a large stogie protruding from above the door (the ash actually emits smoke!) and other cigar paraphernalia, I enter and immediately descend a set of stairs which spits me out right at the edge of the bar. I notice the selection of whiskies, rum, cognacs, and wine, a TV hung in the corner, and the locals conversing while seated on the bar stools. Looking to my left, the room goes back a little further than one might imagine, given the “cozy” entrance. The walls are lined with booths and differing sized tables are scattered throughout the center of the room. I’m welcomed by the barmaid (it seems as if being an attractive female is a bit of a prerequisite to work here) and, after being seated, I page through the menu. Unfortunately, I don’t get to peruse the humidor at this lounge like you do at many others. For me, that is part of what makes going to a cigar place. I understand the reasoning, however. Because of their location, I imagine the shop is frequented by quite a few tourists, half of which know little to nothing about cigars. The servers do a decent job of making recommendations and are pretty quick to make sure you’ve got a libation and a cigar. Upon lighting the My Father cigar and sampling my Old Fashioned I ordered, I sat back to take it all in after a busy day in one of the nation’s oldest cities.

Ever enthralled by history, after a bit of reading, I learn that North End, Boston is a neighborhood that’s been inhabited since the 1630s. Hanover Street is one of the oldest streets in the city and today, is lined with many businesses, shops, cafes, and Italian restaurants. 292 Hanover, where I’m currently seated, turns out to be a former speak-easy. In the 1920s, the men of Boston would gather to drink and smoke in this dimly-lit, underground space. I have to imagine some of the decor remaining today is from the Prohibition era; most certainly a few framed photographs are. Even after liquor once again became legal, the space remained a spot for men to gather.

Enter the Riccio family. Purchased in 1927, the building served as the aforementioned speakeasy and then a gentlemen’s club. In 1995, the Riccios opened the cigar bar in the basement. David Riccio Sr. was actually born in the building and heard tales from his father and grandfather, some of which included things of a paranormal nature. Workers at the bar today
will tell you that strange things happen at times, including flashing lights and broken shelves. In 2013, the building was featured on SyFy Channel’s “Haunted Collector.” The show discovered that in the late 1800s, the building served as a “baby farm”: a practice in which people took in children whose families couldn’t care for them in exchange for cash. The Riccios were informed that children had died there. Perhaps that could explain the origin of some of the ghost stories that have apparently lost Stanza a few employees.

While I haven’t seen any ghosts during my two visits to one of the last remaining cigar lounges in and around Boston, I can tell you most who enter, don’t want to leave. While there are many locals who enjoy a smoke within the walls of the 120-plus year old building, as suspected, there are quite a few tourists who wander through the door. Both local and tourist alike are greeted and treated the same by the black-clad waitresses. From the suits-wearing businessmen quietly conversing in the corner to the loud group of 20-something couples in a booth, everyone seems to be enjoying themselves. I’ve also never seen so many women partaking in what many consider a male-dominated hobby. So much so, I mention it to the gent sitting near me. He, a local, responded with something about Boston women being cooler than other women across the country.

If I were to wear ear plugs, the ambiance of the room is similar to other lounges I’ve frequented. However, the music was the one thing I really notice; instead of big band or Sinatra or jazz, I hear Red Hot Chili Peppers and Coldplay. The hookah, serving staff, and song selection tip the scale to something a bit more contemporary than what you might expect. I feel that many lounges set in a similar town and building would keep it more old-school; servers wearing a vest and tie, Dean Martin’s voice coming through the speakers, and no hookah. But Stanza Die Sigari does a good job of keeping the scale from tipping too far one direction or the other. Everyone is welcome.

I’ve enjoyed both of my visits and I’ll definitely swing by again next time I’m in town. The prices are a bit higher than I’d like to see but I’ll pay them for the chance to sit such a neat place. 7 out of 10. 😉

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