PHILLY PIZZA PLEASES EVERY PALATE
The Region’s Pizzerias Have Never Been So Bountiful Or So Diverse
Philadelphia’s gained some serious pizza cred in recent years. Not only is this city home to a pizza museum and restaurant (Pizza Brain), an artisan pizza truck (Pitruco) and, according to Bon Appétit, America’s very best pizza (Pizzeria Beddia), but it’s also a proving ground for the idea that this traditional food can be reinvented in infinite ways. Whether it’s a straightforward but studious Neapolitan round, a floppy tri-corner slice with cheese to spare or a newfangled pie laden with unexpected but carefully sourced ingredients, there is absolutely a pizza for every eater’s predilection. Here’s a sampling of the region’s pizza riches:
True artisan pizza is made by hand by pizza chefs who are dedicated to their craft and who carefully source their ingredients. Often—but not always—taking Neapolitan style as a starting point, these pies reinvent the genre with remarkable toppings and personal flourishes or mix and match styles for a diverse pizza experience.
- Pizza may not be the sole focus at Midtown Village’s Mediterranean wine bar Barbuzzo, but there’s no denying the lure of Chef Marcie Turney’s famed asparago pie, with secret white sauce, fior di latte and truffled farm egg. Seasonal options such as the Fico (figs, gorgonzola, arugula, prosciutto and walnuts) showcase mastery over ingredients. 110 S. 13th Street, (215) 546-9300, barbuzzo.com
- Chef Peter McAndrew’s La Porta produces his own style of pizza, a thin charred crust with a structured bite. The original Jersey Boy combines provolone, crabmeat, pistachio pesto and roasted peppers. 1192 N. Middletown Road, Media, (610) 358-5104, laportarestaurant.com
- As chef Marc Vetri’s first pizza offering, Osteria set a new standard for local pizzaiolas. This elegant eatery serves up both tradizionali (Roman) pies (octopus and smoked mozzarella) and napoletane pizzas, including one with grilled peaches and prosciutto. 640 N. Broad Street, (215) 763-0920, osteriaphilly.com
- The world’s first pizza museum and shop, Pizza Brain showcases 550 pizza artifacts in rotation at its Fishtown headquarters. The gas oven-fired pies feature sustainably sourced toppings like kale, bacon and mushrooms to fun and delicious effect. 2313 Frankford Avenue, (215) 291-2965, pizzabrain.org
- The strict rules at Fishtown’s Pizzeria Beddia—no slices, no phone, cash only, two pies per party, 40-pie output per day—didn’t stop Bon Appétit from declaring that the two-man operation makes the country’s very best pizza. Each masterful 16-incher is topped with Jersey tomatoes, sea salt, two kinds of mozzarella, Gouda-like Old Gold cheese and a sprinkling of oregano. (Fancier additions of arugula, house-made pork sausage, cremini mushrooms, collards and pickled chiles delight too.) 115 E. Girard Avenue, pizzeriabeddia.com
New-School & Hybrid Pies:
Some of the most interesting pizza (and pizza-adjacent, e.g., flatbread) creations come out of kitchens that rethink traditional sauce-and-cheese rules. The city’s new-school and hybrid pizzas throw ancient recipes to the wind and embrace a more unorthodox approach.
- As Philadelphia’s only full-on vegan pizzeria, Society Hill’s Blackbird uses ingredients such as seitan sausage, Daiya non-dairy cheese and house-smoked tofu to cover its chewy crusts and sate non-meat-eating appetites. 507 S. 6th Street, (215) 625-6660, blackbirdpizzeria.com
- The brick-oven creations at City Tap House veer into unusual and delicious territory: Thin crusts come topped with combinations such as truffled honey, pistachio pesto and goat cheese; or corn with raclette cheese, pickled jalapeños and cilantro pesto. 2 Logan Square, (215) 587-9040, citytaphouselogan.com; 39th & Walnut Streets, (215) 662-0105, citytaphouseucity.com
- At Mt. Airy’s Earth Bread + Brewery, the mozzarella is made daily in house and the oven is hand-built. Diners wash down their Nashville Hot Chicken or Vietnam Veggie flatbreads with made-on-premises beer. 7136 Germantown Avenue, (215) 242-6666, earthbreadbrewery.com
- One of the original purveyors of gourmet pizza in Philly, Mama Palma’s has never been afraid to experiment. The made-in-house mozzarella and wood-fired oven support whimsical toppings like Peking duck and Hawaiian pork. 2229 Spruce Street, (215) 735-7357, mamapalmas.com
- Fishtown’s Medusa Pizzeria builds its inspired pies from toppings such as smoked salmon, cherry tomatoes and crème fraîche, then bakes them in a wood-fired oven for maximum crispness. A Nutella-stuffed dessert pizza offers its own sweet reward. 2327 Gaul Street, (215) 644-8383
- It’s a make-and-take affair at Snap Custom Pizza, which encourages diners to build their own pies. Toppings such as veal meatballs, balsamic syrup, poblano peppers and herb butter ensure that the result will always be intriguing. 1504 Sansom Street, (215) 568-5000,
4 Station Road, Ardmore, (610) 896-4488; 291 Main Street, Exton, (484) 875-5800; snapcustompizza.com
- “Suburban” style pizza rules that day at Kermit’s Bake Shoppe in Graduate Hospital. The variations run the gamut from classic pepperoni to almond basil pesto with red peppers, garlic spinach and olives. 2204 Washington Avenue, (267) 639-4267, kermitsbakeshoppe.com
Old-School Philly Pies:
Long before there were water-filtering, artisan flour-dusting scholars of pizza in the area, there have been corner shops and family-owned parlors making the regional specialty of tomato pie and other local fan favorites. These pizzas might not hew to centuries-old Italian hydration ratios—but they perform just fine on any taste test.
- Sometimes simple inspirations go a long way, especially in the world of strip-mall pizza purveyors. At Charlie’s Pizzeria in Norristown, the oven turns out “red top pizza,” a New York-esque pie that adds a signature dollop of extra red sauce on top. 107 W. Germantown Pike, Norristown, (610) 275-1403, pizzacharlies.com
- Gennaro’s Tomato PIE specializes in a tomato-forward American Neapolitan pizza—not to be confused with the typical Philly tomato pie in a square format. The East Passyunk Avenue-area bring-your-own-bottle (BYOB) spot channels a classic pizza parlor with its décor and keeps things classic with basic toppings and simple salads. 1533 S. 11th Street, (215) 463-5070
- Open 89 years and running, Marra’s exudes charm and authenticity. The pizza, thin crust and built on the same recipe as its owner’s grandparents used, showcases the best of Italian-American traditions with Philly flair. 1734 E. Passyunk Avenue, (215) 463-9249, marrasone.com
- Pizza lovers enter through the back door at the 40-year old Limerick “speakeasy” Penny’s Pizza (now with a second location in Oaks), which is open Thursday through Sunday. The house specialty: “upside down” pies made with a crispy cornmeal-dusted dough. 68 W. Ridge Pike, Limerick, (610) 489-3636; 180 Mill Road, Suite 4, Oaks, (484) 924-9766, gotcornmeal.com
- There are no wedge-shaped slices at Santucci’s Pizza—just pillowy squares with sauce over cheese.Santucci’s original locations populate Northeast Philadelphia; the family more recently brought their addictive square-shaped pies to Bella Vista and North Broad Street. 4010 Cottman Avenue, (215) 332-4333; 460 W. Street Road, Warminster, (215) 441-9400; santuccis.com; 4050 Woodhaven Road, (215) 281-2900, joesantuccisquarepizza.com; 2313 W. Venango Street, (215) 288-2900; 901 S. 10th Street, (215) 825-5304; 655 N. Broad Street, (267) 639-6014, santuccispizza.com
- Diners can order pizza and only pizza at the iconic BYOB Tacconelli’s, where there’s a (strongly) suggested three-topping limit for the crunchy, thin-crust pies.It’s also advised that wannabe patrons call the lauded Port Richmond pizzeria in advance to reserve their dough since it’s made in finite quantities daily. 2604 E. Somerset Street, (215) 425-4983, tacconellispizzeria.com
- A proud Philly tradition, tomato pie and its practitioners attract a devoted clientele. Around Valentine’s Day, lovebirds get cozy in the tiny booths at the legendary Tony’s Place in Northeast Philly to feast on the tomato pie, which comes in a heart-shaped form for a limited time each year. 6300 N. Frankford Avenue, (215) 535-9851
Traditional Neapolitan Pizza:
With American pizza diverging into multiple regional styles and variations, some traditionalists are trying to bring it back to its Italian origins. These pizzas follow the strict standards of their birthplace: San Marzano tomatoes, high-protein wheat flour and stone ovens fired by oak wood. The elastic, tender crust should be marked by charring and is typically eaten by knife and fork.
- A wood-fired oven makes the delicious starting point for the rounds at Biga, a sophisticated beer and pizza joint in Bryn Mawr. In addition to classics, it also bakes up beautiful inventions like the Papa Chulo (garlic béchamel, bacon, potatoes, onions and pesto). 810 Glenbrook Avenue,
Bryn Mawr, (610) 525-4800, restaurantbiga.com
- Neapolitan pizza is more than a hobby in Italy—it’s the law. Chef Joe Cicala of Le Virtù earned the right to make authentic pies by winning a coveted Napoli Pizzaiolo Verace certification. His South Philly forneria Brigantessa makes irrefutable classics like margarita and marinara, alongside some seasonally changing pies. 1520 E. Passyunk Avenue, (267) 318-7341, brigantessaphila.com
- What takes 10 days, three craftsmen from Naples, 23,000 pounds of handmade bricks from Santa Maria, “baking floor” from Sorrento and volcanic sand from Vesuvius? The handmade oven at Capofitto, Old City’s artisan pizzeria from the owners of legendary gelateria Capogiro, that’s what. 233 Chestnut Street, (215) 897-9999, capofittoforno.com
- East Falls’ best-kept secret In Riva pays homage to pizza’s beginnings with its wood-fired oven.Between a mean margherita and creative spins such as the mushroom and zucchini pie with truffles and fontina, diners have tough choices to make. 4116 Ridge Avenue, (215) 438-4848, in-riva.com
- Nomad Pizza in Bella Vista serves top-notch pies cut at the table to prevent them from getting soggy. A second location in Midtown Village serves Roman-style pizza with toppings like ’nduja sausage and Castelvetrano olives. 611 S. 7th Street, (215) 238-0900; 1305 Locust Street, (215) 644-9287, nomadpizzaco.com
- Pitruco’s little red truck is an extra-hot commodity. The mobile pizza oven produces wonderful 11-inch personal pies made with a characteristic Neopolitan crust. Various locations, (484) 602-5454, pitrucopizza.com
- Sibling restaurants Pizzeria DiMeo’s in Roxborough and upscale Arde Osteria & Pizzeria in Wayne import their San Marzano tomatoes directly from Italy and their mozzarella di bufala from a small farm in Campania, ensuring that their wood-fired pies have a down-to-the-last-drop authentic flavor. 8500 Henry Avenue, (215) 621-6134, pizzeriadimeos.com; 133 N. Wayne Avenue, Wayne, (484) 580-6786, ardewayne.com
- While the menu of pies at restaurateur Stephen Starr’s Pizzeria Stella is firmly rooted in an authentic flavor palate, a few surprises sneak in: garlic crema, long hot pepper pesto and aged provolone. 2nd & Lombard Streets, (215) 320-8000, pizzeriastella.net
- The two Philly Pizzeria Vetri outposts, with their wood-fired Renato ovens, go all out. The Neapolitan crust requires a three-day rise, and the rolled-up mortadella- and ricotta-stuffed, pistachio-sauced “rotolo” looks like a pastry, eats like heaven. 1615 Chancellor Street, (215) 763-3760; 1939 Callowhill Street, (215) 600-2629, pizzeriavetri.com
- A personal obsession led to professional training under top pizzaiolos, and now David Ravanesi’s Ravanesi Pizzeria shares that passion with the masses. Topped with house-made mozzarella and cooked in a handmade oven, the pizza can be purchased only until it runs out. 790 Baltimore Pike, Glen Mills, (484) 840-8912, ravanesipizza.com
- With locations in Phoenixville and Wayne, Vecchia has quietly upped the suburban pizza game. A small menu of pizzas made with imported ingredients keeps the proceedings reverent and on point. 134 N. Wayne Avenue, Wayne, (484) 580-6135, vecchiaofwayne.com; 249 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, (610) 933-1355
- Fishtown’s dining destinationWm. Mulherin’s Sons throws down the pizza gauntlet with gorgeously charred pies. Pitruco-trained chefs whip up a double margherita with Burrata and bufala mozzarella, plus goodies like the Philly-centric Spicy Jawn, with pepperoni, sharp provolone, long hots and coppa. 1355 N. Front Street, (267) 753-9478, wmmulherinssons.com
- At both its Midtown Village and University City locations, Zavino builds on a Neapolitan crust and oven foundation with Kennett Square-grown mushrooms, Berkshire pork sausage and ricotta-stuffed veal meatballs. 112 S. 13th Street, (215) 732-2400; 3200 Chestnut Street, (215) 823-6897, zavinohospitalitygroup.com
Other Regional Styles:
Beyond Naples and Philly lies a world of pizza classification with distinctive characteristics, and many of these types can be sampled in and around town.
- The rotating Roman slice specials from Bufad Pizza’s wood-fired oven feature options like an all-tomato Rossa or a killer Amatriciana with pancetta and pecorino. The regular menu specializes in Neapolitan pies. 1240 Spring Garden Street, (215) 238-9311, bufadpizza.com
- A lesser-known pizza style whose time has come: Pizzeria Nonna focuses on Northeastern Pennsylvania pizza, aka pitz. That means square pizza, sometimes involving (gasp!) cheddar. 5301 Germantown Avenue, (267) 766-6900
- Trenton-style pizza (i.e., thin-crust, with mozzarella beneath the sauce and toppings) lives on at SLiCE. Two locations and a third to come in Fishtown suggest that this New Jersey variant has more than a few fans in Philly. 1180 S. 10th Street, (215) 463-0868; 1740 Sansom Street,
(215) 557-9299, slicepa.com
- Passyunk’s Square Pie invites patrons to chow down on hefty, Brooklyn-style Sicilian crusts amped up with cured pork belly, roasted potatoes and leeks, or roasted eggplant, capers and ricotta. The highlights may be its take on what locals claim to be Philly’s iconic sandwich: roast pork, with spinach and provolone. 801 E. Passyunk Avenue, (215) 238-0615, squarepiephilly.com
- NYPD Pizza offers something of a pizza smorgasbord. On the bountiful menu: Neapolitan, Sicilian and New York styles, and even Chicago-style deep dish. 140 S. 11th Street,
(215) 733-0651, nypdpizzeriaphiladelphia.com
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