Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Celebre’s pizza restaurant is located at 1536 Packer Avenue in South Philadelphia, PA, 19145. Established in 1948, Celebre’s pizza is an extremely popular Philly pizzeria full of tradition and history.
A place like Celebre’s needs to be reviewed on Best Philadelphia Pizza Blog for many reasons including: popularity amongst locals, 61 years of selling pizza in Philadelphia, their signature pizzas, etc. I like Celebre’s pizza restaurant for several reasons. First, they serve alcohol. You can eat your pizza and wash it down with a nice cold beer. Pizza and beer are amongst the world’s best food combinations. There aren’t many pizza places in Philadelphia that have a liquor license. For example, Santucci Brothers Square Pizza was a treat because you can bring your own beer as many pizzerias don’t even allow this. But when beer is served in the same facility as your pizza…that is a good start.
I also like Celebre’s pizza restaurant because of its atmosphere. Celebre’s is an old style Italian pizza place that has made it through an era when people didn’t eat out. If they could be successful in the fifty then they are true survivors. The people who work there and own the place have deep South Philly Italian roots. These roots are reflected in the pizza recipe that they use as it has probably been passed down for generations.
I also like Celebre’s for their pizza. I do want to make a disclaimer for all New York pizza critics. Philly is a world of its own in America, just like New Orleans is different than the rest of the South (they call it a Banana Republic). Specifically, this conversation applies to South Philly. The terminology that may be common in the rest of the world for various pizzas types are not commonly used here. It doesn’t mean that the pizza is bad or that the pizza chefs in this neck of the woods don’t know pizza…it means that they know it the way their region of Philly knows it. What am I talking about? For example, Celebre’s, amongst many other local Philly pizzerias, doesn’t make a Margherita pizza and if you asked them for it (as a New Yorker would) you may be reciprocated with a dirty look. This doesn’t mean that Philly pizzerias don’t know pizza it is just that they are used to it their way and if you know the Philly attitude you will understand that this is good enough for them.
Celebre’s sells a pizza called the “Old Way” pizza. Fancy New York pizzerias would translate this pizza to a marinara pizza. There is mainly tomato sauce placed on top of a small amount of cheese. This pizza is phenomenal. I think that I am most impressed with the sauce that they made. Their tomato sauce is very chunky, thick, and spicy, which is my favorite style of Italian tomato sauce. A sauce without flavor is not sauce at all it is just tomato in a liquid form. Celebre’s uses a good amount of their sauce on top. The cheese was hidden underneath and probably would account for 20% of the pizza ingredients. That is the point of this pizza: to create more of a tomato pie the old Italian way. So you see they call it “Old Way” and modern food critics would call it marinara. Who is right and who is wrong? This is just a small example of how Philly works – they like to be unique. It doesn’t mean that they don’t know how to cook pizza. Celebre’s have been successful for 61 years so that must be doing something right.
The crust of this pizza was slightly darkened. I think that New Yorker pizza critics may like their crust for this reason. I only tried the Old Way pizza as it was one of their signature pies and more in line with my taste buds. They do serve a pizza called the “Pizzaz” though that they are famous for. Maybe I’ll come back to try that another time.
The total cost for a 16 inch pie was around $10, which is worth the money. Celebre’s is a good time and a place where you can experience a real local South Philadelphian Italian style old fashioned pizzeria. They use high quality pizza ovens in the back and have a very fun, energetic, and friendly staff. Celebre’s gets a green light vote in my book for Best Philadelphia Pizza!
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
The Couch Tomato Café is another very popular pizza place located in the Manayunk section of Philadelphia. They have outdoor as well as in door seating and are conveniently located near Main Street.
The Couch Tomato Café, located at 102 Rector Street, Philadelphia, PA 19127, was established in 2003 by Michael Cassano and Craig Mosmen. Michael and Craig were 2000 graduates of the University of Delaware and were highly interested in the restaurant business. They have successfully created a very solid business in Manayunk that is well organized and ripe for expansion. The Couch Tomato is a beautiful little place with outside seating to watch the passer bys along Main Street. They also have indoor seating where you can sit on the popular giant tomato looking couch. The décor inside is very appropriate to their theme, “tomatoes.”
The Couch Tomato has won many awards since their inception and is continuously in the Philly restaurant spotlight. Their pizzas focus mainly on New York Style Thin Crust pizzas. I tried the small personal Margherita pizza and was extremely impressed for many reasons. Their pizza is truly unique in that they use all fresh ingredients and in the method that they use it. Let me elaborate.
The Margherita pizza had mozzarella cheese balls (not melted) arranged on the pizza. This is very unique as most pizza shops will usually melt the cheese. I thought this style of using mozzarella actually produced a very tasty unique pizza. Also, their Margherita pizza had tomato slices in addition to their sauce on top of the pizza. This is a very healthy way to eat pizza and provides more of a natural taste. The sauce was good enough by itself being very sweet and tangy but with the tomato slices…that was a treat. The crust is thin crust New York style. It was not slightly burnt the way New Yorkers like it but it was foldable without cracking, which is a sign of a good thin crust. I also ordered the wheat crust instead of the original white crust and was very impressed with the quality of its taste.
The basil used was fresh whole leaves strategically spread over the four slices that came with the personal size pie. This is the way that Santucci Brothers Square Pizza should have done their pies instead of their chopped slices, which were chopped way too much.
The cost of the pie was relatively inexpensive ringing in at $8.99 for a small pie with 4 slices. The value was in the freshness of ingredients. I really liked the Couch Tomato pizza. I think that New York pizza critics may agree too. I am confident that a place like this would rightfully represent Philadelphia to the pizza world as being a representation of what the best Philly pizzas have to offer. So congrats to the Couch Tomato Café as you have made the cut and our now a part of the Best Philadelphia Pizza Club!
Today’s review is on Santucci Brothers Square Pizza. Santucci Brothers is something similar to a franchise as they are very big in the north part of Philly and there are many locations. Today’s review will be of the Santucci’s located in Manayunk, Philadelphia, PA, 19128 (3862-64 Terrace Street).
A review of Santucci’s pizza requires some history. Santucci pizza was started in 1959 by Joseph and Philomena Santucci. The Santucci story is best told by them so I have provided a little excerpt from their website here for your convenience.
As the post war era in America produced a dramatic increase in population,
demand for these time-tested neighborhood specialty foods also increased to the
point where it became impossible to prepare enough tomato sauce to keep up with
the volume. In California, tomato producers addressed this need by preparing a
canned sauce made of the most premium fresh tomatoes (not from concentrate) and leaving the seasoning to the discretion of the local pizzerias.
It was these very circumstances that gave the Santuccis their most famous
creation: Santucci Square Pizza. By increasing the size of the baking pan to a
full 12 x 18 inches, Joe and Philomena were on their way to a taste sensation.
Next, they combined the most superior seasonings to produce their famous
Santucci sauce. Instead of placing in underneath the layer of grated cheese like
most other pizzerias they took the finest 100% whole milk mozzarella cheese,
sliced it and placed it directly on the dough and placed the sauce on top. Then,
to remove any acidity in the sauce and to melt the cheese they raised the oven
temperature from the standard 300 degrees to 550 degrees. The result? A
revolutionary product that began to make history.
The "Old World Quality" of Santucci Square Pizza is evident in every
pizza produced. Since 1959, the Santuccis have produced superior quality and
service. With state of the art equipment and streamlined procedures, what used
to take fifteen minutes to produce the original Square Pizza now takes less than
seven minutes. Store layout and design has been improved so that overall
production is done with higher efficiency and store cleanliness exceeds the most
difficult standards. With superior customer service techniques and an aggressive
marketing program, the Santucci system is one that its competitors could only
The key to this success story is a direct result of a growing family
that began with Joe and Philomena, who have all devoted their entire life-long
energies to be the best. The legacy of Santucci Square Pizza has become the
standard bearer of quality. Try a Santucci Square Pizza for yourself. Since
1959, Always in Good Taste!
The two original Santucci pizzeria’s are located at 4010 Cottman Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19135 and 1701 Welsh Road, Philadelphia, PA 19115. Today the Santuccis rent out their last name for other pizza shops who want in on the great pizza recipe. The original owner’s son Joseph Jr. now has taken over the business and has his own place called Joe Santucci’s Original Square Pizza Bar and Grill located at the Knight’s Road Shopping Center, 4050 Woodhaven Road, Philadelphia, PA 19154.
I like Santucci’s pizza regardless of the locations for a few reasons. First, they put their sauce on top of the cheese for every pizza style and toppings. This goes against the traditional American style pizza and is more in the tradition of the original Italian style. Second, Santucci’s pizzas are all square pizzas, which make them very unique. Most pizza places in Philly make only round pizzas unless they also offer Sicilian pizza. Santucci makes square pizza but not in a Sicilian style. That is, the crust is not as thick as what we traditionally think of as Sicilian pizza.
Santucci Brother Square Pizza in Manayunk is a nice place. This area of Philly is known to have many young professionals and college students so it is more of a party scene. Santucci Brothers have addressed their niche by making their place a B.Y.O.B. and allowing customers to bring their own beer. They are also open until 2:30 on Friday nights. The place looks very clean inside and well taken care of. It is a nice place to sit inside and relax with a group of friends. Santucci’s is located only a few blocks from Main Street, the most trafficked street of this neighborhood. They are on a quite block and have a decent amount of parking.
I ordered a small personal Margherita pizza. The crust is average thickness and I was able to get 4 slices out of one pie. The crust was nice and crispy along the edges. It was not blackened like New York style but it was still tasty. The melted mozzarella cheese was spread evenly with the sauce. The sauce was very sweet and tangy and worked well with this pie. The basil was spread around evenly but was chopped in very small pieces.
The price was very reasonable for a small pizza at about $8. After adding the soda and a few more items, I easily passed the $12 mark that qualified me for the $2 off coupon.
Overall, I really like Santucci Brothers pizza. The only part that I didn’t like was the way the basil was arranged on the pie. I think that they should have used whole fresh basil and properly organized it (maybe one or two leaves per pizza slice). The way that they left the basil on top was not appealing for a Margherita pizza.
Although Santucci Brothers may not meet the standards of many New York pizza critics, I still vote it one of Philadelphia’s best pizzas because it is unique; it has deep Philly pizza history, overall good pizza, and cleanliness. All of their pizzas are fresh and each Santucci pizzeria must abide by certain rules (like a franchise) in order to be considered part of the club. Santucci Brothers also had very friendly staff that went the extra mile. These are all qualities of a best Philly pizza!
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Mack’s Boardwalk Pizza is located at 10th and Oregon in South Philadelphia, PA. Mack’s is run by Joey Mack, the son of one of the original owner’s of Mack and Manco’s boardwalk pizza. That pizzeria, along with the famous Sam’s pizza, has helped to create what is called boardwalk pizza.
Before I give my review of Mack’s I would like to acquaint you with Mack’s pizza history. It all started in 1956 when Anthony Mack and Vincent Manco opened up their first pizzeria called “Mack and Manco’s” at 918 Boardwalk in Ocean City, New Jersey. A few years later they opened up another store at 7th street and boardwalk. Mr. Mack and his three sons (Dominic, Vince and Joseph) eventually expanded their business onto the boardwalks of Atlantic City and Wildwood, NJ. Vincent Manco continues to operate the original Mack and Manco’s in Ocean City with his son and his wife. Mack’s Boardwalk Pizza is run by Joey Mack, one of the sons of the original owner, Anthony Mack. Joey Mack moved his operation from the Jersey shore to South Philadelphia.
Now that we have the history out of the way, I can release my review. Mack’s Boardwalk pizza is deeply rooted in history with its original pizza recipe. The owner of this South Philly branch is not affiliated with the other Mack’s any more but he still has the family recipe. Joey Mack claims that this family pizza recipe was from 1950 and that his pizza is the best of the best.
Before I start my review I want to make you aware that I think the owner is a nice person but I am here to review the pizza and some things stood out that needs to be addressed. I did not like the pizza at all and I will elaborate on why. I ordered a full 16 (Joey claims they are 17 inch) pie. Joey’s famous pizza is a thin crust recipe American style pizza (cheese on top).
I didn’t like the pizza for several reasons. First, the amount of grease that was on this pizza could have set me up for a future heart attack. I put three napkins on top of a slice and there was still a shiny glitter from all of the grease. This definitely took away from the taste and caused me to have indigestion days later.
The thin crust pizza cracked when folded. This in combination with the gallon of oil on top led to mass spillage and a large mess. The cheese was cooked well. The sauce was not that tasty at all. There was minimal sauce used in proportion to the cheese which appears unbalanced in taste.
The crust was decent for thin crust as it was slightly blackened with a small lip at the edge.
I did not like how the pizza was placed in the box without a wrapper. This is not a good sign of cleanliness as those pizza boxes sit on the floor of the warehouses they are stored at.
Joey Mack’s Boardwalk Pizza is in a small shoebox store. I actually liked the set up of it as it has a small appearance of a boardwalk pizza shop. Mack’s has several patio chairs outside his shop for outdoor seating. This is a one man operation (plus the delivery people). This must be Joey Mack’s retirement job as the operation is very slim lined. There is nothing wrong with that as extra employees are not needed. I am just preparing you for what kind of pizza place this is. It is on the opposite side of a fancy pizzeria.
Eating at Mack’s led me to some questions. First, I can understand why New Yorkers may think Philly pizza is bad. If they base their impressions off of places like Mack’s Boardwalk pizza then that may lead them to believe that Philly doesn’t know pizza. Of course New York is the pizza capital of the world other than Napoli, Italy (read about the history of pizza) but Philly is a very close runner up.
I find it interesting that a place like Mack’s pizza who claims to have the best pizza in Philly would know what a Margherita pizza is. Considering that they are halfway there on the recipe (thin crust) I am not sure if they ever put the other half of the equation together. Let’s face it, most pizza experts will agree that you don’t even stand a chance of being considered the best pizza if you can’t make a thin crust Margherita pizza. Just off that fact alone I am sure that if a New York pizza critic ate one slice of Mack’s pizza they would laugh. If that was the only place they ate in Philly and they were told that this is the best pizza here then they would think this city is a joke.
That is why this pizza blog was created. There are many really good pizza places in Philly but you just have to look a little harder than New York.
I didn’t like Mack’s pizza because it was too oily, too cheesy, no foil paper under the pizza inside the box, the pizza ovens were not good pizza ovens (I doubt they get hotter than 500 degrees (you need about 800 for the best pizzas)), and their lack of variety of pizza. If you tell the public that you have the best pizza in Philly that you better offer options and one of those options should be a thin crust Margherita pizza.
Overall, I do not recommend Mack’s pizzeria to any of my readers, which is a similar conclusion to the Mack’s that I have eaten at on the boardwalk of Atlantic City and Wildwood.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Currently, one of the most famous pizza places in Philadelphia is Osteria. According to Alan Richman of GQ magazine, Osteria was one of the top 25 best American pizza places in the country out of the top ten cities. Actually, there was only one other pizza place from Philadelphia on this list, Tacconelli’s. Today I would like to express my opinions for the record. Hopefully my review will provide an insight on how not to take a top 25 list too serious by any food critic.
What is the best pizza?A best pizza place is a place that was recognized by an individual or individuals as to be great. It was just their opinion. You can’t weigh greatness or state a restaurant’s greatness as a fact. It is just an opinion usually derived from some food critic’s review.
Why am I starting this review philosophically? This review is more than just about Osteria. It is about how certain people with significant influence in the food world can say that a place is “Great” and all of a sudden every food lover (particularly in that region) is booking reservations. When a person as popular as Richman states that a pizza place is one of the top 25 best pizza joints in the United States, this becomes my example. Is this fair? No but this is the way the food review system works.
I think by my introduction you can tell where I will be going with this review. I have recently went to Osteria after a long await. I have been planning on going there for almost a year now, even more so when the GQ top 25 came out. Before I go into depth of my pizza review, first let me provide a profile of Osteria.
Osteria officially opened February 15, 2007 and is located at 640 North Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19130 (North of City Hall on the West Side of Broad Street). The three owners of Osteria all are very actively involved in the Philadelphia cuisine community in some way. Marc Vetri and Jeff Michaud are two very prominent chefs in Philly. The third owner, Jeff Benjamin, is a business man slash wine enthusiast. All three owners together are an excellent recipe for a successful restaurant in Philly. This may be a large contributing factor for their popularity. Osteria has been recognized by the New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Magazine, Philadelphia Weekly, Bon Appétit, and many other famous media giants as a top rated Philly restaurant.
The name “osteria” is an Italian word that can be translated to mean something similar to a pub. However, the reality is that an osteria is a place for people to drink wine and chat while having various options of food that can be ordered. The key focus of an osteria is the wine (not too many Italians drink beer). This is in contrast to a ristorante (or restaurant) which is more formalized. I wanted to state this explanation of an osteria so that I can elaborate on how Osteria is nothing like what its name translates to in Italian.
Osteria is an extremely high class restaurant with a high class atmosphere and a high class price tag. This is in contrast with a typical Italian osteria which is more of a casual nature. Osterias in Italy are more of a place for friends to come, sit, and drink wine together while having the option of food.
To start this review I would like to talk about what I do like about Osteria. First, the place is absolutely beautiful for a restaurant. Detail has been paid attention to in almost every physical category. They have a beautiful bar, oven, and a special aesthetic appeal due to proper interior design planning. Second, the place has popularity. For some, food is not important. They would much prefer to go to places with high prestige so that they can brag to their friends that this is the kind of restaurants that they fancy. If you are one of these people then you would fit right in here. Third, the wine selection is very thorough. If you are a wine connoisseur then this may also be a place for you to try at least once. It appears that the owners have a good eye for wine. To write this previous paragraph of things that I like has taken me over twenty five minutes to think of so I have to stop and continue onto a subject that will flow more freely for me.
What I didn’t like about Osteria: To start, I would like to quote my friend that went with me: “The place was really nice but the food sucks.” This was sort of my attitude too for several reasons. First, the staff was very impolite. This is a high class place…the waiters should ask how high if I asked them to jump. Instead, you are dealing with staff that makes you feel like they are rushing you out the door. Just because their shift is coming to an end shouldn’t be a reason that you should have to feel hurried. This is one of the things that bother me the most when dining out. I cannot stand when I am not treated properly as a valued customer. If I sense improper treatment from the time I walk in then I already know that the meal will never reach its fullest potential even if it does have the qualities of great food.
Another thing that I did not like about Osteria is the seating arrangement. The tables are all aligned perfectly to fit the maximum amount of people that this restaurant can accommodate. This makes me feel like cattle. The herds of people sit right on top of each other as we all eat together. If you want to have a discussion with the people in your party than this is equivalent to you making an announcement to the whole place. Everyone can hear what you are saying even if they are not trying. To me, I need my space when eating especially if I am paying big money to do so. I don’t even mean a lot of space just enough. The tables are about 4 inches from one another – this does not work for me.
By the way, if you plan on coming here, be very familiar with off street parking as this will be necessary. This building is on a big street (Broad Street) without a parking lot (so good luck with that).
Off to my pizza review…I ordered the Margherita pizza here as usual. My overall review of their pizza with every other problem above excluded is good. The problem is that it is not great. This is the Best Philadelphia Pizza Blog here and thus, the goal of this blog is to find the best Philadelphia pizza. I cannot consider Osteria as having the best Philadelphia pizza. There are many more pizza places that stand well above this high class joint in a gourmet pizza contest.
The Margherita pizza is a personal 10 inch pie that is cut in four slices. There was exactly one leaf of basil on each slice, which is much fewer than most other gourmet Margherita pizzas.
The crust was good as it was a little blackened (New York pizza lovers’ style). The thin crust pizza at Osteria was also very easily foldable without cracking. This is a good sign for gourmet pizza.
The sauce was very red indicating a very bland sauce (pure tomato puree and crushed tomatoes without cheese etc.). The more orange a sauce is the more cheese that has been added. This sauce was a bright red and sweet but not too distinct that would knock me off my chair (or even notice it if I wasn’t writing a review about it).
The mozzarella cheese was slightly patched throughout the pizza and I didn’t have any problems with its consistency.
From reading my pizza review of Osteria you will see that I didn’t have anything bad to say about their pizza. This is true but that is the problem. I don’t have anything great to say about it either. The pizza was priced at $15. The cost in relationship to my happiness level was not properly balanced. Osteria pizza does not have the qualities of great Philadelphia pizza that the media has hyped it up to have. This is not on my list of best Philadelphia pizzas as I give it a yellow light (proceed with caution).
Philadelphia pizza has so many better pizza places for your dollar and energy level. I was actually very disappointed when I left Osteria, thus, my energy level went down. I think Alan Richman needs to start reading my blogs a little more. If you want to post a pizza review in Philadelphia, than you better leave that up to someone who actually knows the place very well. Although Osteria may have other foods that could taste good, I am not concerned with that as my focus is on the best pizza…and they don’t have it! Stay tuned though I as will truly discover who exactly does have the best Philadelphia Pizza.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Today I will review La Fourno Ristorante Trattoria, which is considered by many to have the best Philadelphia pizza. My overall response was a green light which means go try their food. I highly recommend their pizza and will elaborate below on my reasoning why.
La Fourno Ristorante Trattoria is located at 636 South Street, Philadelphia, PA. Established in 1994, La Fourno (translates to oven in Italian) has become a very popular and trendy pizza place. They are known also for their various Italian foods that they serve including the following: Veal Parmigiana, Fresh Pasta Dishes, Daily Fish Specials, Home Made Soups & Salads, Gnocci Gorgonzola, Lobster Ravioli, Al's Mom's famous Linguini & Meatballs, Chicken Valdostana, Farinatta Bread, Penne alla Vodka, Grilled Calamari & Tiger Shrimp, Stuffed New Zealand Mussels, and Artichoke Romano.
I have to say that I am very impressed with the ambience here. La Fourno Ristorante Trattoria is a very small, yet cozy, restaurant. There is some form of European appeal all in the convenience of the most popular street in Philadelphia, South Street. There are all types of people that eat here including locals and tourists.
I was very impressed also with the respect that was given to me from the minute I walked in the door. The waiter and the manager (owner?) greeted me with welcoming arms and were very polite and hospitable. This is rather unusual for a Philadelphia pizza place, which usually has the indifferent approach: I don’t care if you eat here or not. The waiter was also consistent the whole time with his manners. La Fourno Ristorante Trattoria is a small business run by two owners. With this kind of size, an Italian restaurant such as this can focus on the customer more.
The main attribute of this place, which has helped contribute to its popularity, is its wood burning brick oven. This pizza oven greets you at the door so you can actually watch your pizza being made. That may have helped with their CitySearch Best Pizza award for 2004-2009 amongst many other awards. Well, they can add another award to their list: Voted one of the BEST Philadelphia Pizzas Award by Best Philadelphia Pizza Blog. Let me elaborate.
La Fourno Ristorante Trattoria’s pizza was excellent. As usual, I ordered a standard Neapolitan Margherita pizza. I order the same pizza for all reviews for consistency plus it is the true original pizza.
The crust was not black at all (this may be considered a negative). It should have been cooked a little longer but it still was very good. The crust also was very soft and not crackly like the pizza at Slice.
The sauce was very basic tomato (deep red) sauce. There wasn’t much spice to it, which is the style preferred by many. I like a little more spice to it but I was content.
The mozzarella was fresh and equally mixed with the sauce. This is the way I like my Margherita pizzas: not too much sauce and not too much cheese.
The basil leaves were sprinkled evenly throughout the pizza. By the way, the pizza size was a 10 inch personal pizza (a good sized portion). Even though the crust was thin it is still very fulling when combined with a salad and an appetizer.
The thing that I didn’t like is that I originally ordered a Margherita pizza and an American pizza came out. When I questioned the waiter he said that this is the way they serve Margherita pizzas there (rather strange). If you want a true Margherita pizza then you need to specify exactly what you want or an American pizza (cheese on top and all over the sauce) will become your meal.
The waiter did correct the order for me and was very polite in his approach to bringing me out a new true Margherita pizza. This is the reason why I give them two thumbs up for excellent service.
Aside from the Margherita pizza confusion, when the real pizza came out it was really tasty. I validate all of the positive reviews this place has received. La Fourno Ristorante Trattoria has the total package: a great atmosphere, great pizza, great Italian food, a full bar, warm staff, all on a hip street in Philadelphia.
I hope that you have enjoyed my review from the Best Philadelphia Pizza Blog on La Fourno Ristorante Trattoria!
Green Light Pizza Reviews (that means GO)
Note: If a pizza place has received a green light then this automatically qualifies them into the Best Philadelphia Pizza Club.
Cacia's Bakery and Cafe - Northern Liberties
Carangi Baking Company - South Philly
Celebre's - South Philly
Criniti's Italian Restaurant - South Philly
Franco and Luigi's Pizzeria - South Philly
Gianfranco Pizza Rustica - Old City
Iannelli's Famous Brick Oven Bakery - South Philly
La Fourno Ristorante Trattoria - South Philly
LaScala's - Center City
Lazaro's Pizzeria and Grill - South Philly
Little Sicily Pizza Steaks and Hoagies - South Philly
Lorenzo and Sons - South Philly
Lorenzo's Pizza - Italian Market
Mama Palma's Wood Fired Brick Oven Gourmet Pizza - Center City Philadelphia
Marra's Cucina Italiana Restaurant - South Philly
New York Italian Bakery - South Philly
Overbrook Pizza - West Philly (Overbrook)
Pica's Restaurant - West Philly
Pine Street Pizza - Center City Philadelphia
Pizza Hut - North Philly
Pizzeria Stella by Stephen Starr - Queen Village
Sarcone's Bakery - South Philly
Slice - South Philly
Soho Pizza - Old City
Tacconelli's New Jersey - Maple Shade, NJ (exception made - please read)
The Couch Tomato Cafe - Roxborough
Uncle Oogie's Pizzeria and Specialty Sandwiches - South Philly
Uncle Tomy's Original Pizza - South Philly
Villari's Bakery - South Philly
Yellow Light Pizza Reviews (that means proceed with caution)
Top Tomato Pizza Kitchen - Center City Philadelphia
Red Light (Not Recommended)
Famous Napoli Pizza - South Philly
N.Y.P.D. Pizza Department - Center City Philadelphia
Paolo Gourmet Pizzeria - Center City Philadelphia
Maggiano's Little Italy Italian Restaurant - Center City Philadelphia
To Do List:
Caputo's Pizzeria - Manayunk
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Forget about what you heard about Philly pizza if it was bad. Marra’s Restaurant will easily disprove anyone’s negative comments about how bad pizza is in Philly. Philly does have other good food besides cheese steaks. Marra’s pizza is the quintessential (I don’t even know what that word means but it sure sounds good) example of what Philadelphia pizza should be. First, let’s explore the history of Marra’s and then I will post my review of my recent experience there.
Marra’s Italian American restaurant is possibly the oldest Italian pizza place that is still in existence in Philly. It sits in a little pocket of South Philadelphia at 1734 East Passyunk Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19148. Marra’s story begin with its two owners both husband and wife, Salvatore and Chiarina Marra. The Marra family came to Philadelphia from the pizza capital of the world (see pizza history), Naples, Italy in 1920. Seven years later in 1927, they opened up this very popular local restaurant.
Marra’s restaurant is run by the original owner’s grandchildren today. Everything about this place depicts old style Italian Philadelphia charm. It is not a fancy restaurant at all. It is just the ideal little pizza and pasta joint for a casual meal. They have old style wooden chairs to sit and an even older looking bar.
Marra’s menu consists of various Italian dishes including calamari and clams. They also serve various pasta and salad dishes. However, there main dish is relative to this review. That’s right, pizza…Philadelphia style pizza. The greatest charm of this place is the original brick oven where the pizza is made. Supposedly, this oven was made from the bricks of Mount Vesuvius in Italy and the work was crafted by the original owner Salvatore Marra.
Now onto my review… Honestly (and you can tell by now that is one of my good qualities), even if you don’t like the food you should come and visit this place at least once for the history. This place has been opened since 1927. Not many Philadelphia pizza places can say that. Up until about 40 years ago, this was one of the few pizza places to eat outside of your own home. Back in the fifties and sixties not many people went out to eat, that is, unless it was a special event. And for those events, many Philadelphians went to a place like Marra’s. It wasn’t until the sixties and seventies that all of these new pizza places started popping up throughout Philly. So if you are interested in learning about Philly pizza why not go to the most historical place first?
The pizza… I always order a margherita pizza…so if you own a pizza restaurant you will be able to detect me if I walk in your door. I do this because this is one of the most basic types of pizza that was created in Napoli, Italy and is the best way to make my reviews consistent. It is just by chance that the owners of this restaurant are from Napoli, Italy. So they have acquired the style of that region, thus, they should be able to produce a traditional Napolitano style Margherita pizza with no problem. This is exactly why they did. As I sat on the hard wooden bench eating my pizza I realized what a beautiful pizza Marra’s can produce. They gave me a personal 10 inch pizza enough for one hungry person. The crust on their pizza was a little blackened but just right. I will say that for thin crust pizza, their pizza was a little higher than average yet not as thick as American style pizza.
The tomato sauce was very traditional Italian style. The sauce was not too spicy yet had a sweet and salty taste combined. There was an equal proportion of sauce and cheese on the pizza though. This to me is a fine balance (some may disagree). The mozzarella cheese was served just right with a nice melted appearance and a not too overcooked taste. There were several leaves of basil sprinkled throughout the pie (but definitely not too much or too little).
Overall, I really enjoy their pizza. Marra’s pizza has been consistently good throughout the years (and I have been coming here for many, many years). That is a true sign of a restaurant labeled best pizza – consistency. Anyone can make a good pie once by luck. But to do this every time…since 1927…well that is skill. Marra’s pizza is definitely rated as a green light in my book. Please try this place at least once if you are truly interested in experiencing the best real Italian style Philadelphia pizza.
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