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Passion For The Pie

Submitted by on September 4, 2012 – 8:19 amNo Comment

Special to Road Trips for Foodies
By the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation

With the world’s first pizza museum and shop, Pizza Brain, opening in the Fishtown section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in late summer 2012, pizza lovers finally have a place to explore the crispy, charred inner recesses of America’s favorite food. With more than 550 artifacts in rotation, Pizza Brain educates eaters about the cultural impact of the famed Italian import over the years, while serving up gas oven-fired pies topped with environmentally conscious ingredients.

And that’s just the beginning—there’s a world of pizza secrets to explore in the Philadelphia region, from a suburban “speakeasy” to some rightfully picky pizza makers to dough-throwing classes in chefs’ open kitchens.

Here are just a few ways to take a passion for the pie even deeper:

Quirky Spots & Slices:

Diners can order pizza and only pizza at Tacconelli’s, where there’s a three-topping limit for the crunchy, thin-crust pies. It’s also advised that wanna-be patrons call the lauded Port Richmond pizzeria in advance to reserve their dough since it’s made in finite quantities daily.

Not content to simply serve up what is quickly becoming regarded as one of the region’s top pies, Nomad Pizza entertains the nibbling masses with free movie nights on Sundays. Those in the know also know that Nomad’s Neapolitan-style pies are cut at the table to prevent them from getting soggy.

Stop at the ATM and prepare for square as there are no wedge-shaped slices at Santucci’s Pizza. While Santucci’s original locations populate Northeast Philadelphia, the family recently introduced the Bella Vista neighborhood to the addictive square-shaped pies.

Around Valentine’s Day, love birds cozy up in the tiny booths at old-school favorite Tony’s Place in Northeast Philly to feast on the Best of Philly-winning tomato pie, which comes in a heart-shaped form for a limited time each year.

Enter through the back door at “speakeasy” Penny’s Pizza in Limerick, which is only open Thursday through Sunday, from 2:00 to 8:30 p.m., to enjoy the pies made with a cornmeal-dusted dough.

The menu at Peter McAndrew’s La Porta in Media warns patrons: “Do not try to alter your pizza in any way, hence it may compromise its integrity!” In other words, don’t question the thin crust with its areas of char or the floppy nature of the “malfatti,” half-pie, half-stromboli—or risk looking like a pizza naif.

The inventive, decidedly new-school pies at Birra (porchetta with arugula pesto and fontina; duck confit with caramelized onion) can also be served bowl-style (baked upside down and inverted into a personal-sized deep dish). Even better, all pizza is served until 1:00 a.m.

Fancy-Pants Ingredients:

Roxborough newcomer Pizzeria DiMeo‘s imports its water from Sicily, ensuring that its wood-fired pies have a down-to-the-last-drop authentic flavor.

Any pizza at Midtown Mediterranean wine bar Barbuzzo can be upgraded with La Quercia prosciutto for the bargain price of $4—even the famed asparagus pie, with secret white sauce, fior di latte and truffled farm egg.

Talk about artisan. Lebanon County Daisy flour is the foundation for the flatbreads at Earth Bread + Brewery, the mozzarella is made daily in house and the whole production is baked in a hand-built oven (see photo, above left).

Garces Trading Company is serious about its pizza: The restaurant’s sourdough crust is made with duck fat, and the pies are available in a deep-dish, Chicago-style with decidedly global toppings like boquerones and merguez sausage.

Healthy Pies:

A steadily growing local mini-chain, Jules Thin Crust has won fans for its high-quality organic ingredients, interesting vegetarian combinations and the option for whole wheat or gluten-free crust.

One of the original purveyors of gourmet pizza in Philly, Mama Palma‘s keeps the health of its patrons in mind. Any cheese can be swapped out for a soy variation, plus there’s a whole section of the menu devoted to low-fat toppings.

As Philadelphia’s only full-on vegan pizzeria, Society Hill’s Blackbird uses ingredients such as seitan sausage, Daiya non-dairy cheese and cornmeal-crusted mushrooms to cover its chewy crusts and sate non-meat eating appetites.

Can’t-Be-Beat Service:

Pitruco‘s won Philadelphia magazine’s “Best of Philly” designation for best pie, making the little red truck an even hotter commodity. Call ahead and beat the lunch line for their wonderful 11-inch personal pizzas, and follow @PitrucoPizza on Twitter for daily specials.

Make (Or Rent) Your Own:

Patrons can enjoy Osteria‘s award-winning pizzas at the restaurant’s Kitchen Table, which seats between eight and 14 people for a private, family-style meal. The chef also hosts occasional pizza-making classes.

It’s all DIY at Bryn Mawr’s “take and bake” shop Bake 425, which specializes in fresh not-baked pizzas made from organic, local ingredients (with gluten-free options).

The monthly classes at In Riva‘s pizza bar allow attendees to get in on the secrets of Chef Arthur Cavaliere’s Neapolitan, wood-fired creations. Speaking of secrets, patrons who like the restaurant’s Facebook page get a password every Tuesday that they can use to get half-price pizzas on the same day.

When delivery from Domino’s won’t cut it, Nomad Pizza‘s vintage REO Speedwagon mobile unit is available for pizza parties of up to 150 guests.

For more information about travel to Philadelphia, go online.

(Photo by G. Widman for GPTMC)

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