When we set up a Philadelphia pizza crawl to take place last month, there was one spot that was an absolute necessity to hit up: Pizza Brain. How could any respectable pizza crawl bypass the world’s first pizza museum?
Pizza Brain is more than just a museum. While the collection of pizza-related memorabilia – replete with everything from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles items to the album cover for the Fat Boys’ “Jailhouse Rap” single – is impressive, the pizzeria portion is notable in its own right. The friendly staff, which usually includes memorabilia owner Brian Dwyer, serves up unique pizza topping combinations in either slices or full pies (ranging from $11 to $22).
Native New Yorker Jennifer had enough. Another serving of mediocre pizza from West Philly was driving her crazy, and she broadcast, via Facebook, her pronouncement: Philly pizza was crap (except she used a more colorful adjective).
I, for one, will not tolerate anyone disparaging Philadelphia’s pizza scene. Immediately, I touted the city’s great pizza tradition and diverse pizzerias. Other folks piped in that they wanted to try a lot of these places in town, particularly in a group outing. One thing led to another, and the Philadelphia Pizza Crawl of December 2012 was organized.
- Basics – Hit up six Philadelphia pizza spots on a Saturday in December.
- Objective – Convince a native New Yorker that Philly does have good pizza.
- Specific stops – FrancoLuigi’s Pizzeria, Santucci’s Original Square Pizza, Nomad Pizzeria, Rustica Pizza, Pizza Brain, Tacconelli’s Pizzeria. They may or may not be the six best pizza places in town, but they’ve all been recognized for their excellence and also offer a variety of pizza styles and settings. Pizzeria Stella, Zavino, Slice, Dock Street and Osteria also were strongly considered but were either considered duplicative or too far out of the way to work with the other spots.
- Logistics – Every food crawl must account for logistics, such as transportation, payment, food ordering. The plan was to travel from place to place by walking, public transportation and perhaps cabs. There was discussion of a bus, which would protect us in case of adverse weather, but it would have been too costly. With 20-30 people expected to attend, we also decided to collect $20 up front for costs of pizza, water and drinks. Calls were placed well in advance to each location to ensure they could accommodate us and were prepared for our arrival. At each stop, we’d order enough for about a slice or more per person, cutting full slices into smaller portions with our own pizza cutters to allow participants to try different pies. Also, to allow for comparison, we were to keep the pizza selections to plain, pepperoni and perhaps one specialty pie. We’d also budget about an hour for each spot to allow us to be at Tacconelli’s for our reservation at 5 p.m.
- Scoring – We thought about a scoring sheet to determine the best pizza, but eating pizza is really a subjective experience. There’s not one right way to make a crust or use a sauce. People could decide on their own about what slices and spots they liked best. Continue reading
A little more than a year ago, the second Night Market was held in a parking lot in University City. No different than the other editions of Night Market, there were long lines at several trucks and carts. Few lines were longer than the one at Nomad Pizza, which was making its Philly debut through its pizza truck.
There was certainly great anticipation for Nomad, which originated and built its reputation in Hopewell, New Jersey. The truck, a restored 1949 REO Speedwagon with a built-in wood-fired brick oven, kept firing up Neapolitan-style pizzas for the masses, who eagerly gobbled them up. Earlier this year, Nomad opened up its brick and mortar location at 6th and Bainbridge, though its pizza truck still makes appearances at events around town. In either the restaurant or the store, prepare to be blown away by superb pizza.