Philly’s Pizza Scene

I can’t think of too many other foods more universally enjoyed than pizza.  Whether it’s lunchtime office meetings, kids birthday parties, late night post-bar food and especially any time college students are around – pizza is a good choice and brings smiles to people’s faces.  I personally think it’s Italy’s best creation and export, slightly ahead of Tuscan wines and significantly ahead of slicked-back hair.

Pizza comes in different types and styles for everyone.  There’s thin crust and deep dish, tomato pie and white pizza, chewy crust and crispy crust, round pie and square slice, traditional Neapolitan and modern American style.  I think all you need are mint chocolate chip and pralines n’ cream styles to have 31 flavors.

Philadelphia has always had its share of pizza places.  Just about every neighborhood seems to have its own corner pizza shops.  And the history of Philadelphia pizza dates back over eighty years, with Marra’s on East Passyunk opening up in 1929 and serving brick oven pizza.  Until recently, though, Philadelphia pizza has, for the most part, not stood out in comparison to New York and Chicago establishments.  Among the mainstays, only Tacconelli’s in Port Richmond has received distinction as among the best in the country.  Even then, the recognition often comes with reservations.  Playboy praised Tacconelli’s though it claimed that recognizing the best pizza in Philadelphia is a lot like crowning the skinniest kid at fat camp.

Thankfully, over the past years, there’s been a huge renaissance in the Philadelphia pizza scene.  Sure, you can still reserve your dough at Tacconelli’s, but you’ve got a lot of other options all over the place for great pizza.  While an outstanding all-around restaurant, Marc Verti’s Osteria, which opened in 2006 on North Broad, serves to-die-for wood oven pizza.  Stephen Starr’s first pizza spot, Pizzeria Stella, offers a dozen options of Neapolitan-style pies in Old City. Neighboring Zavino and Barbuzzo also are welcome additions to the Neapolitan pizza scene in Center City (and the other food at these places shouldn’t be missed either).  And in Manayunk in 2008, Bruce Cooper started up Cooper’s Wine Bar to provide a wine bar atmosphere to go along with great brick oven pizza.

And of course, there are still the many traditional styles in Philadelphia, such as square tomato pie, pizzaz, cheesesteak pizzas and much more.  So, the Philadelphia pizza scene is evolving and improving, a conglomeration of traditional and new styles, a mixture of casual neighborhood and upscale destination spots.  It’s a very good thing.

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