Perfect pizza pies abound in Philadelphia, from Pizzeria Stella's charred-crust offerings to Barbuzzo's delightfully crispy and creative pizzas. (Photos by J. Varney)
It’s no surprise that Philadelphia, a city with such a rich Italian heritage, is a haven for delicious gourmet pizza.
And in recent years, the pizza offerings around town have only gotten better as a new class of Philadelphia restaurants have entered the fray, specializing in pies that have turned pizza into a meal worth dining out for.
These eateries are serious about their craft, building custom wood-fired ovens — like those frequently found in Naples, Italy, the birthplace of the pizza — to create pizzas that are more authentic and more delicious than ever before.
This traditional preparation means an incomparable char and a light, doughy crust that’s a world away from the type of pizza that you’ve got to tear at with your teeth. Local pizzerias and the masters behind them are also coming up with an abundance of creative toppings, bringing international flavor to the perpetually popular Italian favorite.
Below, check out our top picks for the best wood-fired pizza in Philadelphia. And as always, be sure to let us know in the comments where your favorite spot is to go to for a delicious pie. Happy eating!
• Pitruco Pizza: One of the newest entrants to Philadelphia’s thriving pizza scene, Pitruco has been baking up a storm… on wheels. The Pitruco Pizza Truck been turning out pies with cloud-like crusts and inspired toppings since October of 2011. One of the most popular pies sports braised radicchio, wild mushrooms and sweet balsamic. You can find the truck in Love Park on Mondays and Wednesdays and on Drexel’s campus on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
• Nomad Pizza: Since opening a Philadelphia location in Bella Vista in January, Nomad has quickly become a neighborhood favorite. But Nomad has been around; prior to opening this spot, Nomad had a location in Hopewell, NJ and don’t forget about their completely awesome, custom-outfitted 1949 REO Speedwagon pizza truck. And just a few bites of their pizza make it easy to see why Nomad’s been so successful: airy crust with cheese and toppings laid on thick, for a substantial pie that eats like an entree.
• Barbuzzo: Chef Marcie Turney’s mediterranean spot in Midtown Village has maintained its white-hot status for well over a year now, and delicious pizza, with crispy, thin crusts and creative toppings, is just one reason why. The “Uovo,” with brussels sprouts and a bechamel-like white sauce, is a crowd favorite, but the “Cinghiale,” with wild boar sausage and pepperoncini, is a lesser-known gem.
• Pizzeria Stella: Stephen Starr’s Headhouse Square pizzeria is wonderfully low-key, with a casual Italian menu that’s uniformly strong (seriously, try the rock shrimp all’amatriciana). But pizza is, ahem, the “star” here, and, unsurprisingly, they do it very well, with a slightly charred crust and toppings ranging from imported cheese and pepperoni to long hot pesto and tuscan kale.
• Dock Street: The amazing pizzas at University City’s favorite brewpub are sometimes overlooked on account of the great selection of microbrewed beers. But do yourself a favor and head here for both the pizza and the beer. The pizza’s chewy crust is thicker than most on our list, designed to support wildly creative toppings like the “Flammenkuche” pie’s onion, bacon, gruyere and creme fraiche. And, like we said, Dock Street’s pies are literally the perfect pairing for a few of their tasty craft beers.
We’ve got a number of more mouthwatering pizza picks, below.
• Kennett: Kennett is a neighborhood gem in Queen Village, and their wood-fired pies are just one of many standouts on the menu. Don’t miss the “Porchetta,” which unites bits of roasted pork, local farmer’s cheese, whipped lardo and honey on a crisp, paper-thin crust.
• Osteria: When it opened in 2006, Marc Vetri’s Italian restaurant on North Broad Street was one of the first places in town to serve wood-fired pizza. These days, it’s still leading the charge under the direction of James Beard Award-winning Chef Jeff Michaud, with pies boasting delicately thin crusts and awesome toppings like pistachio pesto and fresh octopus.
• Mama Palma’s: Mama Palma’s is a cozy, Fitler Square favorite that has been offering tasty pies to the neighborhood for years. Their specialty pizza options are exhaustive, rounding up flavors of everywhere from France to Hawaii to China, plus they offer healthy options like nonfat mozzarella and whole wheat crust.
• Earth Bread + Brewery: Mount Airy’s Earth Bread + Brewery is a local standby for outstanding wood-fired flatbreads, made with local flour from Annville Mill, the country’s oldest continuously operating mill. They are topped with countless innovative and delicious ingredients like red pepper pesto, spicy turkey sausage and fresh mozzarella that’s made daily in-house.
• Pizzicato: This Old City restaurant offers all manner of Italian cuisine in a family-friendly atmosphere, but pizza from its wood-burning oven is a definite highlight. The crust is thin and the ingredients fresh, like in the “Quattro Formaggi” pie, with four different cheeses and slices of pear.
• Serafina: This new entry to Rittenhouse Square is all about seeing and being seen, but its crispy, thin-crust pizza manages to deliver as well. The star is the “Bianca,” with peppery baby arugula and three types of Italian cheese.
• Revolution House: Revolution House uses top-quality, imported tomatoes and cheese for its wood-fired pies, and builds them with a light, doughy crust. Tasty local ingredients are included as well, like the zucchini, eggplant, squash and red onion in a grilled veggie pie.
• In Riva: Another new entry on the pizza scene, In Riva is a casually elegant joint on the banks of the Schuykill River in East Falls, boasting wood-fired pizzas that are truly something to write home about. The toppings are straightforward and high-quality, like an eggplant and fennel pie with tapenade, and the crust is nicely charred outside yet perfectly fluffy within.
Not wood — but good!
We’d be remiss in running a Philadelphia pizza roundup without these local favorites, even though their pies don’t come from a wood fire.
• Tacconelli’s: Tacconelli’s is the classic Philly pizzeria, with old-school staff and one man working at one small oven. Their fire is not from wood but from “very expensive oil,” which makes for a thin-crust pie that many call the city’s best. Just be sure to call ahead to reserve your dough. Yes, it’s that popular.
• Zavino: Midtown Village’s stand-out wine bar and pizzeria uses a gas fire, which is a little surprising given the distinct char on their pies. But it’s impossible not to love them for creations like “The Stache,” which loads pistachio pesto, arugula and two cheeses onto a whole-wheat crust, and “The Polpettini,” featuring ricotta-stuffed veal meatballs that are simply out of this world. They even offer gluten-free versions of most pies.
• Birra: East Passyunk’s new pizza-centric restaurant may use a gas fire, but their creations are too interesting to overlook. Their pies range from margherita to duck confit to — of all things — a mac & cheese and a cheeseburger pie, and any of them can be served as an upside-down “Birra Bowl” for just a buck more.
That’s our list of wood-fired ‘za in Philly. Be sure to let us know in the comments where your favorite spot is to go to for a delicious pie.