Scott's Pizza Tour Pizza News
I was already planning a quick trip to Philadelphia to check out some pizzerias when my friend John called asking if I’d ever been to Marrone’s. John owns a bunch of pizzerias and one of his best customers asked him to replicate Marrone’s since it was the pizza of his youth. So I went on a mission to figure out what was going on with the pizza at Marrone’s and if it was worth reproducing.
The restaurant (more of a bar with a few pizza ovens) is located on a quaint street about 20 minutes outside of Philadelphia proper, right next to a smattering of other old school Italian businesses. Marrone’s opened in 1946, as you can see from the awesome blue sign in their parking lot (first pic). But that’s pretty much all the awesomeness you’ll find at this place.
The pizza is interesting. It’s a cheese-first-sauce-last operation and word on the street is that they use provolone cheese rather than mozzarella. I ordered a regular pie, but lots of folks go for double cheese.
It’s a pretty slow bake, clocking in at 15:30 for a small pie. It’s on the thick side, so a slow bake makes sense. The crust was pretty lame and devoid of much flavor, but the texture was a bit on the flaky side.
I took some measurements and sent them off to John along with a few frozen slices and his reading was the same as mine. This is not a great pizza but sometimes you develop a taste for something and it only grows stronger with memory when you move 2,500 miles away from it.
October is National Pizza Month. Hallelujah!
This photo perfectly describes the Pizza Brain experience on the Kensington/Fishtown border of Philadelphia. Best way to describe the slice is “Ninja Turtle food.”
If Gennaro’s Tomato Pie looks and sounds familiar to New York pizza lovers, it’s because it is essentially a classic turn-of-the-last-century New York pizza. Makes plenty of sense because it was opened by the family that owns Lombardi’s in Soho. Lombardi’s became the first pizzeria in the US when it opened on Spring Street in 1905. It’s currently owned by longtime Lombardi family friend John Brescio and managed by his son Mike, who previously ran a Lombardi’s pizzeria in Philadelphia before the building was demolished to make way for new construction. Mike stockpiled some bits and pieces from Lombardi’s and reentered the Philadelphia pizza scene with Gennaro’s about six months ago. And it’s outstanding.
I met up with some friends to kick the tires at Gennaro’s. On the left is my college roommate Drew and his wife Sara. The guy on the right is my new pal Norman, who had sent me several emails over the past few months telling me about his pizza obsession and love for this new place called Gennaro’s. So we all met up, took a tour of the place and sat down for some pizza.
I’m happy to report that the pizza is wonderful. The crust is baked a bit on the well-done side but comes out perfectly in tune with the sauce and cheese. Instead of dealing with the hassle of a coal-fired oven, Gennaro’s opted for a Swedish-made Bake Master electric oven. It’s easy to manage and gives controls for separate elements on the oven’s top and bottom. But all that matters about the oven is that the pizza that came out of it was fantastic.
We tried several, but my favorites were the standard cheese pizza and the lovely pesto pizza. They’re just perfectly balanced with an even hand on sauce, cheese and additional toppings. Unlike the tricky undependable heat of a coal oven, the electric oven provides a far more consistent bake without having to rotate the pie every few seconds.
The place itself is lovely, styled as a 1930s cafe. There are old radios along the wall and piped-in radio broadcasts from back in the day. But it isn’t over-the-top kitch, it’s done tastefully and not to detract from the food.
Check out the chairs — they’re nearly identical to those found in a photo of the original Lombardi’s from the 1920s!
Gennaro’s Tomato Pie is a serious spot and a welcome addition to the growing Philadelphia pizza scene. While you’re there, be sure to try their classic desserts. There’s a pound cake, a pineapple upside-down cake, and my favorite — the layered ice box cake!
With the recent additions of Nomad, Pizza Brain, Pizzeria Beddia (which I have yet to visit) and Gennaro’s, Philadelphia is really upping its long-abandoned pizza game. Even the old standbys like Marra’s and Tacconelli’s are not loved by all locals. These new spots are exciting and different enough that the town is finally cultivating some diversity in its pizza offerings. And Gennaro’s is certainly a strong piece of that tapestry.
Gennaro’s Tomato Pie
1429 Jackson St
Big congratulations to Giorgia Caporuscio for winning first place in the classic pizza category at the 12th annual International Pizza Competition in Italy. Giorgia is head pizzaiola at Kesté Pizza e Vino and also makes pizzas at Don Antonio by Starita, both located in New York City. She’s only been making pizza for just over two years, but clearly she’s already showing her chops.
Another great Italian pizza documentary shot in Naples in 1974.
Cool video of Neapolitan pizza in 1967. Notice pizza being served wrapped in paper (1:55) and sauce going on after cheese (2:53). ENJOY!
After all the reports and rumors and even with brown paper up in the windows, I still thought there was a chance for Pizza Box. The typical New York slice shop was part of a dwindling tribe, having been in business since 1957. Box’s owner had assured me on several occasions that they were just renovating and planned to reopen in six weeks with a new layout. I was worried about the pizza changing but he seemed confident that it would just be a cosmetic alteration. About a month ago I heard from another area restauranteur that the pizzeria was not planning to reopen, so hope remained. But this week the sign finally came down and reality set in. Pizza Box is no more.
This marks another blow to the New York slice, which has been struggling against fluctuating ingredient costs and rising rents. A slice of pizza is a great deal at $2.50, but Pizza Box had two $1 slice joints within a block and bar-lined streets like Bleecker are not usually filled with the most discerning palates at 2am. And so the Pizza Box is gone, making way for a fast-food sandwich chain that’s willing to pay more in rent than Pizza Box was bringing in from pizza sales. I can’t blame them, but I certainly can mourn the loss.
I adore this simple box with the misspelled street name.
And what about the pizza? It wasn’t the greatest slice I’ve ever had but it was honest. It’s exactly what a New York slice should be. No fancy flour, no wood fired oven, no cheese blends — no nonsense. Just a solid pie, perfect for folding and eating on the go.
This should be a lesson to us all. Eat good pizza. Support your local pizzeria or it will disappear. Goodbye, Pizza Box. You will be missed.
I never noticed this amazing security door art before because I never walk past it during the day. Broadway, Bed Stuy.