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.”
Scott's Pizza Tour Pizza News
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.
Coming to a theater near you: the story of four girls, several slices of pizza and a big yellow school bus.
Big thanks to the ladies of Live Love Spa, who were writing a summer blockbuster in the back of the bus when I thought they were just being antisocial.
The new Joe’s Pizza location on 14th Street (and 3rd Ave) is open and the slice I had there last week was excellent! There are a few Joe’s locations around town but this one and the spot on Carmine (between Bleecker St and 6th Ave) are the only ones run by Joe Pozzuoli himself. Actually, the 14th St location is primarily under the watchful eye of Joe’s grandson Sal, but he held down the fort over at Carmine St for the past few years so I think it’s safe to call it the same.
Mark your calendars for this year’s Slice Out Hunger fundraiser. It’s happening on October 9 at St Anthony’s Church at 154 Sullivan St (at Houston) in New York City. Doors open at 6 and over 35 of your favorite pizzerias will be there. We got Lombardi’s, Difara, Two Boots, John’s, Joe’s, Luzzo’s, NY Pizza Suprema, Sottocasa, Keste, Don Antonio, Forcella, Cowboy Pizza and LOTS MORE!
How does it work? You just show up, buy as many $1 tickets as you want, then exchange tickets for slices, sodas or desserts. Our sponsors have pledged to match every dollar we raise and all the money goes to Food Bank For New York City!
Check out our event website for more details, volunteer information and sponsorship opportunities.
See that tubby mystery layer between crust and sauce/cheese? Gross.
You know when you’re eating a slice of pizza and there’s a gooey area between the base and the topping? It’s a serious problem known in the pizza world as the gum line and it’s ruining pizza everywhere. How can this be if the exterior of my crust is a beautiful golden brown? What is this invader doing in my pizza? Where does it come from? What can we do to stop it? There’s nothing a consumer can do to prevent the dreaded gum line, but the world’s pizza makers should be aware of this common flaw.
WHAT CAUSES THE GUM LINE?
There are dozens of potential causes but the bottom line is temperature. Since deck-baked pizza is baking from the bottom up through direct conduction from the oven floor, the underside is baked first. If you top your base with refrigerated sauce, cheese and vegetables, there’s a good chance you’ll form a gum line. Excess moisture from sauce and vegetable toppings also can cause a gum line by penetrating the upper layer of dough and cause it to cook unevenly.
There’s also a huge matter of dough management. Dough is alive and its temperature is super important, so if it’s sealed in a container too quickly post-mix, moisture will condense and the exterior will get sticky. Allowing the dough to sit too long before scaling and rounding it can also be a big issue because the outside warms up before the inside.
An article by Tom “Dough Doctor” Lehmann points out that too little yeast in the dough can cause an uneven bake because the dough will not rise quickly enough during the bake. The first minute or so in the oven dictates the texture of the crust, so a fast spring will produce a more open internal crumb structure. How exciting!
HOW CAN I PREVENT THE GUM LINE?
Some pizzerias prevent sauce and topping moisture from seeping into the dough by applying a thin skin of oil to the surface after it has been opened into a skin. It’s the same principle behind spreading mayonnaise on your sandwich bread — fat blocks moisture. Some pizzerias are able to prevent the gum line by swapping the cheese and sauce so the cheese goes down first. I’ve never seen a gum line at Totonno’s, Grimaldi’s, Johns on Bleecker or Arturo’s - all of which apply their cheese first.
On the dough management side of the equation, pizzeria operators can cross-stack their dough trays for the first hour or so of the rise, allowing moisture and heat to escape. It all depends on where you are and how dry it is. Beyond that, it’s all about allowing dough to cool down evenly.
WHY SHOULD I CARE ABOUT THE GUM LINE ANYWAY?
First of all, they taste gross. Secondly, it’s undercooked dough and it will likely give you a stomach ache. Finally, improperly baked pizza is giving this food a bad name and MUST BE STOPPED! Too many people are used to the gum line and actually think it’s a normal part of pizza. It is not. Please help spread the word and if we work together we can stop the dreaded gum line.