Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Review: Franzone's, Bridgeport PA

As this blog has chronicled, Pennsylvania pizza west of Philly has been consistently mediocre. Folks live well on the Main Line and in West Chester, they dine as epicures on Gay Street and in Chadds Ford, but inexplicably, this is Pizza Kansas out here. Just one more Sysco-sourced ubiqui-pie every where you go. 

There are a few standouts, such as the delectable sauce on the red-topped pie at Marzano's in Exton and the adventurous ovals at Ron's Original (also Exton), but overall you should expect to travel 45 minutes or more to get pizza worth the calories. The quixotic quest for destination pie has turned up mostly windmills.
Click any pic to enlarge

Franzone's in Bridgeport (501 DeKalb Pike, just minutes from the King of Prussia Mall) has been on our radar for some time. Colleagues have spoken of its merit, and it got some press from Philly Mag about its sweet sauce: "If you like a sweet sauce, this is the place to go because the sauce at Franzone’s is as unlike the sauce anywhere else in the region as a scallop is to a marshmallow. Honest to god, it tastes like the cooks behind the line at this fast-moving pizza machine just dump in sugar by the bucket full."

I like a salty tangy sauce, but I can appreciate a sweet sauce too. Mostly, it sounded like this place has created its own signature pie, rather than crank out another faceless pie like most of the mom'n'pop shops are doing. It was long past time to find out about Franzone's.
Inside Franzone's, looking toward counter and front

As we drove up, I was encouraged the the large old-school style sign in front. Inside, it looked inviting if a little tired in the decor. There was no hint, really, that the pizza here would be different. EPBAC (Eats Pizza But Avoids Cheese) and I decided to get a table, order a whole pie, and take home the remainders. The friendly waitress took our order of a whole large pie, with half pepperoni (EPBAC's choice) and half hot sausage. We got some fountain Cokes in generous sized glasses and it was a short wait for our $13.25 pie to arrive.

It smelled good and looked great, but I could see that, at least in the center, it was pretty soupy. In fact, when I pulled out the first slice, a pool of sauce and cheese oozed into the gap and filled about half the vacant space. It was truly one of the soupiest pies I've seen in a long time, and in my view "there is no excuse for a wet pizza."
Pizza soup

Even with that gooey dripping top, I caught a glance at the underside of the crust. Wow! This was a thin, crisp crust with a classic char. I was instantly reminded of the fine pies in Staten Island and Manhattan, such as Denino's and John's. Seeing that artisan crust made me more tolerant of having to eat the first few bites with a knife and fork.
Wet tipped slice

Instantly, I was struck by the sweetness of the sauce. It worked for me because I like to salt my pie, and the sweet/salty combo struck the right balance. The crust was excellent, but obscured by the over-application of cheese and sauce. As I ate closer to the cornicione, eat bite improved as the ratio of crust to toppings grew. The very last bite before hitting plain crust was the best on each slice, whereby I'd get in each bite perhaps half the sauce and cheese found in the center of the pie.
Can this be the Philly suburbs?

The pepperoni was good and generously applied. The "hot sausage" looked like the slices of hot dogs you get in beans'n'franks. It surely was not the hot Italian sausage I had anticipated. It was more akin to the spicy knockwurst sold in the Washington D.C. area as "half-smokes." Good and spicy, but I wouldn't choose it again as a topping.

Conclusions? First, HALLELUJAH!  A truly distinctive crust west of Philly! That solid base, combined with their signature sweet sauce, creates a memorable pie no matter how sloppy the execution. I give an 8 to the crust, an 8 to the sauce, a 5 to the cheese, a 6 to the toppings, and a 5 to the execution. Take off half the cheese and sauce so that it can cook properly on top, and this would be destination pie. No doubt that, when I return, I will ask them to cut the cheese and sauce by half. Overall, we're going with 7.5 stars for Franzone's, and the crust is the true star.
A wizard, a true star

This pie is not for everyone! EPBAC had to pull more cheese off her slices than usual, and she was not fond of the sweet sauce, either. But if you are weary of the dreary floppy same white-breadness of the pies from Bensalem to Radnor to West Chester to Malvern, give Franzone's a try. Finally, a pizza joint west of Philly that deserves return visits.

Franzone's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon


  1. Your mostly correct about pizza in West Chester,but maybe you should try Benny's Pizza on Church St.(corn meal dusted bottom), Saucey Pizza on Market St. (order well done) Iron Hill Brewery on Gay St, (wood fired brick oven?) and Carlino's on Market St.( they have both round and square pies). They may not be in your Top 15 but they can challenge the Top 25 perhaps. My brief ventures in sublime pizza include Lombardi's and Totonno's in New York and Slice in Philly.

  2. Hi Lou,
    Thanks for those helpful tips! I have been aware of the pies at Iron Hill and surely will try them and your other recommendations. I agree about Slice, it's fine pie that does not get enough good press.