On Sunday, September 16, we attended the West Chester (PA) Restaurant Festival. On that day, much of Market Street, Gay Street, and some connector streets are closed to vehicle traffic. Restaurants and other vendors set up booths and tent to offer small samplings of their fare. We love the vibrant feel of downtown West Chester, especially places like Nonna’s and The Olive Tree on Gay Street.
|Click any pic to enlarge|
This Festival promised a chance to try some of the others and see if we want to come back for a full meal. For the most part, we discovered that all of the kitchen skills needed to run a successful restaurant don’t necessarily guarantee that you have mastered the skills of outdoor catering. It was a fun day out, but the range of foods offered was narrow. We sampled a bunch of small plates, but the cold food suffered from sitting out in the heat, and the hot food spent too much time in warming trays.
We had been seeking sample fares from the local restaurants, but several “outside” vendors were there too. The fancy soda truck, the always-welcome kettle korn guy, and to our delight, the Pizza Wagon!
From their website, we learned that the Pizza Wagon is a self-sustaining mobile pizzeria, offering catering services for private parties, corporate events and community gatherings. This wood-fired, brick oven pizza wagon services all areas in & surrounding Philadelphia, including Bucks, Montgomery, Delaware, and Chester counties.
At the 2012 South Philly Pizza Olympics, I tried the wonderful pies from the 1949 REO Speedwagon truck operated by Nomad Pizza (Philly and Hopewell, NJ). Those Neapolitans pies were the easy winner (for me) of that contest. As I watched the smallish Neapolitan pies coming out of the brick oven mounted on the Pizza Wagon, I knew I wanted to try some. Three slices for five bucks?! You had me at “pizza.”
|Oven close up|
The friendly staff, perhaps 4 or 5 people, were struggling to keep up with the demand. There were a few slices remaining from older pies when I arrived, but the pizzaolo kindly offered to fire up some fresh ones. I’m glad he did, because Neapolitan pizza doesn’t age well. The magic is the snap-chew of its puffy leopard-spotted crust right out of the oven.
It took a few minutes, but eventually I got a slice of pie with pepperoni and sausage for EPBAC (eats pizza but avoids cheese) and two slices of Portobello mushroom with caramelized onions for me. We had staked out a table right on Market Street where someone had considerately set up a nearby big screen TV so that we could watch the Eagles’ opening drive against the Ravens (Yay!) and then Vick throwing an interception in the end zone (boo).
|Portobello with caramelized onions|
The small slices were fresh of course. It was not nearly in the pantheon of top-shelf Neapolitan pies like Philly’s Zavino and Osteria, DC’s 2Amys or NYC’s Motorino and Forcella, but any fresh Neapolitan pie easily tops all of your standard pies. This is not technically West Chester pizza, but it nudges out Iron Hill Brewery as the best pizza I’ve eaten in West Chester proper.
|Nice crust, if slightly undercooked|
The crust was a 7, the sauce a 5, the toppings an 8.5. Overall, this pie came in at a 7.25. If the Pizza Wagon is churning out pies at an event, you can be pretty confident of a quality slice. For me, it was easily the highlight of the West Chester Restaurant Festival.