|My awesome lunch at Spatola's, Paoli|
Quite recently, we noted here that the boom in Neapolitan-style pizza is surely welcome, but we want to see more new places making artisanal versions of classic American pies - New York, New Haven, Trenton style. (Link HERE). Thin crisp crust, homemade dough, quality ingredients, hand-crafted. One such new place dedicated to traditional American pie is Gennaro's Tomato Pie in South Philly; we're anxious to get there and have some.
|20 W Lancaster Ave, Paoli PA 19301|
It's taken some time since I arrived in Chester County in 2009, but I'm finally fulfilling the Quixotic Quest to find destination pizza in West Chester PA or anywhere on Philly's Main Line (What is the "Main Line?" Find out about these tony suburbs at this Wikipedia LINK). La Porta in Media heads the pack (review HERE), and Wayne PA is blessed with both Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza (review HERE) and Jules Thin Crust. Now standing shoulder-to-shoulder with those great pies is Spatola's.
|From the Spatola Pizza website, http://spatolaspizza.com|
After I got the tip from a commenter on this blog, I found a little (and conflicting) info about Spatola's on the web. Googling, you can find Spatola's in Doylestown, New Hope, Ambler, and Lansdowne. Not certain if they are all linked or not. There are just two locations identified on their website -- Paoli, and Chalfont. The site notes "From Palermo, Sicily to Philadelphia and finally ... Chalfont PA." The Paoli location is the newcomer.
|Sicilian, left, and Trenton, right. From http://spatolaspizza.com|
|What I saw at the counter|
On a weekday, I stopped in to the Paoli location on Lancaster Avenue (very near Paoli Pike, the Paoli train station, and the WaWa) for two slices at lunch. It is a small space, just six stool seats along a window counter. Even the display counter was small - too small to easily see all the pizza choices as well as other options like garlic knots and cannoli. The conventional pie (NY style) had eye appeal, but I had come primarily to investigate the Trenton-style and Brooklyn-style pies.
|Owner is in background, at the oven|
Chatting with the friendly counter man (who I later learned was the owner), I discovered that the Trenton pie is a large 16" square pie (quite a bargain at $14.95) that resembles a Sicilian pie (also on the menu) but has a thin crust and a pronounced raised edge. It's made with plum tomatoes and conventional mozzarella. I've had plenty of Trenton pizza, and the main similarity to Trenton pies I know is the thin but crisp crust. The closest thing to this style would be Brooklyn's "Granma" slice, which is another thin-crust square pie (see a Granma slice at Brooklyn's Lenny's Pizza, where Tony Manero ate pizza in Saturday Night Fever, at this LINK). At Spatola's, their version of a Brooklyn pie is identical to the Trenton pie, except that fresh mozzarella is swapped in for the conventional dry mozz.
|The pie I took home. Box filler!|
I was keen on the Trenton style, so I ordered a slice and also a more conventional NY slice that was topped with sauce, regular mozzarella, diced tomato, and what looked like spots of bufalo mozz but may have been ricotta. Anyhow, both slices had a very thin crust that had a wonderful crispness, and was somehow sturdy enough to support a generous cheese and sauce topping.
|A pepperoni slice, after the re-bake|
|Sausage slice. You can see the fennel seeds!|
The Trenton pie was sufficiently promising that I ordered an entire pie for takeout, and it cooked while I ate my two slices. The friendly owner hails from Palermo, Sicily. For the Trenton pie I ordered to go, he was reluctant to fulfill my request for meat topping -- "Why mess with perfection?" he asked. We spoke about how so many pizzas are ruined by piling on too many toppings. We spoke about balance and he noted that "simple is often best" (a lesson I learned in Rome - see link HERE). This pizzaiolo understands the yin and yang of crafting a destination pie.
|Tasted even better than this looks|
Generally, nearly every pizza tastes pretty good, so I often discriminate more by texture. These slices had my ideal texture - no tip sag, no need to fold it to eat it. But more importantly, they had a savory balance of sauce, cheese, crust that made it the tastiest pizza in my memory. I expected to like the Trenton slice, and I loved it. The plum tomatoes had a sweet note and plenty of fresh tomato flavor. The thin crust had superb flavor and texture. This Trenton slice was firing on all 8 cylinders.
|Another look at the lunch slices. Chunky plum tomato sauce!|
I expected less of the NY slice, but it may have been even better. There was some oil pooling on top of this slice, but I don't seek out pizza as diet food; the oil imparts flavor and I welcome it, whether it oozes from the cheese or is added olive oil.
I took the finished pie and placed it in my trunk, where it spent the next 4 or 5 hours. Naturally, it steamed itself in there -- never a good thing for the crust. About 7 hours later, I took out five slices, put them on my perforated pizza pan, and heated them for about 10 minutes at 450 degrees.
They made a full recovery! Supremely crisp (but not hard) on the bottom, with the lovely chunky plum tomato and cheese complemented now by some high-grade pepperoni and genuine Italian sausage, sliced from the rope. Again, this pie nails it on flavor, on balance and harmony, and on texture. The ridges on the cornicione were crisp with small bubbles and especially delightful to crunch down. I hate to see any pie eater leave pizza bones behind; with this pie, it would be criminal.
|The edge crust was an amazing bubbly crunch|
|At home, but before the re-bake|