For most of my pizza-eating lifetime, pizza joints came in two varieties: those that have been around forever, and those with lousy pizza. Every new joint was either chain pizza, some money-laundering operation, or one more schmoe trying to compete on price by using mass-produced ingredients.
One happy exception in recent years has been the trend for producing fairly authentic Neapolitan pizza. True Naples-style pie, with a pale puffy crust, leopard spots, and fresh bufalo mozzarella cheese. Even though I prefer a crisp Trenton or New Haven pie, I can't say I've ever had a bad or even mediocre Neapolitan pie.
But an even more promising new place opened not long ago in South Philly -- Gennaro's. He's not trying to make a Neapolitan pizza, or a "New York" pizza. Owner Mike Giammarino operated the Philly branch of NYC's famed Lombardi's near Rittenhouse Square until 2005. Now he's back with what he calls "American" pie, a thin-crust pizza where the cheese goes on first. For background on defining tomato pie, read this primer.
|The exterior at 1429 Jackson Street|
Gennaro's has been getting a lot of press, and we feared a long wait. But it's located in a part of South Philly that is, ummm, evolving. We arrived early, hunted for parking, and found very little of interest to occupy our time as we waited for the 5pm opening. As we sat on the stoop, a friendly staffer invited us in around 4:45. If I have any fear for the longevity of Gennaro's, it's the location. I hope that this neighborhood becomes the hipster destination it might be as center city rents go higher.
|The counter and excellent staff on our Saturday visit|
|A 1940s theme inside|
|The pesto pizza|
Three basic kinds of pies are on the menu -- a traditional red sauce tomato pie, a white pie, and a pesto pie. Knowing full well that we'd have plenty to take home, FEEP Jr. (Fellow enthusiast for eating pizza) and I selected two pizzas: a tomato pie with pancetta and red onion, and the pesto pie.
|Pesto pie close-up|
|Superb crust - no room for improvement!|
This pizza, beyond being delicious, should serve as a lesson to any pizzaiolo about balance. Once again, the thin and crisp crust, tasty enough to stand on its on and sturdy enough to support its toppings. Then, top-line ingredients, such as the fresh mozzarella, thin-sliced pancetta, and thin-sliced onions. To make it all sing, the crushed tomatoes (so fine it seemed like sauce) were bright, vibrant, and good enough to eat with a spoon. And applied in the perfection proportions. This pie was a masterpiece.
|Put a frame around this|
|Close to perfection|
|The underbelly of the beast|
|Even the take out box is cool|
We got a piece of Pineapple Upside-Down cake to take with us (after FEEP Jr and I ate 5 and 6 slices, respectively). Once we were finally hungry again, we enjoyed the cake too.
Gennaro's is destination, world-class pizza. I'd wait an hour in line for pie this good.