Saturday, March 25, 2017

Review: Pizzeria Beddia, Philadelphia PA

You've probably read a lot of hype about Pizzeria Beddia, the small and insanely popular pizza joint in the gentrifying section of Philly called Fishtown. From a hardscrabble blue collar neighborhood only a decade ago, Fishtown has become Philly's answer to Williamsburg in Brooklyn. 

It still has some rough edges, but it's a foodie's delight, with a branch of Philly's best cheesesteaks (Joe's Steak and Soda Shop), mid-to-upper tier restaurants like Fette Sau and Wm. Mulherin's Sons, and of course standout pizza joints like Beddia and Pizza Brain.
Joe Beddia - who makes every pie - was already a bit of a local cult legend when his shop was featured in Bon Apetit Magazine in June of 2015. The article dubbed Beddia pizza as "the best in the world" and the lines got longer.

The pizzeria has two employees - Joe making pies and a pleasant fellow working the register. There are two tables, no chairs, no phones, no reservations, no slices. The shop is open from 5:30 until 10:30 on Wednesdays through Saturday. You get there, stand in line, place your order, and get notified of when your pie will be ready.

All of this might be OK for locals, but it's tough to come in from the burbs. I employed my Very Best Pizza Tactic for those sought-after pies: go on a Thursday during Lent. Because so many people want pizza on Friday, fewer are competing for that hard-to-get pie on Thursday.
Joe Beddia puts my pie into the deck oven
With all of that, I stood in line just 15 minutes or so; I ordered my pizza at 5:40. I paid $27 with tax; John Walker, the friendly counter man, told me my pie would be ready at 7:45, which left me with 2 hours to kill in Fishtown. 

I returned at 7:35, and my pie (more or less the regular pie, with sausage) was going into the oven (a conventional gas pizza deck) for its 10 minute bake at 600 degrees. 
Pizza on my car trunk
I took the pizza out to the trunk of my car for a few photos and a taste of this pizza hot from the oven. I then drove home, about 45 minutes, and reheated some more slices. 

The crust was close to perfect. It was very thin except at the cornicione, where it expanded with an airy yet dense hole structure and a very toothy chew. Despite its thin nature, it was ideally rigid to support the toppings with zero tip sag. And, like every great crust, it had its own toasty flavor. You could put ketchup and Velveeta on this crust, and I'd eat it.

I noticed a high shelf with large cans of New Jersey tomatoes. And yes - Jersey tomatoes really are superior. His sauce is simple - just tomatoes, garlic, and salt. Even though it was applied in normal proportions, it is largely a role player to marry that brilliant crust to the cheese payload.

If there is a common error among American pizzamakers, it is the overload of toppings, especially the cheese. More recently, artisanal pizzaioli have showed restraint and often find that right balance of cheese, sauce, crust. Here, the pie was generously loaded with both aged and fresh mozzarella. I like that mix, because fresh-only is too wet and too bland.
Terrific crumb at the cornicione
For ordinary crusts, this pie would have been in the danger zone just from the mozzarella, but Beddia followed the style of Brooklyn's legendary Dom DeMarco, who finishes every pie at DiFara Pizza with shaved Grana Padano and an obscene swirl of olive oil. Beddia swapped out the Padano for locally-made "Old Gold" cheese, which has the character of an aged Gouda. The result is a autumnal palate of red sauce dotted with white, yellow, and orange cheese patches.
The "undercarriage"
The very first thought I had when I tasted this pizza is "This is what pizza was like when I was a kid in the 1960s." In other words, a brilliant thin crisp crust topped with a lot of cheese, but the slice stays rigid. And this cheese mix is one of the tastiest combinations I've ever had. The closest thing would be the pizza at Patsy's in East Harlem. Brilliant stuff.
A slice after home oven re-heat
I could not find any flaw in this pizza; it was as good - or better - when I reheated it at home. Once again, I found that world-class pizzas often come out of gas deck ovens.

Is this the best pizza in the world? You could make that argument. I'm not sure it's better than the equally brilliant Pizza Brain, right in the same neighborhood. And I'm still swooning over the essentially perfect pizza at Picco in Boston, and my long-time favorite DeLorenzo's Tomato Pies.

I suspect that the mystique of Pizzeria Beddia stems from its hard-to-get status. When you see folks standing in line for an hour or more (Pizzeria Bianco, you started this), you figure it must be special. And it is special indeed. If Joe Beddia wanted to triple his income, he'd open an adjacent wine bar (ahem, Bianco) where folks could spend time and money while waiting for the holy grail of pizza.

Like Bianco, this is wonderful pie and you should seek it out if you have the drive. But also like Bianco, you can get nearby pie just as good (Pizza Brain in Fishtown, Pane Bianco in Phoenix) without all the mystery and waiting.

Pizzeria Beddia Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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