Sunday, June 4, 2017

Review: Kono Pizza - (Pizza in a Cone)

Although my pizza preference is the thin-crust round variety, and the Trenton Tomato Pie in particular, there's much joy to be found in almost anything that can be labeled pizza. 

That includes deep-dish Chicago style, thin squares of Granma Pie or Roman al taglio pizza, thicker squares of Sicilian pizza and its cousin Old Forge style, or even French bread and English muffin pizzas.
Kono Pizza event in Philly's FDR Park
How far can you stretch the definition? Once you put the crust on the outside, is it still a pizza? Most people would call it a Calzone. Put the crust on the outside and deep-fry it, you have a panzarotti.
Eric Ciancaglini in front of the Kono Pizza truck

Anthony Ciancaglini and Dan Pennechetti
What about shaping the crust as a cone? Is it still pizza or is it an open-face calzone? These are the deep questions I wrestled with after attending an invitation-only event to introduce Kono Pizza in Philadelphia. 
Chicken Parmesan Kono cone
On a beautiful evening in early June, a bunch of food geeks and pizza nerds were invited to FDR Park to sample several different varieties of Kono pizza cones.
Pepperoni and Margherita cones
Kono is already an established offering in Europe, and the franchise made its debut in the USA in 2013. In the Philly area, you can find a Kono cone at kiosks in malls in Cherry Hill NJ and King of Prussia PA. 
Jake Ciancaglini in the truck

The Kono cone oven
At the Philly event, the cones were baking in the portable Kono food truck, where I met the family behind the local franchise: Eric, Gino, Matt, Jake, and Anthony Ciancaglini.
For all its wonder, pizza can be a messy meal. How can you eat a pizza when you are walking or when you don't have a table? John Travolta took a shot at it by stacking two slices from Lenny's Pizza in Saturday Night Fever, but the cone pizza really addresses the portability issue. 
Imagine yourself in a baseball or football stadium, beer in one hand and pizza cone in the other - that seems like an ideal scene for pizza in a cone.
More to the point - how did it taste? I had modest expectations, and I was delighted and a little surprised by the crisp crunch of the outer part of the pizza cone. 

No matter the shape, every pizza lives or dies by its crust, and the cone was crisp inside, nicely chewy on the interior, and packing its own toasty flavor.
Some critter from Philly's "More 101.1 FM"
Each Kono is made with a pre-made cone that's been partially baked. It's then filled with the pizza ingredients, including a mild marinara and low-moisture cheese that seemed like mozzarella. 
Chicken Parm in a handy stand
The oven is a rotating carousel that toasts the outside of the cone while heating the inside to a hot but not scalding temperature. I was impressed that I could take a big bite of the cone, fresh from the truck, without much risk of burning the roof of my mouth.
The full-size cone will sell for about $7; this event featured all the varieties in the smaller dessert-size cones. I sampled a Margherita, a Pepperoni, and a Chicken Parmesan cone. 
Really a pretty good night for critters
The crust was consistently crisp and tasty in all three pies. I thought the sauce and cheese were a bit tame, but franchise owners don't have much flexibility with the ingredients. I suspect Philadelphians and New Yorkers would like a bit more punch in the flavor of their red sauce than would the folks in Kansas and Iowa.
The Chicken Parmesan was the most interesting, because it added a nice dense and chewy chicken nugget at the top of the cone. I'd be very happy with any of these at a stadium, festival, or even an airport where portability is a big plus.
Live music on the waterfront
Overall, it was a terrific evening in South Philly, meeting the franchise owners, learning about and eating the Kono pizza cones, and talking to other foodies. The Ciancaglini family contemplates some other uses for this cone. Why limit it to pizza when that cone might contain a gyro sandwich or a Philly cheesesteak?
I've never had any pizza worth the calories in a stadium; I expect that the Kono pizza cone (or imitators) will replace all the wet and floppy stuff sold as pizza in stadiums over the next few years. It tastes much better and it's so much easier to handle.
I'm not trading in my DeLorenzo's tomato pie for a Kono pizza cone, but it would be interesting to see Kono go pie-to-pie with the Pizzeria Vetri concession during Eagles games at Philly's Lincoln Financial Field. Fun new stuff, and the Ciancaglini family has the personality to make the Philly-area franchise a hit.

Kono Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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