Monday, May 13, 2019

Review: Santucci's Original Square Pizza - Philadelphia

Way back in 2012 when this blog was in its infancy, I attended the South Philly Pizza Olympics where, not surprisingly, the fresh pies coming out of the Nomad Pizza truck smoked all the competition that had been baked off site and sitting around in cardboard boxes.
A slice of Santucci's square pie
I did get to try several Philly-style square tomato pies, and I was left wanting to get some Santucci's slices, fresh from the oven. It took 7 years, but on Mother's Day 2019 (Mother's Day is always a great time to visit a popular pizzeria, nobody takes mom out for pizza on Mother's Day) we visited the flagship, original location on 10th Street in South Philly.

We arrived mid-afternoon, so it was quiet but not empty. We got prompt and friendly service, and were surprised to see a full menu, including appetizers, sandwiches, and pastas.  But we had come for the square pie, and we ordered a large 17" rectangular pizza ($18) topped with spinach ($2) and sausage ($3).
Inside the dining room
As I always do, I confirmed that the sausage goes on the pie uncooked (when a pizzeria uses pre-cooked sausage, I opt for pepperoni or other salumi)

The pie arrived relatively soon and it was beautiful. This is a "red sauce on top" pie and it was a strikingly red canvas in a golden frame, dotted with swaths of deep green and textured with lumps of sausage.
Nicely browned underside
I usually flip over the first slice to photograph the bottom, but I could see this was unusually thin sauce, which would run off if I did. Although this pie was gorgeous to look at, it proved messy to eat.

The medium-thick crust was somewhere between a typical Sicilian crust and a Philly tomato pie bakery-style crust, but lighter, sturdier, and crisper. It was an excellent vehicle to support the cheese, sauce, and toppings, but it was still difficult to take a bite without getting a faceful of that generously applied red sauce. Hence, I ate most of it with a knife and fork.

The upside of sauce on top is that it becomes the star of the pie, and this sauce was good enough for that premiere role. Despite its thin consistency, it packed a solid old-world red gravy flavor. The downside is that the cheese is deprived of oven browning.

All the elements were in harmony here, and each bite had a satisfying mix of crunch, chew, tang, and savory goodness from the excellent sausage.

Santucci's has proved its Philly mettle so much that are now five locations in PA and NJ; it was the only pizza that former Eagle Connor Barwin would eat. 
I'm still learning to appreciate pies with the sauce on top; the oven browning and caramelization is a key pizza feature for me. But that didn't stop me from enjoying this South Philly tradition. We caught some glimpses of the other menu items, and I imagine you won't last long in South Philly if you can't make a decent hoagie and cheesesteak on good bread.

Santucci's is a great story -- an old-school piemaker, expanding into new territory, without any artisanal pretense. Go get some. 

Santucci's Original Square Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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