Monday, February 15, 2016

Review: Snap Custom Pizza, Exton PA

In 2009, the best pizza in Chester County was the local chain Peace A Pizza. That pie sported a fairly standard mass-sourced crust, but its fresh and creative toppings elevated it to "B Grade" pie. In 2011, when this blog began, I rated Peace A Pizza at 6.5 out of 10.
Neapolitan-ish at SNAP Pizza. Click to enlarge

Since then, the Pizza Renaissance finally came to our region. Authentic Neapolitans at Vecchia in Phoenixville, build-your-own pie joints like MOD and RapiDough, and the consistently excellent crisp pies from Anthony's Coal-Fired Pizza. Peace A Pizza got left behind.
"The Good Egg" pizza

The good news is that some Peace A Pizza locations are being converted into Snap Custom Pizza. The first one opened in Ardmore PA, and the Exton location opened late in 2015; the owners hope to reach 15 locations within 18 months.
SNAP Pizza in Exton

Much like MOD, Snap aims to replicate the Chipotle fast-casual formula. On a chilly winter weeknight, we visited this BYOB with a bottle of red wine in tow to investigate.

The interior space, part of the "Main Street at Exton" shopping center, is both rustic and modern, airy and attractive. There is one key design flaw, though. The self-service beverage area juts into the narrow passageway past the pie assembly area. With customer seating at opposite ends, this creates awkward logjams and confusion in the areas where you order, pick up, pay, obtain beverages, and bus your tray (there is no table service).
Cheese options

Much like MOD, most of the pizzas are $7.99, whether you choose a speciality pie from the menu or craft your own, with unlimited toppings. It's nice that all the toppings are on display, and you can get a regular or gluten-free crust, red sauce or other choices, many different cheeses, meats, vegetables, and finishing touches like lemon oil and arugula.
Meat options

We opted to split two pies. First, a menu item called "The Good Egg" which features eggs, sausage, San Marzano tomato sauce, spinach, provolone, mozzarella, and red pepper chili oil. Then we customized a pie with red sauce, cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, pepperoni, and bacon with post-bake additions of olive oil and fresh basil.
Thai Crunch Salad

We completed our meal order with the $8.99 "Thai Crunch" salad. That salad contained chicken and peanuts to go with its vegetable base ingredients and could be a meal by itself. It was fresh, but not particularly memorable. Its flavors were tame, especially in comparison to the pizzas.

The pies bake quickly and we were called to pick up the order. The thin crusts are pierced all over with a roller pre-bake, which I presume is to prevent the formation of large bubbles. The crust developed a nice crisp texture, but it was a little white-bready in flavor. 
Nicely balanced breakfast-style pizza

It was uniform in thickness, and the cornicione was thin, flat, and forgettable. MOD is doing a little better and RapiDough is doing a lot better at crafting the all-important crust on these assembly line style pies.
Very thin crust

The Good Egg pie was a lot of fun. Distinct flavors and well balanced, even as the chili oil got us to the edge of "too spicy." The egg was melded with the cheese and covered the pie; it was more of a breakfast style pizza than the lovely Neapolitans that sport a "sunny side up" egg perfectly cooked on top.
Nicely browned underneath

Our custom pie was also a success. The pepperoni was thin cut standard grade, but the addition of bacon gave this pizza a savory boost. The red sauce was a highlight, too, and the generous amount of mozzarella did not overwhelm the thin crust. I'd recommend the fresh basil and olive oil to finish almost any pie here. It works for Dom DeMarco at DiFara, and it's a nice offering here.

Overall, this is very good pizza at a fair price in a nice setting. The advent of assembly-line chain Neapolitan-ish pies may be the early stages of a big movement akin to the days when Pizza Hut began bringing pie to the masses. It's encouraging that a chain can offer pizza this good, but scary that they may eventually crowd out the more-pricey artisanal Neapolitan pie makers.

Either way, we live in a time during the ongoing Pizza Renaissance when even the 3rd-best assembly-line chain pie in the neighborhood is easily worth the money and the calories. Snap Custom Pizza is an instant upgrade to the region. 

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