The Best Pizza Places in Philadelphia
There is a staggering amount of good pizza in Philadelphia, and this is by no means an exhaustive list. This list also veers towards places that serve whole pies, so grab a friend and prepare to share.
Every neighbourhood gem should be measured against the standard Sally sets with its casual, quirky elegance. Sally is a perfectly shaded and effortlessly welcoming spot with glasses of natural wine on the menu and a charming nook of a wine store selling bottles to take home. Sally serves carefully assembled small plates dotted with both local and house-made cheeses and unabashedly and satisfyingly charred breads and sourdough pizza. Their pizza crust is lightly puffed with the right balance of crisp and chew and the plain cheese pizza (no other descriptor other than that on the menu) is simply and perfectly that. As a person who spent her earliest years in Brooklyn and first knew pizza to be that of a crisp, airy crust variety, Sally’s pizza stirs up my earliest pizza memories and conjures up what to me is the platonic ideal of my primordial pizza.
The Fitler Club
The Fitler Club is an expansive maze of a members’-only club with sultry, intentionally designed bar nooks tucked into a speakeasy-setting abutting an expansive bar that overlooks the Schuylkill River… and this is where you can sit down to one or four of their excellent thin-crust pizzas. Their pesto pie is generously laden with ricotta, fresh spinach and veritable handful of toasted pine nuts. The Fitler Club’s straightforward tomato pizza is one of the best almost-classic margherita pizzas in the city. I say “almost-classic” because the Fitler Club version is laced with a welcome touch of red pepper spice.
Stogie Joe’s Tavern
As a newcomer to Philadelphia just under a decade ago, I was introduced to tomato pie here. The thick, crunchy crust is layered first with cheese and then sauce. Once I got over my initial confusion, staring down the even layer of red spread across the cheese pizza I thought I had ordered, I became an avid devotee. My go-to order for the last 9 years at Stogie Joe’s is a small square with fried Buffalo wings (Stogie Joe’s also has the very best wings in the city). Go to Stogie Joe’s for a host of Italian American classics without a hint of pretension.
When I owned a food truck that was stationed in Center City, I had the good fortune that we were frequently stationed next to Pitruco. They drove around town a fireball of a brick pizza oven in a trailer, though have now set up shop - an actual shop - in University City. Pitruco serves 12-inch Neapolitan pies, made in their brick ovens, and tops them with lamb sausage made in-house, broccoli rabe (Philadelphia’s favourite vegetable), taleggio, local garlic scapes when in season and vibrant asparagus-ramp pesto – also, only when in season.
Longtime restaurant-vet chef Bobby Saritsoglou is doing something truly extraordinary at Stina in South Philadelphia. Stina is named for Saritsoglou’s wife, Christina Kallas-Saritsoglou, who is also the co-founder and manager of the Philly Aids Thrift. Community and inclusion permeate both entities and it’s exciting to see Stina constantly find delicious ways to engage its community, raising funds for organisations like the Attic Youth Center (dedicated to serving LGBTQ youth) as part of its business model. Once a month, Stina hosts a special dinner and donates 20% of proceeds to a local non-profit. But back to the pizza. Saritsoglou makes pizzas with a healthy dose of his Greek heritage shining through toppings like eggplant with feta. His Greekness also appears on a robust non-pizza menu that includes spanakopita, hummus, tiropita, dolmades and gyros. In Stina’s oven, spicy soppressata pizzas are cooked next to merguez pide, filled with mozzarella, lamb sausage and tabbouleh.
Chef Kurt Evans has served Detroit-style pies at Down North that would make you forget that there are other styles of pizza. These can be unjustly described as the pizza Pizza Hut should aspire to serve: cooked in a pan with a tender and crispy focaccia-like crust. Evans’ pizzas have become well known for their thoughtfully composed toppings and cocktail-like names. ‘What We Do’ is a pizza topped with beef pepperoni, beef sausage, kale, banana peppers and honey chipotle. ‘Yeah That’s Us’ consists of Norffalo chicken (this is, after all, North Philly, not Buffalo, New York), blue cheese sauce and blue cheese crumbles. Down North was founded by Evans and childhood friend Muhammad Abdul-Hadi and staffed by people who have been formerly incarcerated. Their mission: to reduce recidivism rates in black communities, provide a safe space for formerly incarcerated men and women and provide them with career opportunities.