The secret to great pizza is said to be the brick oven it’s baked in, where temperatures can soar to 800 degrees and even higher. When done right and with the freshest ingredients, all that radiated heat goes right into your pie—top, bottom and middle—baking it quickly to perfection. And while pizzerias abound in the Philadelphia area, nothing compares to these winning standouts. Mangia! Mangia!
2229 Spruce St
Philadelphia, PA 19103
This pick has been serving up what Zagat calls “made-in-heaven” pizzas for over 10 years in its wood-fired brick oven. Along with standard fare toppings, Mama Palma’s goes much further, with such offerings as baby clams, Maryland crab and even grilled chicken with a bit of guacamole and sour cream atop chunky tomato sauce. And while there, be sure to consider ordering the renowned warm polenta bread with roasted corn and sweet peppers, pairing it all with a glass of wine or beer. Just be advised: credit cards are not accepted.
Marra’s Italian Restaurant
1734 E Passyunk Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19148
Established back in 1927 by Salvatore and Chiarina Marra, this restaurant boasts among its countless patrons such celebrities as John Travolta and Conan O’Brien—even Frank Sinatra. And no wonder. Today, this highly-regarded restaurant is run by the couple’s grandchildren who welcome guests with a hearty, “Ciao,” and whip up delicious Philly pizzas every day of the week—served hot with sure-to-please crispy crusts and a myriad of possible toppings, including clams and grilled chicken. A full bar also awaits.
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50 E Wynnewood Road
Ardmore, PA 19096
Poppi’s incomparable thin-crust pizzas make this a popular destination. As it says, “It may just be the best pizza you ever had,” and one bite will have you agreeing. The menu offers up all your favorites, everything from the meat lover’s pizza to one made with shrimp and scallions. It’s also the most eco-friendly pizzeria around, with plates made of biodegradable sugar cane, cutlery made with biodegradable potato starch and entirely recyclable cups.
903 N 2nd St
Philadelphia, PA 19123
This Northern Liberties gem is known for its specialty pies—everything from one akin to a Rueben to one topped with crawfish–and any of their pizzas pairs perfectly with Rustica’s homemade soups. The Crawdaddy is a unique standout with white sauce, tomatoes, cilantro, red onions and spicy crawfish. Or go with a more traditional pie like the Pete-za, made with red sauce, pepperoni, sausage and steak. No wonder that this Best of Philly winner enjoys loads of repeat customers. All offerings in this kid-friendly establishment are reasonably priced and noteworthy. Credit cards are accepted at Rustica, but alcohol is not served.
Zavino Wine Bar Pizzeria
112 S 13th St
Philadelphia, PA 19107
This Midtown Village pizzeria is known for its Neapolitan-style pizzas, which are baked in an 850-degree brick oven. Choices include notables like the Polpettini, featuring ricotta-stuffed veal sausage, and the Diavalo, made with sopressata, an Italian cured dry salami. Moreover, whole-wheat and gluten-free pies are available. Whatever your choice, it’s guaranteed that you’ll never get a soggy crusted and/or not-hot-enough pie. Named one of Philadelphia Magazine’s top 50 restaurants in the city, this upscale venue offers a one-of-a-kind dining experience, complete with a broad selection of wines. It is a happy hour must.
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Carol Josel, a Blue Bell, PA resident, is a learning specialist, author of three books, and examiner.com contributor. Her work can be found here