“Since your pies have been reserved for you, we kindly ask that you take what you have reserved.” — This was such a strange statement to me.
Whenever I go to a far away city, I’m looking for pizza. But it’s not the best rendition of a Naples-style slice I’m looking for – for me, the best expression of edible Americana is regional pizza. In just about every city of every state, there is a unique pizza style, it’s never ending. I usually get tips like this from chowhound or Slice, but it was from the pages of the Philly Phoodie where I found the Philadelphia region pizza to put on my absolute-must-to-do list : Tacconelli’s Pizzeria (2604 East Somerset St).
Most PA people I talked to hadn’t even heard of it. It seemed like only those who live in the neighborhood or were true pizza nuts had reveled in Tac’s.
But let’s get this out of the way first: It is fantastic. And even before I get to the flavor, let’s talk about the rules:
- Customers are asked to reserve their dough ahead of time. This means they should call ahead anywhere from 1 to 24 hours before they come to tell the Tacconellis how many pizzas they plan on having. I’ve heard of a certain number of pie being produced a day, but this concept of “reserving your dough” is fresh to me. Everyone talks about it.
- They are open Wed-Saturday, seating customers usually from 4pm-8pm.
- The menu has 4 items: tomato pie (no cheese), regular pie (some cheese), white pie (all cheese), and margerita (fresh mozz)
The limited hours, limited production, and limited menu is so sexy to me.
One of my best tricks to getting in with the staff is by saying something like, “I’ve heard a lot about you guys, but this is my first time. What should I get?” We had a hard time deciding what to order, so after we put in for a regular red pie, the waitress came back and said they could make us one with halves of her two suggestions: regular red and white with spinach and tomatoes.
The red was absolutely perfect for my taste: slightly sweet sauce, soft round cheese dollops; and the white had a great cheese/dough mix with the garlic heat combining into the cooling toppings. It killed. But the best part on either was the crust. Dusty to burned grayness on the bottom, and flecks of flavorburst on the edges, it was magnificent. This is the crust I dream of. Smokey, tough, chewy, soft, charred, light — all those things.
Walk into the back kitchen and there’s a couple of things you notice. One is the giant pizza peel (that slider for putting the pies in the oven). It’s longer than a car, and has a stand by the back end to keep it horizontal and ready to shove. Another thing is the space of the room, compared to how many people are operating the place. There’s a Tacconelli working the oven, taking care of all the oven in and outs, with a couple of employees (possibly related) operating other duties in the large space. Most remarkable, though, is the brick oven. The 1918 thing is 20 feet long by 20 feet wide. That’s even bigger than Al Santillo’s, the only other operation that I could think of like this (and I’m not even going to risk hurting Al’s feelings by comparing the two).
The menu text dictates you limit your pies to two toppings – I love that. They could make more money, and let you pile on toppings, but no, they give you limits. Now in their the 5th generation of Tacconelli forming the slice, their recommendation is appreciated. Anything else could insult the gods of pizza.