Helpful ReplySauce on top in Philadelphia area

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phlmaestro
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2016/03/17 22:38:55 (permalink)

Sauce on top in Philadelphia area

Maybe two or three years ago I ate at a place called Pica's in Upper Darby, which borders Philadelphia to the west. Pica's opened in the 40s, has a very loyal local following and gained a lot of attention when Tina Fey promoted them by bringing a pie on to the Tonight Show during one of her appearances. Their pizza is square or rectangular and the sauce is on top of the cheese. The pizza didn't make that much of an impression on me. In fact, I wondered what the fuss was about.
 
Then, the night of the most recent Super Bowl, I watched the game at a friend's place. He ordered pizza from a place called Santucci's on Broad Street, a little north of Center City. It's also rectangular (although they promote it as being square) and comes with the sauce on top. But this time, I and the other four or five people who were there that night were all blown away by the pizza. We had it plain, with no toppings. Since then, I've had Santucci's several more times, and I can't get enough of the stuff. I don't even have much desire to eat regular, round, cheese-on-top pizza any more (although that would be different if I lived near New Haven, I'm sure). They opened in the 50s in Northeast Philadelphia, but there are now something like six or seven different Santucci's in the Philadelphia metro area, many of them owned by different members of the family if I understand it correctly. I think there was a split in the family at some point. They all appear to make the same style of pizza and probably use the same or a very similar recipe.
 
I'm off from work this week and decided to go to a Santucci's and back to Pica's. I also added a third sauce-on-top pizzeria called Tony's Place. The original Tony's Place also opened in Northeast Philadelphia in the 50s. So I'm thinking that sauce-on-top was big in what were still the fairly early days of pizzerias in Philadelphia, at least in the Northeast section of the city. There is another place I know of in Northeast Philly from the 50s that nearby where my mother grew up and where I visited my grandparents as a kid (they serve round pies). And there may be other ones I don't know about yet. All of these places seem to have very loyal followings. There is also a place called Gennaro's Tomato Pies in South Philadelphia that I'm not including. I believe they are owned by members of the Lombardi's of NYC family and serve a Lombardi's style pie.
 
I'll start with the worst of the three places I visited this week: Tony's Place. I went to a suburban location that happens to be five minutes away from a Santucci's. I didn't take any photos of the exterior or interior, but it's a modern looking place that you'd expect to see in the suburbs of a major city. The pizza was disappointing. I'd describe it as being sort of like mediocre boardwalk pizza. The crust is very thin but didn't have much character, and I wasn't nuts about the sauce, which dominates the pizza:
 




 
Pica's of Upper Darby, PA is next:
 



 
And finally, Santucci's:
 



 
To compare Pica's and Santucci's, the crust is a bit thinner at Pica's. The sauce is sweeter at Santucci's. What separates them most, beyond the difference in the sauces and crusts, is that the layer of cheese beneath the sauce on Santucci's pizzas is thicker and more substantial. It creates what I think is an ideal balance between sauce, cheese and crust (By the way, I think that perfections is damaged with the addition of toppings ... this is one pie that I would say is best plain). The cheese underneath the sauce on Pica's pizzas is thinner and lighter. It's obviously a matter of personal taste. As I said, people from Upper Darby will defend Pica's fiercely. But I've now been with probably 10 different people who were trying Santucci's for the first time and we've all had the same positive reaction.
Pica's was the only one with any charm (albeit only so much), but again, I went to a suburban outlet of Santucci's. I'm guessing the original locations of Santucci's and Tony's Place in Northeast Philly have more roadfood-style charm.
If I get to the other place I mentioned or find additional sauce-on-top places that orginated during the 40s or 50s, I'll add them to this thread.
 
And if you're in the Philadelphia area, I highly recommend seeking out a Santucci's. If you're in or near Center City, the closest locations would be the ones on North Broad Street and in South Philadelphia.
 
 
 
 
post edited by phlmaestro - 2016/03/17 22:49:49
#1
leethebard
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Re: Sauce on top in Philadelphia area 2016/03/18 07:25:16 (permalink)
Nice looking pies, a truly different kind of pizza experience!
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Michael Hoffman
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Re: Sauce on top in Philadelphia area 2016/03/18 16:38:12 (permalink)
As I like my pies plain I always have sauce on top.
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ScreamingChicken
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Re: Sauce on top in Philadelphia area 2016/03/18 19:05:46 (permalink)
Maestro, what kind(s) of cheese are used for this style of pizza?  Is it the meltable stuff like mozzarella & provolone, or more of a blend with a grated harder cheese like parmesan or romano?
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phlmaestro
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Re: Sauce on top in Philadelphia area 2016/03/18 21:34:54 (permalink)
ScreamingChicken
Maestro, what kind(s) of cheese are used for this style of pizza?  Is it the meltable stuff like mozzarella & provolone, or more of a blend with a grated harder cheese like parmesan or romano?



I'm pretty sure it's mozzarella with no provolone at Santucci's (I would say there is no provolone on any of them). And I'm guessing it's put on in slices rather than grated because of how evenly the sauce is spread out on top of it. It may even be thicker chunks. It's a nice layer of cheese.
post edited by phlmaestro - 2016/03/18 21:39:30
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Webbglider
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Re: Sauce on top in Philadelphia area 2016/03/27 13:51:45 (permalink)
Open request - I'm originally from Philly now living in Woodbridge, VA (South of Washington DC) and am dying for a tomato pie but nobody down here has ever heard of such a thing.  Does anybody have a recipe for a tomato pie - no cheese on top or maybe a sprinkling of parmesan??  I'm too far away to drive to a store in Philly!!!
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Michael Hoffman
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Re: Sauce on top in Philadelphia area 2016/03/27 14:05:29 (permalink)
You can't just order a plain pie -- sauce, no cheese -- and just add some parmesan yourself?
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JRPfeff
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Re: Sauce on top in Philadelphia area 2016/03/27 14:48:38 (permalink)
Webbglider - Fat Sal posted his recipe for Utica Tomato Pie at his blog. Does
 this look like what you want?

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davidboring
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Re: Sauce on top in Philadelphia area 2016/03/28 20:22:24 (permalink)
Have to chime in. Santucci's is addictive.
 
I've ordered from their location in south philly many, many times.
 
It's the sauce, well seasoned and with some decent topping it's a winner, and not that expensive in comparison to some places.
 
You can score some good tomato pie hitting the bakeries, especially in south philly like cacia's.
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phlmaestro
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Re: Sauce on top in Philadelphia area 2016/03/29 10:21:14 (permalink)
Thanks, David. I'm trying to lay off of Santucci's for at least a little while. As you say, it's addictive, and I was starting to think about it like a junkie!
I found another place only a few minutes from where I live called Gaetano's that has only been around since the late 80s, but they also have a loyal local following. They serve a round pie, but put a good quantity of an excellent sauce on top of a nice layer of cheese and a somewhat thick crust. I've got photos on my home computer and will add them later.
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phlmaestro
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Re: Sauce on top in Philadelphia area 2016/03/29 20:44:05 (permalink)
Here are the Gaetano's photos. The crust was the weakest part of the pizza. But photos I've seen of their pizza online show a more well-done crust. It may be something that needs to be requested. The sauce is maybe just a slight notch below Santucci's, but it's very good.
In any case, the sauce and cheese put this on top of a mediocre group of pizza places in my immediate area a little outside of Philadelphia.
 




 
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leethebard
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Re: Sauce on top in Philadelphia area 2016/03/30 01:11:49 (permalink)
wow....pizza art. Beautiful!!
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rumaki
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Re: Sauce on top in Philadelphia area 2016/03/30 01:43:49 (permalink)
Really appealing!
 
By the way, the Latvian word for "pizza" is "pica," as I've learned during my time here in Riga.  I've stuck to a couple of Italian chef-owned restaurants that make authentic, brick oven, thin crust pizza, but there are multiple chains here as well, including Lulu's.  http://www.lulu.lv/pizza  An ad for their chicken and bacon pizza frequently pops up when I'm on the Roadfood site. http://www.lulu.lv/picas/bekista
 
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ScreamingChicken
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Re: Sauce on top in Philadelphia area 2016/03/30 08:35:58 (permalink)
Riga must be where rigatoni was invented!
 
Gaetano's pizza looks good.  I don't think I've ever had a "sauce on top" pizza and from what's been posted in this thread I certainly wouldn't pass up the opportunity, although it's not nearly enough of a reason to visit Philadelphia.
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phlmaestro
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Re: Sauce on top in Philadelphia area 2016/03/30 10:00:20 (permalink)
ScreamingChicken
... although it's not nearly enough of a reason to visit Philadelphia.




What if I told you that some of these places also served cheesesteaks?
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phlmaestro
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Re: Sauce on top in Philadelphia area 2016/03/30 10:01:16 (permalink)
rumaki
Really appealing!
 
By the way, the Latvian word for "pizza" is "pica," as I've learned during my time here in Riga. 



 
That's interesting. I'll see if I can find out if that is the reason for the name if I go back there. It may just be a family name.
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Re: Sauce on top in Philadelphia area 2016/03/30 10:35:47 (permalink)
phlmaestro
rumaki
Really appealing!
 
By the way, the Latvian word for "pizza" is "pica," as I've learned during my time here in Riga. 



 
That's interesting. I'll see if I can find out if that is the reason for the name if I go back there. It may just be a family name.


 It's the family name.
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Re: Sauce on top in Philadelphia area 2016/04/07 11:36:02 (permalink) ☄ Helpfulby phlmaestro 2016/04/23 22:15:20
phlmaestro
 
If I get to the other place I mentioned or find additional sauce-on-top places that orginated during the 40s or 50s, I'll add them to this thread.
 

 
Don't forget Clank's in Marcus Hook.  It's a dive.  But the pies are awesome.
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Phil from Philly
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Re: Sauce on top in Philadelphia area 2016/04/26 12:54:59 (permalink)
I wonder if there's a name for this style of pizza.  Most Philly-area pizza places don't do it this way.  I'm a fan of both Santucci's and Pica's - I did notice the similarity between them, but it doesn't seem common enough to be a style.  I didn't know Santucci's was also in South Philly - they used to have a location in the Juniata Park section of Northeast Philly that I frequented when I worked nearby, and I visit the one on Frankford Ave in the Northeast once in a while when I'm in the area. I did some looking around online, and there seems to be 3 separate businesses using this name and serving square pizza - I wonder if maybe the original owner's kids split at some point.
 
Edit: it looks like junior members can't post links, but Google Santucci's Pizza and you'll find at least 3 separate businesses in Philly selling the same square pizza.
 
As for the earlier comments about tomato pie (a/k/a bakery pizza), it's big in both Utica and Philly for some weird reason.  It's generally not seen elsewhere, even in other heavily Italian areas.
 
One other Philly pizza variant - when I used to work in the Juniata Park / Oxford Circle area, there were a lot of Greek-owned pizzerias where you could get a "Greek pizza" with gyro meat, olives, and feta cheese.  Philly in general is much more Italian than Greek, but this particular neighborhood had a lot of Greek, Irish, and Eastern European immigrants, and not so many Italians.
post edited by Phil from Philly - 2016/04/26 12:57:29
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phlmaestro
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Re: Sauce on top in Philadelphia area 2016/04/26 18:23:37 (permalink)
Phil ... there was a split in the Santucci's family. I found something like six or seven different locations by searching on line. I think two different factions each own two locations and I'm not sure about the other spots.
 
On Greek style pizza, yes there is a lot of it in Philadelphia. I have to confess I'm not nuts about it. There seems to be less emphasis on the sauce and the crust style isn't generally to my liking either.
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Phil from Philly
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Re: Sauce on top in Philadelphia area 2016/05/17 21:41:14 (permalink)
More on Northeast Philly pizza - I was in Bridesburg recently, and had pizza from the Old English pizzeria that someone picked up for our group. I noticed it was near-identical to the places I remember from when I used to work in nearby Juniata Park. I'm not talking about the Santucci's / Pica's style; I mean the kinds of places where Greek pizza is on the menu. It seems there's a pizza style in this neck of the woods that's distinct from the rest of the Philadelphia area.

It was a pepperoni pizza, not a Greek, but the crust was thick and buttery, not the usual Philly area thin crust. Near-identical to Castor Pizza and George's Pizza near the Oxford Circle.
post edited by Phil from Philly - 2016/05/17 21:46:47
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phlmaestro
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Re: Sauce on top in Philadelphia area 2018/08/19 17:34:12 (permalink)
Based on the recommendation of someone I take the train with during the week, I tried another old sauce-on-top (and square) pizza place today and figured I'd add it to this thread as it was a pretty positive experience.
 
Romano's is basically up the road from the Philadelphia International Airport, in Essington, PA. It's on a corner in a residential neighborhood and is a third-generation owned restaurant that has been around since 1944.  They claim to have created the Stromboli, which is a popular calzone-alternative in the Philadelphia region.  I'd like to go back some time to try a Stromboli. But my purpose for going today was to try their square, sauce-on-top pizza.  While I can get Santucci's delivered from one of their locations to my office, there is not one close to where I live, so I was hoping this place would be an acceptable alternative (along with another place that I'll get to below). It is.
 
The style is very similar to Santucci's, with the sauce being on the sweet side, but perhaps just a tad less sweet than Santucci's. The crust was thinner and crispier, and I didn't mind that.  It all came together for a very good pie.
 


 
They had the Little League World Series on the TV.

My wife's house salad:

And the reason for going:


 
Lariele, the other place I alluded to, is in Media, PA, which is the county seat for Delaware County and has a nice downtown area with a lot of restaurants. My wife and I have eaten there a couple times and like the pizza very much. I'm not sure what happened to the photos I took of our pizza there, but here are a couple I found online:



Lariele's pizza is more gourmet than the other places. They claim their pizza oven gets up to 900 degrees, which creates some nice burnt bubbles and a very high quality crust. They also are new and don't have the tradition or homey feel of a place like Romano's. 
post edited by phlmaestro - 2018/08/19 17:42:43
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ScreamingChicken
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Re: Sauce on top in Philadelphia area 2018/08/20 17:41:08 (permalink)
Good-looking pizza from Romano's.  I do sauce-on-top quite a bit now when making pizza at home.
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billyboy
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Re: Sauce on top in Philadelphia area 2018/08/20 17:57:42 (permalink)
phlmasestro, these look like my kinda pizzas!  Interesting that Philly has tomato pie and sauce-on-top pizza as Utica, NY (my college town the next town over from Rome, NY, where I grew up) also has a long history of tomato pie and what they have for years called "upside down" pizza.  
Here are some shots from Joe's Pizza in Whitesboro, NY from a 2010 visit and it has been a favorite of my friends for decades.
 
 
And a whole pie, with mushrooms.  The mozzarella comes with it, underneath the sauce.  We asked for this one extra crispy and it was a beaut!

 
And a newer place called Slice Pizzeria that I have been following on Facebook.  They have been posting shots of some great looking food so when I went to the Utica College homecoming weekend in October 2017, I just had to check this place out.

 
A small 6-slice upside down pizza.  Crispy edges, sweet/savory sauce and lots of gooey mozzarella.  I really loved the browned cheese at the edges.  

 
Surprisingly, during all of my trips to Central NY and especially Utica, I have yet to try the upside down pizza at O'Scugnizzo's on Bleecker Street, which has been around since 1914 and from what I understand was declared the second oldest pizzeria in the country (behind Lombardi's in NYC, I'm guessing).  The thing for me is that many of these Roadfood treks are on my own and they don't sell slices so I've been reluctant to commit to a whole pie.  Maybe I need to put together a CNY Roadfood Crawl??
Here's their website: https://uticapizza.com
 
#24
leethebard
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Re: Sauce on top in Philadelphia area 2018/08/20 18:54:42 (permalink)
Wow...that looks amazing. A personal pizza size.Just right for me!!!
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phlmaestro
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Re: Sauce on top in Philadelphia area 2018/08/20 19:59:33 (permalink)
Those photos do look good.
 
With regard to the tomato pie, it doesn't mean the same thing everywhere in this region. In fact, most commonly, a tomato pie in Philadelphia is served cold or at least at room temperature and the crust isn't really that similar to what you get at Romano's.  Here is tomato pie from Sarcone's, one of the top Italian bakeries in South Philadelphia.


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leethebard
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Re: Sauce on top in Philadelphia area 2018/08/20 20:38:04 (permalink)
When pizza was first brought over to  Lower Manhattan by the  Neopolitans it was called Pizza Pomedoro which translates simply to "tomato pie" Pizza is pie in Italian!
 
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