What they lack in ambiance they make up for in pizza. All the pies we had were good. Bubbling hot out of the brick oven with great toppings and sauce. It's an unexpectedly good departure from the standard plates of chicken parm and fettuccini al fredo that you see on most of the other tables. This is a neighborhood place that has catered to generations of families in South Philly. Why mess with winning recipe? Give the people what they want.
A note here before I start talking pizza. We didn't try any appetizers or pasta dishes. And none of us had ever been here before. The Yelp reviews are not particularly glowing for Marra's - most advise to stick with the pizza. Don't walk in here expecting Vetri style Italian. This place is about as unpretentious as it gets, and there's something to be said for that.
The Alla Bianca featured some absolutely delicious Italian fennel sausage that lends a great tooth and sweetness to counteract the bitter and garlicky broccoli rabe & sundried tomatoes. Marra's swaps out the standard mozzarella for sharp provolone and get's this pie humming. Honestly one of the best toppings mixes I've had - a great suggestion from out waitress.
The margherita was tasty, with hunks of fresh mozzarella, whole basil leaves and maybe just a bit too much sauce. The cheese was good, but not so amazing as to leave you pining for more. If you're only going to have cheese and sauce, it better be top notch stuff. It also could have used another minute or two in the oven to melt. Of the three we ordered, this would get picked last for kickball.
I have to say the sauce was a big step up from Zavino. Not nearly as sweet and with a better depth of flavor. You can taste the fresh tomatoes that they started with. Toppings were great on the first two pies, with some room for improvement on the mozzarella.
The crust was the only real negative I can speak to. It was more than sturdy enough to hold up to the heavy toppings, but the outer ring ends up being tough as venison jerky. You could lose a crown trying to chew through that. This might be a symptom of the heavy hand used for the toppings themselves. They give you an overly generous portion, which is appreciated, but they have to make the crust so thick to compensate that it loses any chance of being light and airy.
Overall I was pretty happy with dinner. Three pies and two carafes of wine only cost us $90 for the table, with tip. Definitely worth a trip on the Broad Street line to check this old school Italian joint. Leave the pastas though, take the pizza.
Food Baby Rating: Only Child
1734 East Passyunk Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19148