Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Pizzeria Beddia

Yummy, yummy, yummy I've got love in my tummy, and a fire in the hole.  On our latest quest across the city for the best pizza, Pizzeria Beddia has taken the lead. According to the rankings it scored nearly perfect marks in all categories (in case you've forgotten: crust, toppings, cheese, sauce, overall).  It is the smallest of joints. Tucked away just east of Johnny Brenda's on Girard, you'd pass by it a dozen times until someone pointed it out.

The interior is minimalist and squeaky clean. Not what you would normally expect from your neighborhood pizza place. There is only one oven and just two employees. There is no phone. There is barely a website. They are only open Wednesday to Saturday.  They serve only whole pies. There are two tables, but no chairs. Beddia makes Tacconelli's look accommodating.

The pies are made one at a time. By hand. With incredible, locally sourced ingredients and with an attention to detail that makes the wait worthwhile. With just one guy cooking and one small oven,  Beddia is not built for speed. Be prepared to kill 30 mins or up to 1-1/2 hours waiting for your pizza, based on the backlog. Walk next door to JB's and grab a pint or two. But dare not ruin your appetite.  

The night we stopped in, the wait was no more than 30 minutes and we were able to get our own table. We really hit the jackpot. There are horror stories on Yelp about people waiting hours. These same people said it was the best pizza they've ever had, but wouldn't bother coming back. Tourists.

They only had three pies on the menu - plain, cream & roasted corn, and arrabbiata. They are all reasonably priced around the $20 mark, considering what you get. The classic plain gives you the option of adding a variety of toppings. Per pizza challenge rules, we went old school with just the tomato, mozzarella, old gold & olive oil to get a sense of their standard. We also tried the angry arrabbiata with a layer of tobasco peppers under the cheese, and pickled peppers on top.  They are not kidding about the angry.

This is the best crust I've had. This is better than pies we had in Italy. It is at once crispy and toothy. It abounds with subtle flavor and perfect burnt blisters. It is sturdy enough to hold up to the toppings but still presents that great chew. The simple toppings are elusively deceptive. The key is the quality here - incredibly fresh mozzarella, deeply rich tomato sauce, the old gold aged cheese for a nutty contrast to the luscious, nearly sweet mozzarella, and that drizzle of zippy extra virgin olive oil giving you a nice kick in the back of the throat.

The closest thing I could compare this to is John's Pizzeria in NY. Nothing else like this in Philly - at least that I've found yet. Tacconelli's crust is similar, but so much more garlicky. This is an exercise in flavor restraint, letting them combine into a whole that is vastly greater than the sum of its parts. After the first bite, there was a noticeable hush over the group - we knew we had something special in front of us.

The angry arrabbiata  with its peppers under and over the cheese is not for children or those adverse to a bit of heat. It is angry my friend - like an old man trying to return soup at a deli.  It's a nice slow burn though - nothing smacking your taste buds around. You can still pick up all the delicate flavors of that crust, cheese & tomato. Your nose will be running a bit after two slices though.  Be prepared with kleenex.

With little to no fan fair, Pizzeria Beddia is putting out the best pizza in the city. Talking with the chef, it doesn't seem like he is in this for notoriety or even profit. He just honestly loves pizza that much. He is an artist back there, working his creative magic with sauce and dough. We haven't finished our challenge by a long shot yet, but I don't see much of a chance of this pizza being beat out. So make the effort, put your name in for a pie, wait your turn, stand and eat. You may not think of pizza the same way again.

Food Baby Rating:  Triplets! 

Pizzeria Beddia
115 East Girard (at Frankford Ave.)
Philadelphia, PA 19125

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