Written and Photos by Ben Lowenthal
Not being one for state pride, there aren’t many things that I miss about my home state of New Jersey. The traffic, the ‘tude, the smell, all stuff I can do without. However, since coming to Philadelphia, I’ve struggled to find a substitute for Jersey pizza. In my experiences, New Jersey pizza is exceptionally good, while Philadelphia pizza is…not. And this is quite the dilemma for me, because I love pizza the way Bernie loves socialism. So I was forced to suffer, only being able to enjoy good pizza during my brief visits home. That was, until I heard about Pizzeria Beddia.
Back in June of 2015, food magazine Bon Appetit published an article stating a small pizza place in Philadelphia was the best in the country and that it “ruined pizza for them.” When I read this, I could not imagine something as wonderful as pizza ever being ruined for me, so I had to go to the Fishtown neighborhood to check it out.
Pizzeria Beddia is a small pizza place located at 115 East Girard Ave. It’s not much to look at. In a small brick building on the corner with no signage, it looks more like a store that sells office supplies than pizzas. Inside isn’t much different. There are wooden floors and white walls, and the décor consists of two wooden tables without chairs and a shelf with some ingredients sitting on it.
The availability of the pizzeria is unique as well. It’s open 4 days a week, Wednesday through Saturday, and during these days it’s only open from 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. That’s because owner/chef Joe Beddia only makes enough dough for about 40 pizzas a day. According to Joe Walker, the only other employee at the pizzeria, this is because prep time takes so long.
“We put in over 60 hours of prep time a week,” Walker said. “We could make more pizzas, but we don’t want to sacrifice quality for business. The answer to everything is that it’s a small operation.”
This unorthodox style of commerce hasn’t negatively affected Pizzeria Beddia. People line up outside an hour before opening, just to guarantee that they’ll be able to get a pie. These aren’t just locals either. Walker stated that this was one of the main changes they noticed after the Bon Appetit article.
“All that’s really change is people come from farther away now,” Walker said. “Other than that we’ve stayed the same.”
Some might argue that this isn’t the right way to go about it. There are aspects of the Pizzeria Beddia experience that are off-putting. Wait time is long (fourth on line and still had to wait 45 minutes) and it costs more than the average pie ($20 dollars for a plain cheese pie). It’s unconventional sure, but Beddia and Walker aren’t really trying to recreate the stereotypical pizza parlor experience. They’re just trying to make great pizza, a feat they’ve accomplished and then some.
Through and through, this pizza had it all. There was certainly enough cheese, and it pulled nicely. Its flavor countered the sauce well, along with the other spices mixed into it. The sauce wasn’t overpowering, yet softened up the crust just enough. The crust itself was blackened at some points so it crunched easily, but was still able to hold the whole pie together. I don’t know if I would go as far as to say that pizza is now ruined for me, but I have certainly had to change my standards. Any pizza lover that knows what’s good for them should make their way to Fishtown immediately. It’s a pizza that’s worth the wait.