Pizza is hard to screw up. I know this because I’ve eaten the stuff they cook up in Scranton—thick, square pizza with American cheese—and even that, if you step back and consider the grand scheme of things, is pretty good.
But yesterday’s pizza reheated today? That can go way wrong, way fast.
For years, I used to microwave day-old slices, or just ate it cold; preheating an oven just seemed like too much trouble for too slight an improvement. Then, recently, I discovered a way to reheat old pizza that actually makes it taste good: A pan.
Step 1: Spray oil on the pan and heat it on high. Step 2: Bring it down to a low-medium heat. Step 3: Place the slice in the pan. Step 4: Wait about five minutes. Step 5: There is no Step 5. You’re done. And it’s great.
I decided to test out the reheat method on some of my favorite Fishtown and Kensington pizza places. While everyone knows the horde of new restaurants that have opened up in recent years—Pizza Brain, Pizza Beddia, The Art of Pizza—what often gets overlooked in citywide chatter is the assortment of brick- and white-walled corner pizzerias and steak shops that have been spent decades feeding my neighbors cheap, fast slices. Their names are etched in our heads, both from foot traffic and from the menus they leave stuck in all our front doors.
I bought five slices from five Fishtown/Kensington spots—Primo Pizza, Key Pizza, Momentos Pizza, Tommy’s Pizza and Franco’s Pizza—to see whose held up how after being cooked, refrigerated overnight and then reheated in the best way possible.
465 E. Girard Ave.
True story: Tommy’s $2 slice does not look good when it’s put on its circular paper plate. Here’s why: The crust takes up about a quarter of the entire slice, and, oddly, it’s more of an obtuse triangle than an equilateral one.
That said, this is pizza. Unlike some foods—mostly meat products—its look and taste do not necessarily match. Tommy’s pizza is decidedly decent: The crispy-ish crust is wavy on the bottom, almost like a good piece of naan, so eating it comes with the fun adventure of not knowing whether your next bite will be a thick- or thin-crusted bit.
This is Tommy’s Pizza’s greatest feature, served fresh—and its downfall the next day when you try to reheat it in a pan. With a wavy crust, the part actually touching the pan gets hot and crispy, while the rest of it just gets hot. The cheese melts soft, which is great, but the reheated crust just isn’t the same.
Verdict: Eat it all hot from the oven.
2329 York St.
People usually don’t believe me when I tell them about my love of Key Pizza. The hot, window-fanned, seatless storefront on York Street has a unique quality most foodies would probably scoff at, but for the average pizza eater, the slices are almost perfect.
First, the cheese. There is a ton of it. And when you pick up a slice of Key, you can feel the difference between it and other slices in pure weight. It’s probably bigger and thicker than any of its neighbors; each slice is the equivalent of about two from another Fishtown oven. Which may be why more people don’t rave about it: A slice of Key is soft, doughy, cheesy and with little sauce. But when you’re looking for a slow, hearty meal at your desk while working from home, there’s nothing better.
Except, that is, when you heat it back up. Reheated, Key Pizza’s soft, doughy fundament turns into a thick-and-crispy crust—a whole new entity altogether, arguably much better than the average budget pizza that locals would expect from a corner takeout joint. Only problem, of course, is finding a pan large enough to house the slice.
Verdict: Take it home and watch its goodness blossom.
2563 Trenton Ave.
Something I learned early on when I moved to the Port Fishington area is that Primo Pizza, the closest pizzeria to my house, is mostly good for when you’re looking to evoke a sentimental nostalgia for your middle-school cafeteria days. Primo’s crust has that poolside-snack-bar sort of vibe—on the dry side, but with anthills of sauce lining it. When it cools down, nothing about its look changes. Reheated, it’s still got that Elio’s-style crusty-cheese feel on the top, while soft and gooey underneath.
Verdict: Either fresh or reheated, share it with your 11-year-old niece or nephew.
2001 Memphis St.
Momento’s serves their slices already crisp, in some parts. Fresh from the oven, it’s thin but soft and comes to you already topped with just the right amount of unmelted Parmesan cheese. The place as a whole is described pretty well on Yelp by reviewer Andrew C.: “I’m glad that this place is in Fishtown now because it’s a place that offers just a good pizza at a fair price... That’s why I gave it 3 stars. Also it’s CASH ONLY.”
All of which is to say: A slice at Momento’s is the pizza equivalent of an iconic cup of diner coffee: the platonic ideal of the blue-collar snack. And indeed, like even a good cup of coffee, you don’t really want to reheat it later; its fresh, deliciously greasy goodness simply doesn’t hold up for the hours you’ll spend dreaming about how it might taste for breakfast.
Verdict: Eat it all hot from the oven.
2573 Tulip St.
Welp: I guess I found my new favorite pizza spot. Though it’s just a few blocks from my house, I’d never tried Franco’s Pizza until this experiment—something that seems sort of weird in retrospect, especially considering that, at a neighborhood party a couple months back, someone ridiculed me for loving Key Pizza’s and made me promise I’d check out Franco’s. Now that I finally have: It’s fantastic.
The thin crust and soft cheese complement one another awesomely; it reminds me of a spot in Greenwich Village called Two Boots where I used to stop on the way to punk shows when I was a teenager. (Fifteen years later, that pizza is still memorable enough for me to reference here, so, take that as you will.) Sizzled up in the pan the next day, the crust’s extra crispiness adds a new dimension; I’m not sure it’s better reheated, but it’s certainly just as good. .
Verdict: Now, later, whenever—it’s gonna be worthwhile.
Remember, of course, that a pizza shop’s mission is to serve you hot pizza in the moment; they’re not responsible for planning your lazy 18-hours-later leftovers. Still, reheated pizza is a big part of life—and maybe even half the joy the dish has to offer.
Eat up at South Philly Review’s Pizza Olympics!
For six years now, PW’s sister paper, the South Philly Review, has been serving up the tasty concept known as the Pizza Olympics: a three-hour sampling event of some of the city’s most satisfying slices at the biggest pizza party South Philly has ever seen.
For just $15 admission—hey, that’s less than one pie costs at some places!—you’ll get to spend 6- 9pm on Thurs., July 17 savoring a lineup that includes a combination of returning favorites and newcomers. Cacia’s Bakery, Chickie’s and Pete’s, Downey’s Restaurant, Gennaro’s Tomato Pie, Lanci Bakery, Paulie’s Pizza, Powelton Pizza, Rosario’s Pizzeria and Restaurant and Pete’s Famous Pizza have all signed on; more will be announced as the event gets closer. Attendees are encouraged to vote for their favorites in a variety of pizza disciplines.
Unlike those Olympic Games that come around every four years, the Pizza Olympics won’t waste your time with a parade of pizza vendors or speeches; when there’s a crowd of several hundred hungry patrons lining up at the door, there is only one phrase that matters: Let the sampling begin!
Tickets to the standing-room-only event are available for purchase at southphillyreview.com. A limited number of tickets will also be available at the door. // BILL GELMAN
PW's Taste of Philly 2014