Who makes the "best" pizza in the Philly region?
This is a question that cannot (and should not) be answered. You may think a thick crust with a toasty-brown slab of cheese on top is "best," and I think a thin crust Neapolitan with a smattering of buffalo mozzarella is "best." We'll never agree.
The Philly region's "favorite" pizza? That is a question we can try to answer.
We asked readers for their favorite pizzerias. Allowing a week for replies, we drew a thousand or so responses. This generated a list of a couple hundred pizzerias. Some received one nomination; some received dozens. (If your own favorite parlor did not make the list, that does not mean it does not make good pizza.)
From these write-ins, we selected the top 40 nominees and put that list online for a poll.
After 12,300 votes, the top five, in order, were:
1. Tacconelli's, Port Richmond
2. Pica's, Upper Darby
3. Vecchia, Phoenixville
4. Celebre's, South Philadelphia
5. Vince's, Northeast Philadelphia
Tacconelli's - a brick-oven parlor where you're advised to reserve your dough in advance - was the clear public favorite.
Polls are wonderful, but we wanted to get a little messy.
We asked the top five to deliver a plain (red) pizza and a specialty pie to our front door last Wednesday.
What we got, of course, were cold pizzas - the obvious result of geography and rush-hour traffic. But that leveled the playing field.
The pizzas were served to a panel of seven tasters, who did not know the identities of the pizzerias. Each panelist was asked to rate each pizza's taste on a zero-to-20 scale.
(And by messy, we managed to drop one slice, red-sauce-side down, on the carpet.)
In the "red" category, Tacconelli's was the favorite with a score of 118 points out of a possible 140, followed by Vecchia (113), Vince's (85), Celebre's (68), and Pica's (62).
In the "specialty" category, Vecchia - the only Neapolitan parlor among the five - was a clear favorite with 115 points for its "Covaccino" (mozzarella, arugula, prosciutto di Parma, shaved parmigiana reggiano, garlic and olive oil). Next was Tacconelli's (92 points), which offered us a white pizza with peppers and onions. Pica's (73) threw us a curve ball, topping half its rectangular pizza with pepperoni and tomato sauce (red) and the other half with cheese, spinach and tomato; the judges agreed to evaluate only the white half since they had tried the red. Vince's (71) white pizza with spinach was fourth, followed by Celebre's "Pizzazz" (52), which includes sliced tomatoes, hot peppers and American cheese.
Click here for the judging and notes on the pizzas.