1734 E. Passyunk Avenue
When Plichter gave me the heads up that the next spot we’d be reviewing came from the heart of South Philly, I gotta admit; I was definitely stoked. 2 of my favorite pizza joints are only a few blocks from here. Stogie Joe’s and Gennaro’s. The excitement started to build. All I could think about was that first cheesy bite. The thought of adding another authentic South Phil’ slice to the blog was making my mouth water. On my lunch break, I decided to manuever my way through 20 minutes of stop and go traffic, and countless F-words, to indulge in the neighborhood favorite “Marra’s”.
Marra’s Pizzeria opened their doors to the residents of Passyunk Avenue, 83 years ago; and in turn, the residents of Passyunk Avenue watched 3 generations of Marra’s sling pies with style. The pizza oven that was used in the 1930’s is still being used to this day, and was built using actual bricks from Mount Vesuvius in Naples. That’s-a-spicy meataball. Their website even fires off claims that stars such as Conan O’Brien, John Travolta and even ol’ blue eyes himself, Frank Sinatra, have crushed a slice or two here. You can’t knock that street cred.
As soon as you make your way inside, you’re immediately greeted with that Italian family hospitality that you’ve come to know in South Philly. They make you feel right at home, kind of like Joe Pesci’s Mom in Goodfellas. You know, when you show up unannounced after savagely beating and stuffing a man in your trunk at 3 a.m for disrespecting you, and then she cooks for you and your friends. “Shut up. You’re always talking.” We didn’t dabble much in their pasta dishes, but from the reviews on Yelp and Urbanspoon, people had nothing but choice words to say about them. Their pizzas come in 3 sizes: A personal 10″ banger, a small (which is a 14 incher) and a massive 18″ extra large monster. Trust me when I say that the small is more than enough for 2 human beings. Even though I was urged to try out their veggie pie, I was feeling rather carnivorous today. I couldn’t decide between the pepperoni or the sausage. So, naturally my inner fat kid spoke, and I got both. I fell in love with the crispy edges on the pepperoni. The sun glistened off the tiny pools of grease that puddled up on them. I did, however, have some issues with their sausage. It tasted strikingly similar to pizza hut’s sausage and was roughly the same consistency. It didn’t pop with any flavor, nor did it have that special zing to it. If you’re feelin’ like you need some meat sweats, stick with the pepperoni. The crust was the perfect thickness, but was a tad too chewy for my blood. I’m all about the crunch (and the benjamins).
All in all, it was a fairly decent pie for a decent price. Especially if you’re gonna be dining in. They’ll ensure you leave satisfied and stuffed, just like any Good Italian Mother would. I’d surely come back to Marra’s for seconds, but for now…my South Philly heart belongs to Gennaro’s.
It’s hard to imagine a restaurant that’s been open for over 80 years. Quite honestly, it’s hard for me to imagine even living 80 years. All too often, restaurateurs of today are too preoccupied with quick financial gain. Call me old fashioned, but I appreciate a restaurant with history over the next hip, trendy spot. For a place to surpass the test of time clearly speaks wonders for not only their establishment, but their product as well. Marra’s has done just that.
A staple of South Philadelphia, Marra’s serves up traditional Italian dishes as well as some of the best pizza around. Having drawn quite a bit of notoriety over the years, celebrities including Frank Sinatra, John Travolta, and Conan O’Brien have dined there. (Is it weird that I’m more impressed that Conan has eaten there than Sinatra?) It was a Sunday when I visited, so a veggie pie was in order after pumping my body full of crap the days before. The Pizza Ortolana comes equipped with mushrooms, spinach, broccoli, roasted peppers, tomato and garlic. Decadent seems like the wrong word to use for a veggie pie, but it almost was a guilty pleasure. The spinach and garlic weren’t too overpowering, and the tomato and roasted peppers melted in my mouth. The seasoned broccoli also had a peppery taste, which only added to the whole experience. It was a gloomy Sunday that day, but this pizza was a ray of light.
It’s no secret that Fishtown and South Philly are home to the best pizzerias in Philadelphia. Pizza Hub, Pizza Brain, Pizzeria Beddia, Isabella’s, Stogie Joe’s and Gennaro’s have all done some amazing things. But let’s see if they can last 80 plus years. If I make it to 80, I’ll celebrating with pizza and heroin. (I have a heroin date with someone if I make it to 80. I mean, what difference does it make when you’re that old??)