Once upon a time…deep in the heart of Port Richmond, lies an establishment that makes a pizza so perfect, it’s almost hard to even believe. Have you ever seen the Usual Suspects? Nobody was sure Keyser Soze was real, but everyone was afraid to doubt his existence. I knew that Tacconelli’s was going to make a delicious pizza, but I didn’t want to believe that it was going to be “the best” I’d ever eaten. And I sure as hell wasn’t going to give that title out to just any pizza either. They were going to have to work for that honor.
After careful consideration on our pizza selections, we called ahead 24 hours to order our dough. This is a must. Don’t be that guy who thinks you can just walk in and get a pie whenever. I wasn’t sure the reasoning behind this until I was informed that Mr. Tacconelli makes ONE batch of dough daily. When that dough is gone, it’s gone. For our pizzas we went with some unusual picks. One white with prosciutto and onion, one margarita and one half-cheese/half pepperoni. This may seem like an abundance of pizza, but we wanted to give a fair review to meet everyone’s pizza tastes.
The pizzas are cooked to perfection in an 18’X18’ oil-fired, brick oven. At 800 degrees, your pizza generally only takes about 4 minutes to cook. This oven has been around for decades. It has been modified within the past 20 years, but essentially it’s the same oven the first generation Tacconelli baked bread in back in the 1920’s. Remember the episode of the Simpsons when Homer eats that box of baking soda in the back of fridge? And he has an antacid trip from all the different tastes of absorbed food? It’s comparable to that. You can actually taste the built up char from the thousands upon thousands of pizzas from years past. In my opinion, the crust was the absolute best part of this experience. It was super crunchy, and just tasted the way fresh, handmade dough should taste like.
The white pizza with prosciutto and onion was pretty good. The ingredients for the white pizza consist of nothing more than salt, black pepper, cheese and fresh garlic. I think the combination of prosciutto and onion gave it a sweet yet salty taste. As Patrick Bateman would say, “It was a playful, but mysterious little dish.” I wouldn’t recommend getting this pizza and ONLY this pizza, but it’s nice addition to a red sauce pie. The margarita pie was a little better than the white. The sauce was amazingly sweet and tangy. You can definitely taste the fresh basil. There was only a small presence of mozzarella cheese but it was just enough to know it was there. It was even topped with some pieces of fresh picked basil leaves. But the main attraction was the cheese pie with pepperoni. I can’t explain the feeling you get after biting into it for the first time. The crust, the cheese, the grease, the pepperoni…all the players worked together to make this pizza my favorite of the night.
I really don’t understand why people go out of their way to give Tacconelli’s anything less than 5 stars on review websites. People complain about the staff being stuck up and the pizza being overrated. Our waitress Liza went out of her way to make sure we felt at home and had an amazing first time. I have literally eaten thousands of slices of pizza in my life. Some were incredibly bad and some were indescribably amazing. Some I’ll always remember, others were just a meal because I was hungry. Tacconelli’s isn’t just another place to go out to dinner. It was an experience. The jukebox played “Unforgettable” by Nat King Cole at just the right volume, while we polished off a total of 19 slices between the 3 of us. This pizza was truly unforgettable. It was simply “the best” I’ve ever had. I feel like I was Johnny Lawrence and Tac’s just crane kicked me in the face while Joe Esposito’s “You’re the Best (Around)” plays as a soundtrack to this review.
A visit to Tacconelli’s is not unlike being a part of some sort of pizza secret society. For starters, you have to order your pizzas a day in advance. That fact alone furthered my fascination. Not only that, but they stick to only making pizza the same way they have since 1946. If you’re driving down Somerset Street, there’s a decent chance you’ll miss their neon storefront tucked between Philadelphia row houses. But once you’re inside, you’ll know it was worth the effort for such an original pie.
At the advice of a coworker (Genine M? No, that’s way too obvious. Let’s just call her G Murphy.) I felt obligated to try the margarita pie that had been hyped up so much. Other than that, and being bored with the usual pizzas I’ve been eating, we also ordered a white pie with prosciutto and onions. Even though they claim they don’t deliver, the waitress had no problem delivering the pizzas right to our table. (That was supposed to be a joke, but I understand if you think I’m stupid.) I dove mouth first right into the white pie, which was literally covered entirely with prosciutto and onion. To be honest, the onions were a bit overwhelming, but delicious nonetheless. Along with the garlic and salt, the toppings came together in a pungent flood that made my mouth water. It was tart, but in a good way. Following such a sharp slice, I bit into the margarita and understood why so many people have raved about Tacconelli’s for ages. Their sauce is unlike any I’d ever had before. The finely smoothed tomato sauce that blanketed the pie was sweeter than most other places. Accompanied by large pieces of fresh basil and a simple slab of mozzarella, it was the sauce that stole the show. Needless to say I’ve been eating a lot of pizza lately, and none of it has tasted like this. It was truly original. I usually don’t talk about the crust in most my reviews, but this one is definitely worth mentioning. As Castro mentioned above, the charred edges contain a baked in flavor of all the pizzas that have been cooked in their oven. Everything to that point had been interesting to say the least, and it continued to be with every bite.
Now although it’s unheard of for them to make you a pizza without the day in advance, we thought it was at least worth a shot. We asked our waitress Liza if there was any chance of getting a traditional, half pepperoni pizza. She said sure, and the relief washed over me in an awesome wave. Out of our three pizzas, our final one was my favorite. The sweet pepperoni, blackened crust, and incredible sauce had made me a believer. I’m only sad that I had already filled up on the other two pies, because this one was the best. I tried to force more down my throat, but I was already down for the count after six slices.
Truly a place where social status and inhibitions are left at the door, Tacconelli’s certainly breaks the mold of your everyday pizza joint. They’re simplistic and uncomplicated which is the way they should be. When you do something as well as they do, there’s little reason to change a thing. Excellent staff, friendly atmosphere, and pizza you seriously can’t get anywhere else. I’ve had pizza in different parts of the United States at one point or another, and none of them have a sauce like theirs. I know many have said it before, but there’s only one word that can describe it: Sweet.