Stogie Joe’s Tavern
1801 Passyunk Ave.
Imagine walking down a beautifully decorated side street in South Philly, where every single house on the block is entangled in Christmas lights. Now picture yourself with nothing on but a rad, plaid button up shirt on a frigid 35-degree night. The only logical thing to do would be to warm up with a few slices and a few beers, right? Stogie Joe’s holds the corner spot down on the 1800 block of Passyunk Ave. Upon entering, you’re greeted with a crackling fireplace and a refrigerator stocked with an endless supply of craft beers. It’s a super cozy atmosphere with an unbelievably friendly staff. We’ve heard from numerous sources about this establishment serving a square pie that’s almost identical to Santucci’s. When I say “almost identical” I actually mean “Identical.” That’s because the owner of Stogie Joe’s is related (through marriage) to one Mr. Santucci, and it’s his very own recipe. The sausage pizza from Tucci’s is without a doubt one of my all time favorite pies, so I knew this pizza needed to get into/onto my face immediately.
We went with a half white w/sausage and broccoli rabe (at the recommendation of our tatted up waiter) and a half red sauce with pepperoni. Those who aren’t familiar with broccoli rabe, it’s a little thinner and more leafy than broccoli. It’s usually sautéed in garlic and Parmesan. Needless to say, this classic blend of bitter greens and spicy sausage was the perfect choice to warm us handsome gentlemen up on this brisk, December evening. At first bite, I knew I had found one of the most delicious pies on this colossal campaign of crust consumption to date. It had a perfect hint of garlic and stretchy, sliced mozzarella cheese. Every time I caught a piece of that sausage and a diced broccoli stem it was like I died and went to Italy, circa 1920. The bottom of the pie had a gorgeous, golden brown texture, whereas the actual crust was charred and super crunchy. Perfection to say the least.
The red pie was sauce over cheese. The sauce was sweet with a hint of herb seasoning. It definitely had the inner workings of a Santucci’s pie. The pepperoni was good but in my eyes, although they were a little too chewy and lacked a certain level of crispiness. I enjoyed it, but if I could go back in time I’d totally get it with some of that seductive sausage.
This Stogie Joe’s visit was flawless. The incredibly tasty pizza was only half the battle. The interior was more than enough to entice me to come back for seconds. It’s intimate enough where the staff won’t be hassled by massive amounts of tables yet it was big enough that the bar was separated from the dining area. I highly recommend bringing your chick here for a slice date or just coming to slam a few high IPA beers down. Either way Stogie’s is 100% doughboys approved. Well done fellas.
Let’s get one thing straight: Santucci’s rules. But depending on which location you visit, the pizza varies. Sometimes it’s too soggy, other times it’s just straight up cold. Too many toppings can lead to spillage, as I found out the hard way when trying to eat their veggie pie. (You probably shouldn’t wear anything nice if you order that one, cause most of it will end up on your face and clothes.) Since Santucci’s is franchised, there’s no real guarantee that a great experience at one restaurant will translate to another. Here’s where Stogie Joe’s comes in. Using the original family recipe and making every pizza with care, Stogie Joe’s guarantees the deliciousness of a Santucci’s style pie with the attention to detail it takes to get it right.
At the suggestion of our waiter, we went with half white with broccoli rabe and sausage, and half red with pepperoni. While we waited with anxiousness, we had no problem taking in the atmosphere and enjoying a couple Blue Moon’s by the fireplace. Yes, this place is a pizzeria, a bar, and a classy joint with a fireplace all wrapped into one. You could either slum it with the locals at the bar or rub elbows with the yuppies in the dining area, depending on the mood you’re in. But enough about the interior, let’s get down to the pizza.
When this magnificent bastard first arrived at our table, it seemed like the same familiar looking Santucci’s style pizza I had grown accustomed to. But there was something different about this pizza. It looked perfect, unlike the last few I’ve had from Santucci’s that were hit or miss. You could tell that the person who made it took their time and put the effort into it, which was reflected after that first bite. The seasoned rabe was firm yet soft, as the cheese stretched from my mouth to the plate. After my first couple bites, I really began to notice the seasoned Italian sausage. Although I forgot about it at first, it quickly became one of my most unforgettable pizza topping combinations to date. The red pepperoni, albeit not as delectable as its white counterpart, was definitely up to par. Pepperoni on these types of pies usually don’t come out crispy since it’s submerged in tomato sauce. So if you’re like me and don’t mind the lack of crispiness in this situation, go for it. Otherwise, go for raised toppings that’ll get cooked thoroughly.
Of course, there were some pros and cons to dining at Stogie Joe’s. The beer list, fireplace, delicious pizza, accommodating staff, and general ambiance were all top notch. The only problem is I’ll never be able to eat Santucci’s again with the same contentment. Stogie Joe’s > Santucci’s.