903 N. 2nd Street
It’s safe to say that Northern Liberties is one of the most up and coming neighborhoods in the city, and steady has been for the last few years. I see more and more people checking into bars on facebook all along that 2nd Street corridor. After a night of banging down Mexicana margaritas, pounding liters of German beers, or gettin’ creepy with WWF wrestlefest, what better way to end your night than with one of Rustica’s famous slices.
Hidden within the tree line on the Southeast corner of 2nd and Poplar is one of NoLibs’ most well known and adored businesses. Rustica takes me back to a time where sitting down to crush a slice was almost unheard of. Granted there’s a handful of tables to take care of business at, I love the idea of dressing your slice up as you walk out and eating it on the go. Not only are they extremely reasonable in price but their slices are massive, dangling off three sides of your plate. I bet you a dollar that whatever time you choose to hit up Rustica, you’ll find a no less than 10 people standing around outside with greasy paper plates and saucy fingers, enjoying one of their diabolical creations. If you check out the picture we posted of the July 2011 issue of Philadelphia magazine, you’ll notice they gave Rustica’s pepperoni slice the honor of being the cover model for the best pizza in the city. And what a sexy cover model she is. Luscious meat. Symmetrically cut. Perfectly seasoned. Everything you want your centerfold to be. I carry this magazine around with me everywhere I go. I’m like Biff Tannen and it’s my sports almanac, rolled up in my back pocket.
I ordered the pepperoni pie based solely off of how impeccable the slice on the cover of that magazine looked. I shit you not, when that pizza came out of the oven, it was identical to the picture. The word masterpiece comes to mind when I looked at that freshly cooked pie. The slices of pepperoni were thicker than your average pepperoni. They had the semi-inverted, crispy edges to them and were evenly distributed on every slice. The crust was thin, light and held up perfectly. It had that crackle of crunchiness to it that I’ve come to expect from really great pizza. I even had to go back up and try the pepperoni and meatball pie. 2 of the best all around meat toppings, together on one slice. They made the sauce ratio a little bit heavier on this slice to compliment the meatballs, and they did it up real proper. I highly recommend this to any carnivore out there who enjoys meat as much as me. Lastly, I tried the BBQ chicken w/carmelized onion. Most people do the standard pizza with chicken and a smokey BBQ sauce on this pie. Rustica uses a sweet BBQ sauce that’s just light enough to replace the tomato sauce but still have a hickory kick to it. They added the sweet carmelized onion to give it that extra unique taste that everyone seems to have overlooked. The last pizza place that made me feel this way about a BBQ chicken slice was Soho in Olde City, and I think Rustica may have took them to the house with this one.
Rustica has reacquainted my love for pizza parlors that whip up slices to order. Whether you want to believe it or not, the key to any thriving neighborhood’s success partially relies on having good and respectable places to eat. In this doughboy’s eyes, Rustica has no problem taking that title for Northern Liberties.
Although I don’t really frequent the Northern Liberties area that much, I’m kinda disappointed in myself for not visiting Rustica before this trip. I’ve been to the Standard Tap a few times for lunch, been to North 3rd on multiple occasions, and even had a few sandwiches and craft beers at the Foodery at one point or another. In fact, I believe I’ve stooped as low as eating at a hotdog cart at 2nd and Poplar in a drunken stupor after a night of drinking at the 700 Club. But should I ever be in the area again any time soon, I’ll be sure to return to Rustica.
As Castro mentioned, Rustica can be overlooked to the untrained eye if you’re not on the prowl for pizza. Nestled behind a couple trees on a tight and popular block, it’s not the type of place that you coincidentally visit. With the exposure they’ve received from Philadelphia Magazine, I’m sure that the majority of people who visit Rustica are like Castro and I; people who have heard the buzz and need to try the pizza.
The layout of Rustica combines the interior of a classic pizzeria with the ever-so-popular option for outdoor seating. We figured we’d enjoy the best of both by sitting at the table adjacent to the window, giving us a great view of the yuppies driving by and families inside. With options being an important part of any trip, I really appreciated the many slice pies to choose from. Not only that, but their prices were more than reasonable. (Two specialty slices and a soda came close to eight bucks.) Trying to get an opinion for both the carnivorous and herbivorous, I opted for the BBQ Chicken slice and the White Basil Pesto with Tomato. Most BBQ chicken slices come equipped with sauce dripping from every angle imaginable, which can sometimes be messy to say the least. Rustica on the other hand seems to marinate their chicken, negating the need for BBQ sauce atop the slice. The caramelized onion went well with the tangy chicken, which left my mouth watering and will def keep me coming back for more.
The White Basil Pesto with Tomato pie is sure to satisfy the needs of any pizza-loving vegetarian in the area. I love when a pizzeria can make something like basil really pop, and the pesto definitely helped it do just that. The sliced tomato wasn’t overpowering, and the fresh mozzarella really was the icing on the cake. (Or should I say the cheese on the pie?) In any event, it was one of my favorite white pies to date. I love the food at the Standard Tap, North 3rd, and the Foodery very much. But next time I’m in the area, I’m def headed right to Rustica to try another one of their specialty pizzas.