611 S. 7th Street
The bottom of the menu reads as follows: “NOMAD [noh-mad] : 1. A member of a people or tribe that has no permanent home but moves about from place to place, usually unseasonally and often following a traditional circuit according to the food supply. 2. The best pizza you’ve ever had.”
Out of all the places that the doughboys have reviewed in the last year, none have been backed by such hype and regard as Nomad Pizza. Personally, I didn’t take the numerous recommendations for us to try them seriously until a rather infamous food critic from Philly recently hit them up. I knew right away by the way he so elegantly described their pies that it was time for the doughboys to pay them a visit. Tucked away on the southeast corner of Kater street on 7th (between South and Bainbridge streets) is Nomad Pizza. Nomad started out as a mobile pizza truck before it was ever a sit down restaurant, feeding hungry drunk college kids in North Jersey. The founder purchased a 1949 R.E.O Speedwagon off eBay for a measly 5 grand, restored it and converted it into a sick lunch truck on steroids; complete with it’s very own wood fired oven. After making a killing cooking roadside pizzas for the Princeton University community, they unveiled their first pizzeria in Hopewell, NJ. Again, after slaying the pizza game and putting all other pies to shame in Jersey, Nomad decided to add their wood fired pies this past February to an already stellar list of Philly pizzerias. To me, South Street had always been limited to eating Lorenzo’s giant slices (R.I.P), Jim’s greasy steaks, Ishkabibble’s cheese fries and Pietro’s coal fired pies. After today’s visit to Nomad, my heart was captured by the rookie newcomer.
Nomad’s pizza starts off with dough that’s been left to sit and ferment for no less than 96 hours before it’s officially ready to be blasted in their domed, 800 degree, wood fired, brick and mortar oven. The fermentation process of the dough ensures that bubbly, crispy on the outside/chewy on the inside, crust. The oven itself is massive, arched with brick and bares a striking resemblance to “tick-tock” from the return to Oz. It needs to be fired up well before opening and the oak wood logs need to burn throughout the entire morning to reach the optimum cooking temperatures of 700 to upwards of 1000 degrees by their 5pm opening. At those temperatures, pizzas WILL cook in roughly 2 minutes. Nomad promises that only the freshest ingredients are used on their pies. Locally grown organic produce and all natural meats and cheeses are the standard here. Aside from about a dozen top notch craft beers on tap and a pretty extensive wine menu, Nomad features “Movie night” on Sunday night on their 2nd floor, free of charge. The last movie night showings this month included Rambo: First Blood, Jaws and Wet hot american summer. Show up on one of those nights, grab yourself a pint of Allagash and crush a pie with a flick. Not a bad deal if you ask me.
Today we went with the classic “Margherita” pie $12 (Italian tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, organic olive oil, organic parmesan and sea salt) and the “Spicy sausage” pie $14 (Italian tomatoes, mozzarella, renaissance spicy fennel sausage, caramelized onions, basil, organic olive oil, organic parmesan and sea salt). The pies themselves are about 12″ in diameter. Perfect for anyone of any stature to easily put away by their lonesome. Nomad also features some exotic pizzas featuring spicy soppresatta, shiitake mushrooms and a pie with white clams (which I was told is a must here.) At first bite, the margherita pie was bold. The sweet, tangy sauce had tremendous flavor and kept the canker sore in my mouth wanting more. The fresh basil leaves and the organic olive oil worked well with the clumps of fresh mozzarella. The chef finished it off by grating a block of parmesan cheese onto the pie. It was nothing short of excellent. However, the MVP today goes to the spicy sausage pie. I was told that all of their sausage is handmade from Renaissance farms, right here in Pennsylvania. The spicy kick from the fennel sausage complimented the sweet carmalized onions. I’m looking back through past reviews, trying to find a pizza that I remember being better than this pie, and I can’t. I can honestly say that these were without a doubt the best 2 pizzas I have ever eaten.
From the second that the yeast and flour were initially molded into the balls of dough, to when the chef pieled the finished product out of the oven. I easily could tell that the amount of love and attention that were given to my pizzas were unprecedented. And this was before they knew who we were. From this moment forward, Nomad has opened my eyes and truly raised the bar for what pizzas could and should taste like. Nomad pizza is my new hot spot and will be until something else comes long that knocks my socks of. But until that day comes…All. Hail. Nomad.
Despite the fact that there are plenty of inexpensive pizza options in Philadelphia, I have no problem with occasionally splurging on a pizzeria that I know will be worth it. Freshly grown, local, organic ingredients will understandably increase the cost of an artisan pie, especially when it’s served in a chic and stylish atmosphere. Enter Nomad Pizza, the embodiment of all those characteristics nestled away in the Bella Vista section of Philadelphia. Although they’re located right off of 7th and Bainbridge, it’s imperative to remember that Nomad is more than a typical South Street pizzeria. One visit alone will prove just that.
My own indecisive demeanor was kept at bay despite the numerous options and decisions I encountered upon entering Nomad. “Would you prefer to sit downstairs, upstairs, or outside?” That was just the beginning. With 10 different pies to choose from and an expansive beer selection, my anxiety would typically kick in and prevent me from ordering in a timely manner. But I was in no mood to think anymore than I had to on this particular Sunday afternoon, so my guest and I ordered a traditional Margherita pie and the Spicy Sausage along with a couple of Cokes. Being roughly 12 inches in diameter, you’re probably going to want to order two even if you’re going alone.
After about a ten-minute wait, the familiar look of a true Neapolitan pizza graced us. The crust beneath the San Marzano tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella stretched thin until it was conjoined to the charred yet doughy handles. Whereas most pizzerias only leave their dough out for a day or two, Nomad Pizza leaves theirs to ferment for a week before it’s ready, which gives the crust its truly unique taste. The sweet sauce was to be expected since I’ve become more than accustomed to San Marzano tomato sauce as of late. But the mozzarella was my favorite part of this pie. It was by far the freshest and most tasty I’ve had yet. With the Renaissance sausage supplied from Country Time farm came a savory sausage I had never experienced before, which was only intensified by the organic caramelized onion slivers. Every delicate flavor was essential to making this trip as memorable as it was.
Nomad certainly rises above the South Street competition with their delectable options and bodacious beer selection. If you’re in the mood for dessert afterwards, I highly recommend the tiramisu. Even after housing six slices, the light yet decadent dessert capped off a fantastic experience. But with so many similarities, could this newcomer overshadow another authentic Neapolitan pizzeria only several blocks away? I smell a Pizzeria Stella VS. Nomad Pizza challenge in the near future.