Monthly Archives: September 2012

Paulie’s Pizza

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Paulie’s

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16 slices of madness

General Tso’s in the house

Big Mac burger za’

Gettin’ creepy with the secret sauce

“Hey, where did you get that shirt?!” – Plichter

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Free canolis

Paulie’s Pizza
31 S. 11th Street

Castro:

I would say that roughly 1/3 of my illustrious career is spent downtown, within the scummy confines of the criminal justice center. I would also imagine that a majority of y’all have a decent amount of dealings in the center city area as well. Jury duty, baby mama drama at family court, riding the duck boats, gettin’ your stupid last names changed at City Hall. Regardless of why you’re down in the city, you gotta eat…right? For me, finding new locations to scarf lunch downtown doesn’t come particularly easy; especially when you have a limited amount of time grab to a bite to eat. Not to mention sniffing out places with a wallet friendly menu to cater to your weekly budget. Needless to say, when I heard of a hole-in-the-wall pizza joint right off 11th & Market that serves unique specialty pies like “General Tso’s” and “Big Mac”, I knew right away that our followers needed to get the scoop on it.

Located right across the street from family court, is a place that you would walk right by if you don’t keep your eyes peeled like bananas. Paulie’s may look like your average pizza parlor on the outside, but their menu carries so much pizza cred that it’s almost mind blowing. (A little insider secret: order 2 large pizzas and get a half dozen sweet n’ creamy canolis to stuff your face with.) The sad thing is, people probably come here all the time and order a slice of plain or pepperoni because they’re skeptical about trying anything new. I gotta be honest, when I initially got wind that they offered a “General Tso’s” pizza, I kinda laughed. My first thought was that it was just gonna be another poor attempt at creativity by another shitty Philly pizza shop and another notch on the pie bashing list. This visit proved it was anything but.

The “Big Mac” pie: First off, I know it’s not called the “Big Mac” pizza but rather the “Famous Cheeseburger Pizza.” For obvious copyright infringement purposes, they’re legally not allowed to call it that. Well this is my blog and I’ll call it what I please. The reason I keep referring to it as “Big Mac” pizza is because if your were blind folded while you were eating this pie, you would be unable to decipher if you were consuming an actual Big Mac or not. They hit the flavor nail right on the head with this one. It’s got seasoned beef, shredded lettuce, chopped pickles, a sprinkle of sesame seeds and a criss cross drizzlin’ of special sauce. The sauce isn’t thousand island dressing and it’s not a ketchup and mayo mix. It was an identical match to McDonald’s sauce. I distinctly remember Plichter smiling when he took that first bite. I just laughed and said “this is incredible.” Remember in houseguest when Sinbad is eating that big mac on the bridge with Phil Hartman? That’s how I felt at that very moment. Like Sinbad eating a big mac. Undoubtedly one of the most creative and delicious speciality pizzas I’ve encountered to date. If you do make your way to Paulie’s, the Big Mac pizza comes highly recommended from this doughboy.

General Tso’s Pizza. When I think of really good “General Tso’s” Chinese food, I think of the food court at Neshiminy Mall. I know. Retarded, right? Mall chinese food places always have the tastiest General Tso’s around. Most places that serve it are either entirely too spicy, or the chicken is completely soggy after being submerged in that thick, MSG infused sauce. Especially Chinese stores in the hood. Paulie’s does their General Tso’s proper. Crispy breaded chicken, seasoned with fiery spices and smothered in a sweet oriental glaze, topped off with fresh broccoli. I’ve never had something like this on pizza before. It totally makes you want to break out the chopsticks. One would think it’s an impossible combination of toppings to cover a pie with, but Paulie’s definitely handled their business with this concoction.

Paulie’s is the prime example of the ideal spot that the doughboys would like to visit. Forget the popular places that everyone already knows about. We want a taste of good ol’ fashioned american ingenuity, and Paulie’s has just that. Next time you’re stompin’ around the city, forget the Reading terminal and stop in for one or both of these slices. You won’t break the bank and you’ll leave just a little bit more satisfied.

Plichter:

Every once in a while, a pizzeria comes along that redefines the way I think about pizza. While the standard cheese, sauce and crust is never turned away, I sometimes crave something new and ridiculous. Originality always gets an A for effort in my mind, but the execution is what makes it truly worth it. So when I heard of the pies offered at Paulie’s Pizza, I expected them to live up to the hype. And they certainly did.

Without first doing your research, you would probably have no idea Paulie’s even existed. Nestled away on 11th Street between Market and Chestnut, they might just seem like your ordinary pizzeria to the untrained eye. But what they’re serving up inside is anything but ordinary. With options such as lasagna pizza, penne vodka pizza, and spaghetti pizza, Paulie’s easily redefines the way we think about pizza. But we came here for two reasons: General Tso’s Chicken pizza and Big Mac pizza.

As Castro mentioned, Paulie’s can’t actually call it “Big Mac” pizza since those fat cats at McDonalds would probably throw a shit fit. But don’t let the “Famous Cheeseburger Pizza” name fool you; this isn’t your run of the mill cheeseburger pizza. This pizza tastes EXACTLY like a Big Mac. It was incredible. Topped with lettuce, pickles, sesame seeds and their own special sauce, it’s the closest thing possible to a Big Mac without going to McDonalds. And since I’m not even a fan of McDonalds or their Big Mac, I have no problem with endorsing this pizza and I believe it to be even better. This is a fine example of actually thinking outside the bun.

Already being a firm believer in Paulie’s after the Big Mac pizza, I was sure that the General Tso’s would also live up to the hype. The only difference between this and the typical General Tso’s is the fact that Paulie’s uses breaded strips of chicken instead of the traditional deep fried at most Chinese restaurants. But once again, this was the closest thing to General Tso’s you could have on a pizza. Broccoli, chicken, and General Tso’s sauce atop a white pie solidified Paulie’s as one of the most delicious and original pizzerias in Philly.

Diehard ‘za lovers will probably argue that what’s served at Paulie’s can’t even be classified as pizza. But when it tastes this good, who cares? If Big Mac and General Tso’s pizza is wrong, I certainly don’t wanna be right. Keep up the good work.

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Jean’s Pizzeria

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Jean’s Pizzeria

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Cruis’n bad pizza

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Boxed vomit

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Endless grease

C’mon dude, seriously?!”

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Chokin’ it down

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Hot sauce can’t mask the shittiness that is Jean’s

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A match made in heaven

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This conversation pretty much sums it up

Jean’s Pizzeria & Grill
3252 Ryan Ave. (Roland and Ryan)

Castro:

If you’ve ever lived in or frequented Northeast Philly, then you probably have heard of Jean’s pizza at some point in your life. And if you don’t know it by name, then you know it simply as “that pizza place across from Lincoln High School.” Honestly, the closest that I’ve ever come to eating Jean’s in my life was briefly passing it on the chartered 88 bus, on my way home from Father Judge. We’d of course yell obcenities and throw trash from the bus windows at the clueless Lincoln kids waiting at the bus stop, but it was all in fun. Today marks the day that Jonny Castro had his Jean’s cherry popped, and in the most painful way imaginable.

After parking my car across the street and seeing the crowd of dumb Lincoln kids hanging on the front steps of this place, I immediately tucked my gun into my waistband, took a deep breath and reluctantly strolled into this dump. Passing through a haze of blunt smoke, I entered what appeared to be a pizza sweatshop; but instead of cheaply made nikes, it was cheaply made pizzas. A dungeon if you will. A place you’d send the bad kids in school when detention just doesn’t cut it. I was like Joe Pesci when he walked into that backwoods breakfast place in My Cousin Vinny. I felt like such an outcast. It was dark. It was gloomy. It resembled a place you’d go to find a back alley poker game. The delivery guy looked like he was ready to hang himself from the cord on the neon electric sign in the window. Even the counter girls looked unbelievably miserable. In the scratchiest, pack-a-day cigarette smoker, cliche diner waitress voice you can think of, I hear “What can I get for ya’ dear?” As I hesitantly placed my pie order, in the immediate background I noticed 2 flies dancing around on the glossy, single slices that are waiting for some poor, unknowing idiot to put them out of their misery. Below the insect ridden slices was this tiny conveyor belt oven, where the pizzas pass through a couple high powered heat lamps. Even the most basic corner pizza parlors that are operated by non-english speaking, greek immigrants understand that having a full sized, gas pizza oven is the lifeblood of any decent pizzeria. I knew right away that this was gonna be one of the crappiest pizza experiences since the Frankford Avenue Debacle back in ’11.

This. Pizza. Was. Awful. I wouldn’t quite dub it as the worst to date, but it’s not trailing far behind. It tasted like processed garbage. I’m not sure what I disliked more. The flavorless grease-glazed crust or the bland, unsavory pepperoni that were the ideal definition of grade F meat. I was extremely disappointed with what was in that pizza box when I got home. If I would’ve opened it and discovered a half eaten chicken mcnugget happy meal, I would probably be a lot happier than I am at this very moment. I really like to give the places we go the benefit of the doubt and afford them every opportunity to avoid getting a shitty review, but Jean’s definitely earned every adjective written. When I posted a status on the DB’s Facebook page, asking people their thoughts of Jean’s, one of our followers (Terrence O’Donnell) replied “Jeanes hospital makes better pizza.” I couldn’t agree more with such a statement. If you’re in the area and you want good pizza, make the left and grab a Gino’s pie. Jean’s can eat a bag of dicks.

Plichter:

To say that I dislike Jean’s pizza because I have a biased opinion is pure rubbish. If anything, Jean’s was (unfortunately) a huge part of my adolescence. I spent many a night during my high school years in Greg Meyer’s basement, watching Simpsons with my friends and eating that shitty pizza. I didn’t like it then and I certainly don’t like it now. In fact, the only reason I could see preferring that slop to any other pizza out there would have to be pure ignorance. Philadelphia is home to some of the best pizzas around, and Jean’s somehow still continues to exist. With Gino’s, Santucci’s, and even Pizza City within ordering distance, there’s no excuse to order a pizza from Jean’s. But shelling out $14 for their “pizza” the other day was a small price to pay for the opportunity to trash that garbage. So without further adieu, here’s the review of my most hated pizzeria ever: Jean’s.

I’ve heard my friends defend Jean’s for years. “It’s not that bad if you put hot sauce or ketchup on it.” This isn’t an excuse. To have to mask the flavor with condiments is ridiculous. An excellent pie should be able to stand alone, not rely on outside help to improve the taste. The person making the pie should know what they’re doing, and you shouldn’t have to ask for it “well done.” The only thing Jean’s can do without any help is make a shitty pie that you’ll instantly regret ordering.

On this particular Sunday, I ordered a large piece of cardboard covered with ketchup and plastic. Or at least that’s what I got when I ordered a large half pepperoni, half plain pie. I’m surprised I wasn’t offered a complementary side of roaches or hepatitis with it, since Jean’s isn’t known for being the most sanitary. My biggest regret, other than ordering the pizza, was not taking the time to play Cruis’n World while there. Having a few video games in the lobby has always been the only redeeming factor behind every visit to Jean’s as a teenager. Although it didn’t look too bad when I first opened the box, disappointment quickly flooded my taste buds and memory. It has been, and always will be, terrible.

I’m not going to go into great detail about how awful the pizza at Jean’s tastes because it’s not worth the effort. Their pizza is uninspired, bland, and gross. I would happily take a slice of Little Caesar’s that’s been sitting underneath a heat lamp all day than eat Jean’s. Make sure if you’re going to waste your time and order from there, you ask for your pizza well done and slathered in hot sauce. Better yet, you might want to go in there and make the pizza yourself because they either have no idea what they’re doing or they just don’t care.

Pizza Brain: The Nation’s 1st Pizza Museum

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Courtesy of Instagram user sssashaaa

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Gettin’ fresh

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The deputy mayor of Philly giving his blessings

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Brian Dwyer. The mastermind.

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Chalkboard menu swag

Coolest names for pizza EVER

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Team pizza brain doin’ work

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The Plain Jane

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Courtesy of Instagram user Pizzasluts

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Pizza party. Pizza party. Pizza party.

White pies that’ll cross your eyes

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Me and Mikey, crushin’ Za.

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Jonny C and the Brain.

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Flemwad

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Legit pizza street cred

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Little baby’s ice cream parlor. PIZZA ICE CREAM!!!

Licking cones and breaking bones

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Clockwise: Courtesy of Instagram users pizzasluts and stephmantis

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Courtesy of Instagram user Stephbikesphilly. Team Pizza Brain

Pizza Brain
2311-2313 Frankford Ave

Castro:

Today marks a significant moment in not only the evolution of pizza, but for the City of Philadelphia as well. Brian Dwyer and the rest of team Pizza Brain will be opening the doors to the World’s first (and only) museum dedicated entirely to pizza. It’s not just a museum. It’s also a stylish pizza parlor where you can grab a few slices while you scope the amazing pizza artifacts strewn across the walls. Back in July of last year, The Guiness Book of World Records dubbed Brian as the owner of the “largest collection of pizza related items.” Since being crowned with the coveted title as such, the envisioning of this monumental museum was birthed. It was roughly a year ago when I first heard of Pizza Brain through the grapevine. After a simple “like” on their Facebook page, I was kept in the loop of their progression from a delapitated, boarded up, 3 story East Kensington store front to a beautiful, iconic addition to Philly’s already significant national history. If you’re looking for a simple YouTube video of a 1986 pizza hut commercial to photographs of makeup-less celebrities stuffing their faces with pizza, you’ll most likely find it somewhere on their facebook page. My pizza tattoo even made it to their “pizza ink” collection. The fact is, with the opening of a museum comprised of nothing but pizza themed collectibles just a few miles from the Doughboys’ stomping grounds, we sure as shit wouldn’t miss this party for the world.

4:00 P.M, opening day: T-minus one hour until the doors officially open to Pizza Brain. Already there’s a handful of local news media set up with their lenses focused on the front doors. I’m currently 2nd in the line of about 300-500 pizza enthusiasts, most of who are armed with steno pads and SLR cameras, all waiting to catch a glimpse and document history in the making. Being brushed shoulder to shoulder with every bushy bearded, bike riding, tattooed, skinny jean wearing hipster this side of The Delaware River was a tad bit uncomfortable for me, but definitely rewarding in the end. What’s the events scheduled for today’s grand opening you ask? Probably a combination of the most awesome and unexpected things you can possibly think of. A stringed quartet, an accordian player on stilts, a photobooth complete with a special effects green screen, firebreathers, dancing flash mobs, a rear courtyard where artists were painting a giant pizza mural. Costumed pizza freaks, tons of awesome pizza shirts and local breweries offering a taste of Philly’s finest craft beers. This is basically gonna be the world’s largest pizza party. The ribbon cutting ceremony is just about to begin. The deputy mayor of Philadelphia is on hand for the unveiling of Pizza Brain. As a lifelong resident of Fishtown, he was delighted to address the occasion. A few words he used to describe the addition of Pizza Brain to the neighborhood were “revitalization” and the “rebuilding” of Frankford Avenue. I couldn’t agree more. Brian Dwyer’s father held up a handmade card in the shape of a slice of pizza that he received from his son in 1992. It read: “I wanna own a pizza shop when I grow up. I wanna call it ‘Pizza Brian’. Because my name is Brian. And I like pizza.” Cue the entrance of the 6’5″, wild haired, brains behind this whole operation. Brian spoke about the journey from a mere idea to the museum that stood before me. I could tell that he was extremely proud of what him and team Pizza Brain had done. His eyes welled up as he ended his speech with a quote from Mother Teresa. “We can do no great things; only small things with great love.” The Star Spangled Banner was then crooned in the key of a barbershop quartet by all the members of team Pizza Brain. With that, the ribbon was finally cut and history was undoubtedly made. Posters, comic books, teenage mutant ninja turtles toys, newspaper articles, vinyl records, cereal box toys, pizza related DVD and VHS boxes, nick knacks. I even seen a Starship Enterprise pizza cutter. Literally anything and everything you can imagine that dealt with the subject of pizza in the past or present is on display here. I was like a kid on Christmas morning.

If I had to describe the pizza at Pizza Brain in a single word, it would be “passionate”. I personally watched these guys post photos throughout the past few months of pizzas that they’ve been experimenting with, evolving from pizza eaters to pizza creators. They are masters of the craft and they take pride in what they do. The recipes are pulled from the depths of their hearts, and have been molded from trials and tribulations. To these guys, pizza is an art form. The dough is their canvas and the toppings are their media. They could’ve easily chosen the path of cheap cheeses and sauce and slapped together a mediocre pie to keep the visitors of the museum happy, but they decided to go a different direction. Fresh, all natural, locally sourced ingredients; handcrafted to perfection. When that first slice hits your tongue, close your eyes and think about the journey that Pizza Brain has undergone to get to this point. Think about all the sacrifices that were made to bring this wonderful building to Philadelphia. From nothing more than a penciled brainstorm in a copybook to a truly delicious pizza, I’m honored to say that I consumed a slice from the first official pie ever served to the public at Pizza Brain. After eating my za’ and photographing all the unique memorabilia, I made my way to “Little baby’s ice cream” parlor. It’s Pizza Brain’s sister shop located within the same building. I ordered myself a single scoop of their infamous pizza flavored ice cream to wash down my slice. I can’t even begin to decipher the different flavors of it but I can tell you that it tastes like I was eating an actual slice of pizza. I wouldn’t go making a banana split with it, but it was one of the most creative and innovative ice cream flavors of all time and fitting for such a special occasion. Make it a point to grab a cup of it to go. You won’t be disappointed.

I still recall the first time I laid eyes on the mummies at the Academy of Natural Sciences, the first time I walked through the giant beating heart at The Franklin Institute and the first time I seen Archie Bunker’s chair at the Smithsonian. I’m fairly certain I will never forget the first time I stepped foot inside Pizza Brain. My 2 favorite pizza keepsakes on display that stood out from everything else were the “Munchie” movie poster (a movie that I haven’t seen in at least 15 years) and the Pizza Hut walkman that I vaguely remembered owning at some point in my life. As a lover of all things pizza, I’m blessed to live in a city that is home to the World’s first AND ONLY pizza museum. In due time, it will surely become one of Philadelphia’s most sought after tourist attractions. Liberty Bell. Rocky steps. Cheesesteaks. Pizza Brain.

Plichter:

Even though I wasn’t as fortunate to make it to the ribbon cutting ceremony, I was lucky enough to experience Pizza Brain firsthand that following Sunday. I’ve been keeping Pizza Brain on my radar since the very beginning, and had been anxiously awaiting their grand opening. Not only were we talking about a pizzeria, but a home to the world’s largest collection of pizza memorabilia?! Even though it sounded too good to be true, it certainly lived up my expectations.

A lack of originality in the pizza community has been plaguing Philadelphia for far too long. The average selection of “specialty” pizzas has become dull, repetitive and redundant. Realizing the severity of the situation, Pizza Brain has worked tirelessly to break the mold and challenge the average eater to rethink the way they view pizza. Their creativity really became apparent when I glanced at their selection and placed my order on that Sunday: The “Bob Shieldsmoose” and the “Charlie Mayfer.”

The slice of “Bob” was an obvious nobrainer considering it was undoubtedly going to be unlike anything I’d ever had before. Blue cheese, mozzarella, caramelized onion, fresh garlic, cracked black pepper, horseradish, and beef brisket atop of a white pie is an incredibly stellar combination that couldn’t possibly come together without many trial and error attempts. But when they got it right, they knew they were onto something. You seriously have to read over all the ingredients on the menu to be able to single each one out, but that in itself is half the fun. (The other half obviously being able to actually eat and enjoy the pizza.) In the words of Patrick Bateman, it was “a playful but mysterious little dish.” Confirming every flavor with the menu became an engaging little game that only added to my pleasure. By the end, all the toppings had added up to form a more than memorable first slice at Pizza Brain.

Next up was the “Charlie”, a seasonal selection to honor the upcoming fall. Although I wasn’t terribly interested in this pizza when I first came in, Brian insisted on me trying and critiquing their new concoction. After all, how many places around have offered sweet potato, honey goat cheese, and brown sugar on a pizza? This was a proposition I couldn’t pass up, and I’m so glad I didn’t. This. Was. AWESOME. If ever there were a pizza fit for a dessert, this takes the cake. (Or should I say pie?) You can imagine exactly how it tasted; like a sweet potato pie and a pizza had sex and gave birth to some sort of delicious and exotic new breed.

Now although the “Charlie” would be the ideal finale for my visit, there was still one more item I had to try while I was in the vicinity. Attached to Pizza Brain is Little Baby’s Ice Cream, a parlor that serves PIZZA ICE CREAM. That’s right, PIZZA ICE CREAM. I still can’t get over it myself. After Castro attempted to describe it for me, I knew I had to give it a go myself. “Yo, it’s ice cream… but it tastes like pizza.” As absurd as it sounds, he was absolutely right. It’s ice cream that tastes just like pizza. I’m not gonna lie…it kinda weirded me out a little. But while you’re there, you’d might as well give it a try and make your own decision.

Hanging out in Pizza Brain, while scarfing down a slice and admiring their amazing collection of pizza memorabilia, was an adventure I won’t soon forget. My only regret is not getting a chance to tell the guys there how good of a job they did, on the interior and the pizza. So if Brian and the gang are reading this, job well done.

Express Pizza & Subs

Express Pizza and Subs

719 Battersea Rd

Ocean City, NJ 08226

609-398-3322

Plichter:

Express Pizza. Such a cliché name for a pizzeria that’s anything but. Even though I love getting the opportunity to try a great specialty pizza, a plain pizza that stands above the rest is almost always more impressive. And at Express Pizza, that’s exactly what you can expect.

When I first moved to Ocean City, I was already familiar with Mario’s and Piccini. Those two are without a doubt two of the best on the island. But with the help of my local friends, I was able to uncover Express Pizza, a small pizzeria that’s hidden away from most of the “shoobies” who visit Ocean City. In fact, considering they don’t have a proper website or Facebook page, you’d be hard pressed to come across Express without the help of a “transplant” or a local.

Using cornmeal to line the bottom of a pizza to prevent stickiness is nothing short of common. But there’s something different about the way Express does it that gives it a uniquely crispy crust. As opposed to thin bits of cornmeal that gives the crust a sandpaper-like texture, theirs is a bit wider and gives it more of a crunchy, taco-like texture. Not too crunchy yet still being able to support the slice well, it truly stand out when compared to any other pizza I’ve ever had.

I didn’t go into detail about the cheese or sauce simply because they play a supporting role next to their showstopping crust. If you’re in Ocean City, forget about Manco & Manco and take a walk down to Express. I can guarantee you won’t regret it.