If Gennaro’s Tomato Pie looks and sounds familiar to New York pizza lovers, it’s because it is essentially a classic turn-of-the-last-century New York pizza. Makes plenty of sense because it was opened by the family that owns Lombardi’s in Soho. Lombardi’s became the first pizzeria in the US when it opened on Spring Street in 1905. It’s currently owned by longtime Lombardi family friend John Brescio and managed by his son Mike, who previously ran a Lombardi’s pizzeria in Philadelphia before the building was demolished to make way for new construction. Mike stockpiled some bits and pieces from Lombardi’s and reentered the Philadelphia pizza scene with Gennaro’s about six months ago. And it’s outstanding.
I met up with some friends to kick the tires at Gennaro’s. On the left is my college roommate Drew and his wife Sara. The guy on the right is my new pal Norman, who had sent me several emails over the past few months telling me about his pizza obsession and love for this new place called Gennaro’s. So we all met up, took a tour of the place and sat down for some pizza.
I’m happy to report that the pizza is wonderful. The crust is baked a bit on the well-done side but comes out perfectly in tune with the sauce and cheese. Instead of dealing with the hassle of a coal-fired oven, Gennaro’s opted for a Swedish-made Bake Master electric oven. It’s easy to manage and gives controls for separate elements on the oven’s top and bottom. But all that matters about the oven is that the pizza that came out of it was fantastic.
We tried several, but my favorites were the standard cheese pizza and the lovely pesto pizza. They’re just perfectly balanced with an even hand on sauce, cheese and additional toppings. Unlike the tricky undependable heat of a coal oven, the electric oven provides a far more consistent bake without having to rotate the pie every few seconds.
The place itself is lovely, styled as a 1930s cafe. There are old radios along the wall and piped-in radio broadcasts from back in the day. But it isn’t over-the-top kitch, it’s done tastefully and not to detract from the food.
Check out the chairs – they’re nearly identical to those found in a photo of the original Lombardi’s from the 1920s!
Gennaro’s Tomato Pie is a serious spot and a welcome addition to the growing Philadelphia pizza scene. While you’re there, be sure to try their classic desserts. There’s a pound cake, a pineapple upside-down cake, and my favorite – the layered ice box cake!
With the recent additions of Nomad, Pizza Brain, Pizzeria Beddia (which I have yet to visit) and Gennaro’s, Philadelphia is really upping its long-abandoned pizza game. Even the old standbys like Marra’s and Tacconelli’s are not loved by all locals. These new spots are exciting and different enough that the town is finally cultivating some diversity in its pizza offerings. And Gennaro’s is certainly a strong piece of that tapestry.
Gennaro’s Tomato Pie
1429 Jackson St