While the intensity of my cheesesteak craving has died down a bit from where it was for much of the Summer, the completist within is driving me to push forward in a foolish quest to try all of the highly-rated steaks I’ve read about since discovering the cheesesteak blog and Facebook group I referred to in a couple previous posts. It’s foolish because I discover more “must-try” sandwiches online virtually every week. I’ll never get to all of them at the pace I’m going. One outing a week, which sometimes involves going to two different steak shops, is about all I can handle.
For this week’s offering, my old friend Andy and I ventured out to Collegeville, a western suburb of Philadelphia. The last time I ate in Collegeville was during the early 70s, when my grandparents took me to the long-shuttered Collegeville Inn to eat their famous smorgasbord. Our destination today was the Collegeville Italian Bakery Pizza Napoletana www.collegevilleitalianbakery.com . They were started as primarily a bread bakery in 1994, but have been expanded significantly in recent years. We sat in the room that houses the original bakery. They now have two additional rooms and quite an operation, including ice cream, water-ice, and a beautiful wood-burning pizza oven.
They also have several walls lined with framed photos of celebrities who have stopped by to be photographed at the pizza oven, including the owner of one of the region’s best-known steak shops, who is apparently a somewhat regular customer at the Bakery.
During this run of increased cheesesteak-intake I’ve had lately, I have been going almost exclusively with American cheese on my steaks. Having a partner with me today led to the last minute decision to order one steak with American and one with Whiz. We split both.
I had high hopes for these steaks based on what I had read online and they lived up to those expectations. There was an ample amount of tender and nicely cut meat in the house-baked and very good rolls. If I had a minor complaint about either, the one with American could have used just a tad more cheese. I may not have noticed if it wasn’t being eaten side-by-side with the Whiz steak. That one had a lot of tasty cheese mixed in with each bite. We each preferred the one with Whiz, but enjoyed them both very much. In fact, I’d rate them among the upper echelon of steaks I’ve had and preferred each one to the sandwiches from Chubby’s and D’Alessandro’s that I wrote about last week.
After we finished our steaks and had a very nice chat with Steve, whose father-in-law started the bakery and who owns it now with his wife, Patrizia, he kindly brought us over a couple sample-sized slices of pizza to try.
They had crust that was both thin and slightly delicate. The sauce on the slice of Norristown Red Top pizza was perhaps as sweet as any I’ve ever tasted. I have a big sweet-tooth and would be ordering that pie regularly if I lived near Collegeville. They also offer Detroit-style and breakfast pizzas. I am particularly interested in trying the latter at some point.
Andy and I were both stuffed by the time we walked out of the Collegeville Italian Bakery, but we still had one more food stop to make. One of the reasons I chose the Bakery for our cheesesteak stop is that it is a relatively short ride from there to Zwahlen’s, home of the Philadelphia region’s best frozen custard www.zwahlens.com . When I first learned about the difference between real frozen custard and soft-serve ice cream, and for some years afterward, Zwahlen’s was the only place to get the former in this region. We have a few other options now thanks to several chains that offer custard expanding to the area. But I would argue Zwahlen’s is still the best. They don’t call it custard on the menu. They simply refer to it as ice cream. But it’s custard, and great custard at that.
Andy went with a scoop of plain vanilla custard. Given how pure the flavor of Zwahlen’s vanilla is, I was tempted to follow his lead. But I had my heart set on a sundae and went with hot fudge and wet walnuts over vanilla custard. Man, did that hit the spot.
Zwahlen’s also offers Sprecher’s root beer. It’s brewed in Wisconsin and has been my favorite root beer for years, so I grabbed a bottle to take home.
I can’t say how long I’ll be eating a cheesesteak on a weekly basis. But I’ll probably continue to write about them for as long as I do.