As was the case for my visit to Curly’s in March, there had been a huge amount of anticipation building up within me for almost as long as I’ve been blogging about cheesesteaks to try the steak – and pizza – at Angelo’s Pizzeria in South Philly. Their reputation is at a lofty level that no other sandwich and pizza shop within the city of Philadelphia quite matches presently.
Not only are their cheesesteaks frequently cited as the best in town on Facebook’s Cheesesteaks Gurus page – the top source for cheesesteak expertise that I’m aware of – but both their pizza and Italian hoagies have received similarly lofty praise. I may get to that hoagie at some point, but the initial goal was to finally try Angelo’s cheesesteak and pizza.
There were a couple reasons why it’s taken me this long to knock Angelo’s off my list. First, as regular readers know, I usually bring a friend along for sharing purposes when I intend to eat both a sandwich and pizza. I’ve had some trouble lining one up for Angelo’s on the days that have been good for me. After a couple recent and very understandable postponements, I finally decided to pick a date and go, whether I had a partner for the venture or not. It turned out I didn’t, so my intention was to eat at least most of the cheesesteak and a slice of the pizza. The rest would go home with me.
The other reason for my delayed visit to Angelo’s is that I kept reading it’s very difficult to get through to them to place orders and that a long wait was likely – both for them to answer the phone and for the food after your order has been placed.
More recently, I read suggestions to go and place the order in person. I decided to show up early – about 15 minutes before they opened – and order that way if I hadn’t gotten through to them via phone by the 11 a.m. opening time.
After my experience at John’s Roast Pork, where there was already a moderately long line by the time I arrived a little before they opened that day, I was prepared for something similar. But that wasn’t the case. There were no other customers in front of the shop when I first arrived. I gave up my first-in-line spot after a few minutes to wait for them to open in the shade across the street, then walked back over slightly before 11 when I noticed three or four people had started a line.
They probably take more orders over the phone, but again, you have to get through first. On top of that, the places that draw long lines tend to be those that have been around for generations and are known as a sort of tourist attraction. Angelo’s is relatively new, having opened a little less than a decade ago. Their local reputation has grown to such a high level remarkably fast, but they may not be as well known to out-of-towners.
Angelo’s isn’t actually part of what has long been known as the Italian Market, which is a series of food stands and shops along South 9th Street. But it’s still at the northern edge of a stretch of 9th Street, between Washington Avenue and Fitzwater Street, that has a lot of great food; much of it, but not as much as a generation or two ago, Italian in one form or another. They are also on the same block as a couple other places of note. One is Sarcone’s Bakery. I’ve praised their seeded steak and hoagie rolls to the sky here more than once. The other is Ralph’s Italian Restaurant, which has been open since 1900 and is the oldest Italian restaurant in the United States that has been continually operated by the same family since its inception.
Angelo’s opened at 11 on the dot. For a place that has such a great reputation, there isn’t much to see inside of the shop. It’s takeout-only with a counter and an open kitchen area behind it. I was only in there long enough to place my order, then to pick it up after my name was shouted about 10 minutes later. Everyone working in the kitchen appeared to be all business.
The entire experience – from my arrival-time to receiving my food – was a lot faster and easier than I had feared it would be. Showing up early on a weekday appears to be a good move.
I shouldn’t have waited so long to go to Angelo’s, but I’m extremely happy to have that small monkey off my back.
Sticking to the plan I had devised the previous evening, I was successful in finding a great parking spot on the street that was less than a block from Angelo’s. I could have eaten in my car where it was parked. There was also a bench nearby and a tiny park with more benches a block to the east. But I felt like taking my photos and eating this food that I had been dying to try for many months in a more private setting. So I drove a couple miles to the shopping center lot where I parked when I went to John’s Roast Pork, having remembered that my spot that day was next to a tree that provided shade and that no other cars parked near me. I had the same luck again on this occasion.
To take a step back, before pulling out of the spot I had near Angelo’s, I partially unwrapped the steak to avoid any possibility of the roll steaming.
After parking at the shopping center, I set up shop in the back seat of my car, took the necessary photos, then ate. As is usually the case, I went for the steak first.
I have to start by stating that the seeded roll, which they bake in-house at Angelo’s, is the best I’ve ever had as part of a cheesesteak – maybe as part of any kind of sandwich. It had a sturdy and slightly crunchy crust that was just the way I’d draw it up. The inner dough was lighter – with more air pockets – than is typically the case, while the toasted sesame seeds were extremely flavorful. And it was a flavor that added nicely to the steak’s overall package.
I don’t know exactly how much chopped ribeye they put in each sandwich, but I was very happy with both the amount and its flavor. I don’t think I’d have wanted much more. It may have made it difficult to fully appreciate that great roll.
Based on a handful of photos I’ve seen online, the one aspect of Angelo’s steaks that I thought beforehand might not be to my liking was the amount of cheese they use. I’ve mentioned in earlier posts that I want to taste and feel the texture of the cheese in each bite, but I don’t want there to be so much of it that the meat gets overshadowed. And that didn’t happen with this steak. There was a lot of Cooper Sharp cheese, but not too much, and it was beautifully melted to near liquid throughout. You can also see how nicely the grill-chef fried the onions.
Angelo’s cheesesteak lived up to its reputation and then some.
The pizza was next up. It was certainly a beauty to look at.
And it tasted as good as it looked.
To an even greater extent than the steak roll, the outer ring of the pizza dough was unbelievably light and airy. I normally can’t eat as much pizza in a single sitting as I could when I was in high school, but Angelo’s pizza might be an exception. It goes down so smoothly.
And its flavor is exceptional. The sauce has just the slightest hint of sweetness, while the fresh basil imparted a nice, additional layer of flavor – even after I removed the leaves. Not surprisingly, they use high quality Mozzarella and just the right amount of it. I would guess they also grate a bit of another Italian cheese on top.
I only had one slice after eating most of the steak, but ate several more later for dinner. If anything, sitting around all day – without being refrigerated – seemed to give the pizza’s flavor more time to fully develop.
This and the pie I had at Joey’s in Thorndale are the two best pizzas I’ve eaten in the process of checking out the region’s cheesesteaks.
Angelo’s will be a tough act to follow. But that won’t stop me from giving another hopefully worthy contender a shot at some point in the next week. I’ve also got a lunch planned with several former colleagues. That one won’t include a cheesesteak.