When I was growing up, almost all of the places I was aware of that sold cheesesteaks also had pizza on the menu. That’s probably still the case more often than not in the Philly region.
So when I knew in advance that a restaurant I would be visiting for a cheesesteak was known to serve good pizza, I often arranged for a friend to join me to split the steak and also sample a pie.
These are the five best pizzas I tried on my cheesesteak trail over the past year:
5. Joseph’s Pizza Parlor (Philadelphia)
Joseph’s is a longtime Northeast Philadelphia institution that recently underwent an ownership change, and the new team revamped the pizza. They got it largely right. The crust is at a happy medium between thick and thin and was also moderately crispy. The sauce had just a touch of sweetness and the Mozzarella was spread on in just the right amount.
4. Lillo’s Tomato Pies (Hainesport, NJ)
Lillo’s serves Trenton-style tomato pies, which feature the sauce being splashed in either circles or something akin to modern art on top of the layer of Mozzarella cheese. I’ve been to a couple of the well-known tomato pie restaurants in the Trenton region and thought the pie at Lillo’s was competitive with those. The crust is somewhat thin and crispy, but also has a nice chew.
3. Collegeville Italian Bakery Pizzeria Napoletana (Collegeville, PA)
The Norristown Red Top pizza at the Collegeville Italian Bakery is absolutely addictive for anyone with a sweet tooth like mine. That’s because the tomato sauce they swirl in circles over white Cheddar cheese is the sweetest I’ve ever tasted. The crust is also extremely thin, but not crispy to a fault.
2. Angelo’s Pizzeria (South Philadelphia)
If there is anything Angelo’s doesn’t excel at, I’ve yet to find it. The outer ring of this pizza’s crust was unbelievably light and airy, while its overall taste was exceptional. The sauce had just a touch of sweetness; fresh basil leaves added an additional layer of flavor; and the high quality Mozzarella was used judiciously, as it should be.
1. Joey’s Pizza (Thorndale, PA)
Joey’s isn’t only the best pizza I had while out eating cheesesteaks. I consider it to be the best I’ve had in the Philadelphia region – period. The crust had the wonderful quality – most commonly found in and around New Haven, Connecticut – of being simultaneously crispy and chewy. That’s very hard to achieve. It takes a great oven that gets extremely hot; something they have at Joey’s. That pie isn’t burned, by the way. That’s what northeastern pizza-lovers call well-done.
I didn’t include By George, the stand in Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market, because I didn’t have any pizza there when I made my cheesesteak visit. But I had both pizza and mini cheesesteak strombolis from them many times when I worked a few blocks away, before Covid hit. Both are very good and the pizza would have at least been a contender for the list had I included it.
I’d also like to give a special mention to Mama’s Meatballs of Pennsauken Twp., NJ. Their pizza looked extremely enticing when I visited for a cheesesteak, but I had a second steak stop to make that day and didn’t think I could also handle pizza. Here is a photo I took of it while waiting for my sandwich.
Next up tomorrow: My Top 10 list of the best cheesesteaks in the Philadelphia region.